On May 28, Gov. Peter Shumlin signed the FY 2016 transportation bill, which builds on recent years of progress in improving the overall condition of Vermont’s transportation infrastructure. Joined by legislative leaders and Transportation Secretary Sue Minter, the governor signed the bill to authorize $616 million in infrastructure improvements in support of the Agency of Transportation’s vision of a safe, efficient, multimodal transportation system that promotes Vermont’s economy and quality of life.
“Once again, the hard work and leadership of the Transportation Committees has delivered a bill that supports our vision and continues us on the path to making Vermont a better place to live and work,” said Gov. Shumlin. “We can all agree that in order for our economy to flourish it needs a strong transportation system. Our transportation investments are delivering results and helping to position Vermont for economic success.”
“With federal support always in question, we must work smarter and make every dollar count, and that’s what this budget does,” the governor continued. “We’re paving more roads, replacing more bridges, and we’re innovating to get it done more quickly. We’re also investing in downtowns to help grow business and in transportation choices to help Vermonters take the bus, walk, and bike.”
The bill signing took place at the site of a Colchester Town bridge under construction, one of 34 bridges to be built this season.
Increased bridge work in recent years has led to significant improvements. The overall percentage of structurally deficient bridges has been cut in half, declining from 18 percent in 2009 to just over 7 percent in 2014. The percentage of pavement rated in very poor condition has also declined, from a high of 36 percent in 2009 to only 13 percent in 2014.
Sen. Richard Mazza, chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, said, “I’m very pleased with the final bill. We had to reduce spending to live within our means but we have funded the priority programs at the levels required to continue our positive performance in recent years. Important projects for our region are being advanced, and transportation is doing its part to help with cleaning up Lake Champlain.”
In addition to bridges, the transportation bill includes $1.2 million for municipal stormwater investments, increases VTRANS (Vt. Agency of Transportation) stormwater management on its own system, and builds upon the Agency’s work with communities to improve their dirt road management practices.
The transportation budget also includes funding for all transportation modes, including railroads, public transit systems, airports, and bicycle and pedestrian facilities, as well as services for transportation choices such as ride-sharing and van-pooling.
Efforts to extend rail along the western corridor are moving forward, with over $9 million to improve rail lines and more than $4 million for rail crossings and other safety improvements to advance the delivery of passenger rail service between Rutland and Burlington.
$116 million for bridges. This is the sixth consecutive year that planned bridge spending has topped $100 million and had enabled VTrans to exceed its performance goals in Interstate, State and Town Highway Bridge Programs. This budget funds major construction on 70 bridges and large culverts, and preventive maintenance work on dozens more structures. Funding for town highway bridges is increased by $6.5 million (39 percent) over FY2015, which funds 26 town highway bridge projects that are ready for construction and 20 additional projects under development. Funding for town highway structures grants is level funded at $6.3 million, sustaining the $500,000 increase of FY2013.
$100 million for paving. This paving budget demonstrates our continued commitment to improve the condition of the state’s highway network and will improve over 200 miles of state highway through traditional resurfacing, district leveling and preventive maintenance treatments. These investments will continue our record of improvements to pavement conditions. The percentage of pavements rated in very poor condition has declined from a high of 36 percent in 2008 to only 13 percent in 2014.
$100.1 million for Town Highway Programs. Overall funding for Town Highway Programs has increased by over $6 million over FY2015.
Town Highway Programs: Town Highway Aid Programs are level funded at $26 million, sustaining the FY2013 increase of $1 million (4 percent) which had not been increased since FY2005. Town Highway Aid for Non-Federal Disasters (the former Town Highway Emergency Program) is level funded at the FY2015 levels of $1.15 million. Funding for Town Highway Aid for Federal Disasters is also level funded at $1.4 million. Funding for the Town Highway Structures is level funded at $6.3 million, sustaining the FY2013 increase of $500,000 (7 percent) over FY2012. The Town Highway Class 2 and Class 1 Supplemental Grant Programs are level funded at $7.2 million and $128,750 respectively.
Town Highway Bridges: Funding for town highway bridges is increased by $6.5 million (39 percent) over FY2015. This budget funds 26 town highway bridge projects that are ready for construction and 20 additional projects under development. The Administration remains committed to improving Vermont’s town highway bridges.
