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As prices soar, fewer roads might get repaved this summer

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Posted at 3:59 PM, May 20, 2022

HUNTINGTON, Mass. — Rising fuel costs across the country are forcing some cities and towns to make difficult decisions when it comes to how many road improvement projects they can afford to pay for this year.

Charles Dazelle is the highway superintendent for Huntington, Massachusetts. It's a small town tucked in the Berkshire Mountains. The latest Census numbers put the rural community's population at 2,100 and the median household income is around $52,000. That doesn't translate into very much revenue from taxes for things like paving projects.

"If I pave a mile of road a year, it would take me 25 years just to pave all the roads we have," Charles lamented.

This year, Charles is feeling the pinch in more ways than one. Last year, it cost him about $100,000 to pave one mile of road. Paving one mile of roadway this year will cost closer to $125,000 because of rising fuel costs and rising material costs.

"We're going backward rather than forwards," he said.

The rising cost of gas and inflation is driving up the cost of materials for construction projects nationwide.

"We try to do the best we can but a lot of times we're embarrassed for people to see our roads because we just aren't getting the funding we need to keep up," Charles added.

It's a trend playing out nationwide. Ken Simonson, chief economist for Associated General Contractors of America, says many construction projects will either be canceled or delayed this summer because of rising costs.

"We've seen contractors raising bids sharply and that's left municipalities struggling to cover costs," Simonson said.

Simonson says cuts to infrastructure projects will ultimately mean drivers can expect to see less than ideal road conditions in the long term.