Better Roads

Roads can be a significant phosphorus source depending on how the roads are maintained and upgraded.  The majority of gravel road miles in Vermont are maintained by municipalities, averaging 50 road miles each.  Vermont’s roads effectively become part of the stream network during a rainstorm or spring melt, with many roadside ditches discharging directly into streams, lakes or wetlands.  Eroded road material contains significant amounts of phosphorus and thus, as with all eroded soil, is a source of phosphorus to Lake Champlain and other important waters in Vermont.A dirt road in Vermont

The Vermont Better Roads Program’s goal is to promote the use of erosion control and maintenance techniques that save money and prevent road erosion while protecting and enhancing Vermont’s lakes and streams. The Vermont Better Roads Program accomplishes this by:

  • offering grants to towns to fix road erosion problems;
  • offering grants to towns to inventory and develop capital budgets to fix road erosion problems;
  • providing on-site technical assistance to towns; and
  • providing the Vermont Better Roads Manual which details cost-effective procedures towns can use to reduce the impact of their roads on streams, lakes and wetlands.

The Better Roads Program has been offering grants and technical assistance since 1997.  New additional funding made available through Clean and Clear significantly increased the funds available for grants and technical assistance.  Grants and assistance is available statewide.
Typical road erosion problems seen in Vermont include:

  • steep eroding ditches or road edges eroding culverts;
  • inlet or outlets eroding roadside banks; and
  • undersized and/or poorly aligned culverts, gully erosion, and headcuts.

culvert next to dirt road with rock-lined ditch

Better Roads Grant Program

Faced with tight budgets, many towns address erosion problems with a short-term approach, and end up repairing the same problem year after year.  The Better Roads grants are intended to help towns correctly fix eroding sites in order to reduce erosion and save the town money over the long run.

A. Road Inventory and Capital Budget Planning
Reduction of road erosion requires planning and budgeting to realize cost savings and road improvements.  Eligible projects under this category must include: (1) an inventory of road related erosion problems affecting water quality in a particular watershed or the whole town; (2) the sites identified must then be prioritized by problem area and; (3) this must be followed up by the development of a capital budget plan to correct these problems over a certain period of time.  The maximum grant amount is $8,000.  The selection committee will consider:

  • involvement of leadership, for example, the selectboard and the Road Commissioner/Foreman
  • commitment to pursue its adoption by the selectboard/governing association
  • must address erosion control/water quality issues

B. Correction of a Road Related Erosion Problem
The Better Roads Selection Committee will base its evaluation on the following criteria: water quality benefits, longevity and effectiveness of solution, specific support available to meet match obligation, use of aesthetic vegetative solutions where applicable and partnering efforts.  Projects can be enhancements of a scheduled project that provide additional erosion control benefits such as ditch stabilization in conjunction with a culvert replacement, or it can be a standalone erosion control solution.  Priority funding will be given to those projects identified in an existing Road Inventory/Capital Budget Plan.  (A copy of the Plan must be submitted with the application.) The maximum grant amount is $20,000.

Example projects:

  • Rock lined ditch
  • Stabilize bank
  • Culvert header - Add turnouts
  • Add “daylighted” culvert
  • Velocity reducers - Diversion berm
  • Energy dissipaters
  • Streambank stabilization

Vermont road mileage pie chart;  15,480 total miles; 2709 state highway miles; 13,131 town highway miles (class 1 to 4)C. Correction of a Stream Bank or Slope Related Problem
Stream and river/road conflicts must have accompanying documentation showing consultation with an ANR River Management Engineer and/or Army Corps Engineer indicating use or non-use of river management standards prior to submittal of application.  The maximum grant amount is $40,000.

Example projects:

  • Stream bank stabilization
  • Slope stabilization
  • Retaining walls, stacked walls

D. Structure/Culvert Upgrades
Structure or culverts that carry streams or rivers must have accompanying documentation showing consultation with an ANR River Management Engineer and/or Army Corps Engineer indicating use or non-use of river management standards prior to submittal of application.  The maximum grant amount is $40,000.

Example projects:

  • Undersized culvert or structure
  • Culvert or structure replacement
  • Culvert headcut and gulley stabilization in direct proximity to roadway