$87 million for maintenance. This budget also reflects a continuation of our commitment to preserve the safety and resilience of our roadway network. Maintaining the State’s existing infrastructure is vital to addressing travelers’ needs and to managing the State’s transportation assets. This budget recognizes the importance of supporting our front line workers and ensuring our Transportation District crews’ continued ability to adequately respond to snowfall and weather-related emergencies
$43.4 million for roadway. The roadway budget includes approximately $18 million in construction funds for continued Irene repair work, consisting of improvements to several corridors that were impacted by Irene and the repair of multiple, individual storm damaged sites. The remainder of the funding for the program is primarily infrastructure related for such projects as roadway reconstruction, culvert replacement, and slope/ledge repair/removal. Significant projects include the start of construction activities on the Charlotte US Route 7 reconstruction project, the start of construction activities on the Essex Crescent Connector projects, as well as several culvert and slope projects that will serve to both stabilize existing infrastructure and improve safety. Within the budget are 21 Circ Alternative Projects in Colchester, Essex, Essex Junction and Williston in various stages of development with some planning to see construction starting as soon as 2016. These projects alone represent over $100 million in investment over the next 10 years.
$35.1 million for rail. This budget continues our support for the current Vermonter and the Ethan Allen Amtrak services and also continues to invest in the expansion of the Ethan Allen service to Burlington. This budget invests $9.1 million of State and Federal funds for track upgrades on the Western Corridor from Burlington to Rutland which will install more continuously welded rail allowing increased efficiencies, train speeds and track safety. We are also focusing on crossing improvements and safety upgrades by investing $4.2 million on different crossings on all of our rail lines across the state. The FY2016 budget will help advance several critical rail projects including: the construction of bridge 219 in Pittsford, and continuing to upgrade our structures to the 286,000 pound national freight industry standard.
$27.1 million for public transit. The Administration’s ongoing commitment to enhancing mobility for an aging population is reflected in continuing the recently increased funding for the elderly and those with disabilities. This investment also continues our efforts to reduce our carbon footprint through investment in public transit which is reflected by a yearly increase in ridership. Transit expansion highlights include the successful expansion of an inter-city bus system and increased frequencies on successful routes.
$14.8 million for aviation. This budget funds an FAA mandate to correct deficient runway safety area at the Rutland Southern Vermont Regional Airport, numerous improvements at the Newport Airport and Morristown Airport. The FY2016 budget will further repair aging infrastructure to include runway and taxiway pavement, hangars, efficiency upgrades, and improve approach airspace. The Aviation Program continues to make significant strides toward closing the operating deficit at the general aviation airports
$18 million for highway safety and traffic operations. 2014 marked the lowest number of highway fatalities in Vermont since before WWII and we are committed to continuing our progress in making our highways safer and saving lives. Highway safety activities for this program are identified through the Strategic Highway Safety Plan. As crash data across the state indicates changing trends, this budget will look to refine the partnerships, coalitions and strategies associated with highway safety in those areas. Safety projects anticipated in FY2016 include multiple traffic signal and intersection improvements across the state, a roundabout in Hartford, centerline rumble stripe installations, and a continued emphasis on traffic sign upgrades and pavement markings on the Interstate, State, and Class 1 and 2 Town Highways.
$6.1 million for bicycle and pedestrian facilities. Committed to increasing safe and healthy travel options, this budget funds construction for 16 bicycle and pedestrian projects and six projects funded through the Safe Routes to School Program. Funding is included to continue construction on the 92-mile Lamoille Valley Rail Trail and to continue the design of 34 other bicycle and pedestrian and Safe Routes to School projects. It also includes design of a statewide project to resurface the Delaware and Hudson Rail Trail and a line item for new projects to be awarded. The Agency will continue planning and integrating On-Road bicycle investments into the State’s overall transportation strategy.
$4.8 million for transportation alternatives. To build upon Vermont’s commitment to water quality, our budget proposes to allocate half of the Transportation Alternatives budget toward the state’s clean water goals and municipal storm water management. This budget funds work on 48 projects, including construction funding for 33 projects, and advancement of two scoping studies. It also includes a line item for new projects to be awarded.
$2.7 million for park-and-ride facilities. This year’s budget will result in the addition of over 159 spaces and includes construction funds for five park-and- ride facilities funds for scoping two new park-and-ride facilities. It also includes continued funding of $250,000 for the municipal park-and-ride program.
$625,000 for rest areas. This budget funds preservation, preventive maintenance, and repair projects at the Bradford, Fair Haven, Georgia Northbound and Southbound, Guilford, Lyndon, Randolph, Sharon, Waterford, and Williston Northbound and Southbound rest areas. These funds will be used for improvements to a variety of building components including exterior wall systems, exterior doors, windows, roofing, heating systems, cooling systems, mechanical controls, septic tank, leach field, generators, lighting and controls, fire/security alarms, security cameras and equipment, flooring, and walkways and sidewalks.
$2 million for transportation building facilities. This budget also funds continued development and design of maintenance facilities, net metering solar systems and energy upgrades, salt brine facilities, heating system replacements, standby generators at various garages, and the installation of above-ground fuel storage tanks. Funds will be used for a renovation/reconstruction project at the White River Junction Garage facility, the construction of an addition at the East Dorset Garage to address equipment storage deficiencies, and the installation of a standby generator for the VTrans Training Center in the Central Garage complex.