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Soaring diesel prices in Massachusetts could impact road construction season

Construction equipment, rubble and a port-a-potty lie in the bike lane along Commonwealth Ave near the corner of Pleasant St. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Construction equipment, rubble and a port-a-potty lie in the bike lane along Commonwealth Ave near the corner of Pleasant St. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

The price of diesel fuel continues to skyrocket. Some officials who oversee public works in western Massachusetts said that could have an impact on road construction.

According to AAA, the average price of a gallon of diesel in Massachusetts was $6.29 a gallon as of Wednesday, which is more than double than it was a year ago.

Charles Dazelle is the highway superintendent in Huntington, Massachusetts. He said the soaring cost has had a major impact on the price of pavement for road construction projects.

"When they do our bids, we're set at a certain price, but they have what they call an escalation, so the price of fuel goes up, the price of blacktop goes up," Dazelle said. "Right now it's up about $14-$15 more a ton than it was last July 1."

He said that means fewer roads may be paved and projects could be delayed, adding that even as prices go up, state aid for highway projects has not, making it difficult to deal with fluctuations in costs.

There is also the cost of keeping trucks and other equipment gassed up. In South Hadley, Department of Public Works director Chris Bouchard said the town is ready to deal with the spike, for now.

"We've been pretty good since fuel prices were low for a long time," Bouchard said. "We'll be okay through this year, but if this stays it's going to affect everybody long term."

As for road projects, Bouchard anticipates costs to jump by 18% when bids come back. He said that could lead to some work being scaled back, but he hopes everything that is planned will get done.

This story is a production of New England News Collaborative. It was originally published by New England Public Media.

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