School Street/ College Hill Road Project:

Failed design causes delays

The Village of Johnson is in the progress of upgrading the sidewalk network along School Street and College Hill Road. This construction will continue to impact travelers along both roads, for a few weeks longer than expected, as changes to the plan have caused delays.

“The contractor phased the project into three different parts,” said Lea Kilvadyova, community & economic development coordinator. “The first part is the repair of the drainage system on College Hill Road. Our issues with the project have been that the contractor hasn’t been able to follow the design prepared for the project, and had to implement a couple of changes to the design to make the project possible.”

The changes to the engineer’s design, which included digging deeper into the ground than originally intended in order to fix the drainage, will extend the completion of the project from Oct. 30 to next spring.

The Village of Johnson received a request from Desroches Construction to shut down the School St/College Hill Rd project for the winter. November 5, was the last day the contractor planned to be on-site and the contractor has worked to restore the site to a functional condition for the winter.
Delays caused during the rebuilding of the storm drainage system on College Hill Rd will not allow the village to complete the project this fall and construct the sidewalks planned for School St and College Hill Rd. The sidewalk work will resume, weather permitting, in April 2016 and is projected to last three weeks.

Hopefully, the added time and material needed to complete this project won’t have any impact on taxpayers. According to Town Administrator Duncan Hastings, the president of the construction firm is receptive to working with the town so it is not financially harmed by the additional costs associated with the required changes.

Two state funding sources are being used for this project as the village has secured a transportation alternatives grant for the sidewalk work, and although this is a village project, the town secured a structures grant to cover the drainage. The drainage was not eligible for the village’s grant. The village and the town are also each responsible for 20 percent of their respective portions of the project.

Due to the added cost, funding for the drainage portion is almost depleted, and although the sidewalk portion has a small cushion, the village can’t transfer any of that money over to the drains. Therefore, in order to use some of the grant money that the village has available, it has decided to make one other change to the project.

It is adding three streetlights into the plan, which were initially part of the conceptual design, but not the scope of the work. The three streetlights that Kilvadyoka says the village is pursuing were originally removed from the plan, because the village didn’t think there would be enough money for them.

“It would be nice if we could transfer some of the grant money for the sidewalks to the drainage,” said Kilvadyova. “That way, basically, we would cover the whole cost of everything beautifully, but that’s not possible. So, since we do have some leftover resources, I initiated an effort to try to add some more components to the project in order to use the grant money we have available. One of those additions is the streetlights.”

The village would also like to add, if possible, a flashing warning light during school pick-up and drop-off times. The village will have to secure VTrans’ approval for this, but because they are adding things into the plan as the work is being done, Kilvadyova thinks they may be running into timing issues when it comes to getting these things accomplished before the winter.

“If all goes well,” said Kilvadyokva, “the new streetlights will be the same style as the Main Street Project, and will cover the drop-off area and school entrance.”

On top of the two grants for the drainage and sidewalks, the town also secured a class-2 paving grant last year, which involved both Clay Hill and School Street. The work has already been done to Clay Hill, so the remaining approximately 50 percent of that grant will be used to reclaim and repave School Street and College Hill next year. According to Hastings, School Street has not been repaved in almost 20 years.

“We are really trying to lessen the burden on the town by doing three projects at once,” said Kilvadyova, in reference to the drainage, the sidewalks, and the repaving, “but sometimes that can complicate things, as we’re seeing with this project. In the end it will look really nice, though.”