Vermont To Receive $1.1 Billion From Federal Transportation Bill
The House and Senate have agreed on a five-year, $305 billion transportation bill. It's the first long-term bill in over a decade; in the last 10 years, Congress has adopted 37 short-term fixes, largely because of funding disagreements.
State officials say the money will be used to upgrade roads and bridges and expand public transit and rail programs.
This legislation allocates $305 billion over the next five years and it's paid for by transferring funds from the Federal Reserve Board, redirecting Customs fees and selling oil from the nation's Strategic Oil Reserve.
Vermont Transportation Secretary Chris Cole says the legislation appropriates $1.1 billion to Vermont over the five-year period. This represents an increase of roughly ten percent for a variety of transportation programs.
Vermont Edition spoke to Vermont Transportation Secretary Chris Cole about what the funds will means for the state's highway projects, public transportation and railroads.
According to Cole, the additional funds will allow his Agency to accelerate its road repair program.
"We are at about 13 percent of our roads in, what I would call, very poor condition," Cole explained. "That's from a high in 2009 of 34 percent. This funding is going to allow us to push forward in terms of improving that performance."
Cole says that for the past few years, Congress has not allocated specific funds for public transit programs. As a result, the state of Vermont has had to transfer some of its highway money for this purpose. However this year, he says funding for public transit has been restored.
"We are at about 13 percent of our roads in, what I would call, very poor condition, that's from a high in 2009 of 34 percent. This funding is going to allow us to push forward in terms of improving that performance." - Vermont Transportation Secretary Chris Cole
"This new program is going to allow us to keep our federal highway money going towards roads and bridges," said Cole. "We're also going to be able to compete in a discretionary pool in the New England region for bus money so this is very good news for Vermont."
Cole says the bill also creates new funds to encourage states to expand their rail programs.
"As our state is poised to expand Ethan Allen service north to Burlington in the next four years and as we're working to expand the Vermonter service to Montreal," said Cole. "The ability to use federal funds to pay for the operating costs at some level for three years while those services mature is going to be extraordinarily helpful to our state."
The legislation also includes new money to create a nationwide network of electric vehicle charging stations.