I have not looked at this particular project but I have a few notes that might
explain some of your observations:
1. AOT engineers and contractors have a strong inclination to pave the widest
possible swath of asphalt. A few years ago Jon Kaplan provided a long list of
reasons (that are unrelated to cycling) why engineers like paving shoulders.
Because of this we can expect that the shoulder will be paved if it's possible
to pave it.
2. Asphalt often has a variable thickness: thick on the traveled way, thin at
the shoulder edges. It's possible that the final course of asphalt will be
wider than the underlayments. This might explain why there is exposed gravel
shoulder after the first course. It may be that one stretch of road is getting
additional asphalt to thicken or level the pavement. I believe this is the
most likely situation.
3. It may be difficult to eyeball the width of the asphalt if the lane markings
have not been established by a careful survey.
4. A pavement is only as good as the subbase it rests on. Depending on the
terrain, it may be necessary (according to AOT design practices) to have
additional minor earthwork and gravel shoulder to stabilize the subbase.
AOT has to prepare detailed specifications for a paving project in order for
the contractors to formulate their bids. Once the project is under way, I
think that they would have fairly regular oversight by an agency construction
engineers and FHwA inspectors.
You might request a copy of the bid package and specifications so that you can
see exactly what AOT wanted. Then take your tape measure out on the road. I
think you will find that the project as finally constructed will closely match
the design specifications. The contractors are supposed to do what AOT has
Your observations are similar to those that I have heard about other paving
projects. The first thought is to "dust-off" the shoulder paving law,
generally with the intent of mandating a wide paved shoulder. There are many
reasons why such a specific law, and particularly one which specifies design
parameters is not good for our cause. They can be summarized under four
1. Design is situational and should not be prescribed.
2. A law would not change the situation much.
3. Shoulder widening is not viable (it would take decades and several hundred
million dollars, or perhaps billions to effect a consistently reconstructed
shoulder on the state highways).
4. Shoulder widening has not been shown to be good for cycling.
In the interests of time and space I will not expand on these now.
Clearly, there are some paving program performance objectives that we should
expect from AOT:
Consistent pavement surfaces and smooth transitions between them (both lateral
Consistent maintenance of the surface.
Non-skid markings (paint, not plastic).
In the tradeoff between design parameters, surface quality and consistency are
superior needs to geometric "improvement" and pavement quantity, while pavement
quantity and geometric improvement are probably detrimental to cycling in
The state is "headed in the right direction" as the latest Pavement Management
Statement points out. But there are fundamental problems in the state's
1. Heavy trucks are allowed to damage pavement disproportionately. The state
furiously tries to pave damage that could be avoided by restricting heavy
trucks on the highways. The heavy trucks both destroy the public
infrastructure investment and degrade operational safety and comfort.
2. The state is still building new highway infrastructure. We cannot afford
the diseconomy of the negative and decreasing returns of this expense (excuse
me, "investment"). Every dollar spent on new highways is a net cost now and a
long-term commitment to increasing future costs -- due to depreciation &
maintenance, induced travel and sprawl. To make our transportation system more
viable and sustainable, we need a systematic removal of roadway.
3. Design practice remains rooted in AASHTO/FHwA philosophy of the forgiving
highway. Until the AOT engineers are replaced with ones who can think in terms
of community design and speed management (traffic calming and related
strategies), every AOT project will make Vermont more like New Jersey.
You can find a related issue (guardrails and the paving program) discussed at
You can also find information about the paving program at:
Rich Warren wrote:
> Hi folks
> We have shoulder width repaving inconsistency in progress!!
> I was just down on rt. 116 tonight on the stretch between Bristol
> and E. Middlebury. If you check out the stretch between White
> Rock Sports, 1 mi. S. of rt. 117 intersection to the one way bridge
> with the traffic light, you will notice that they have done a shoulder
> treatment with gravel and then done a first coat of paving over the
> whole road, except they left roughly the 9 inches, on average, of
> gravel unpaved. This is clearly road width that the state feels they
> can maintain as road surface, but the contractor (F.W. Whitcomb)
> has chosen not to repave it. To see the inconsistency, take a look
> at the stretch south of the bridge to where the Notch Road turns off
> to the left. Here the gravel treatment was applied to the shoulders,
> but the first coat of pavement covers all of the gravel treatment and
> goes all the way to the grass.
> Where they paved the entire gravel treatment, the shoulder width is
> much more comfortable for the cyclist. In the narrow shouldered
> region N. of the 1-way bridge, the shoulder is about 3 or 4 inches in
> places, with available room and road gravel to make it at least a
> foot. Note that this work is all part of the same paving project that
> has been underway for the last week or two, and they can't even do
> it consistently.
> This is the time to be doing something about this kind of hap-
> hazard workmanship on our road shoulders. At the very least, this
> should be clearly documented for next year's legislative session
> when Karen Kitzmiller dusts off her "road shoulder bill" for further
> consideration. Better yet, if some of the folks on this list know the
> stings to pull, this inconsistency can be cleared by the time the
> final coat of pavement is laid by Whitcomb.
Peter K. Duval +1 802 899 1132
98 Sleepy Hollow Road fax: 899 2430
Essex Junction, VT 05452-2798 [log in to unmask]