Waterbury – Gov. Peter Shumlin today signed the FY 2017 Transportation Bill which approves $612,574,418 in infrastructure improvements and maintenance of the state’s highways, bridges, rail lines, and airports along with capital and operating support for public transit systems and other programs critical to the safe and efficient movement of people and goods in Vermont. The bill includes new provisions for increased fines for trucks that get stuck in Smugglers’ Notch, increased use of ignition interlock systems for repeat DUI offenders and an overhaul of the trespassing regulations to improve safety on Vermont’s rail lines.
“Once again, the leadership of the Chairs of the Legislature’s Transportation Committees has been essential to the successful passage of our plan that keeps Vermont moving,” said Governor Shumlin. “Working together we have produced legislation that will support economic growth and improve the safety of the traveling public.”
“While maintaining a quality integrated transportation system is critical to the overall economic health of Vermont and the prosperity of Vermonters, safety remains the overriding concern in everything we do at the Agency of Transportation”, said Transportation Secretary Chris Cole. “Which is why we are investing over $17 million in highway safety. As the overall quality of our infrastructure improves, so does the safety of the traveling public, but this year’s bill also includes important safety provisions like increased usage of ignition interlocks, better definition of the rules of the road around vulnerable users and an update of the rail trespassing law. There are too many highway deaths in Vermont and we collectively need to work together to reduce that number by focusing on our own driving behavior.”
In 2008, Vermont ranked near the bottom of all states – 45th in the nation – for numbers of structurally deficient bridges. By the end of 2014 Vermont ranked 17th the number of structurally deficient bridges being cut essentially more than in half. The percentage of structurally deficient highway bridges has declined from 16.1% in December 2008 to 6.6% in December 2015. The percentage of pavement rated in very poor condition declined from a high of 36 percent in 2008 to only 15 percent in 2015, To continue these gains this budget will advance the repair or replacement of more than 140 bridges, perform preventive maintenance on more than 25 structures, and repave more than 200 miles of state highways.
This budget funds over $10 million in bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure improvements to promote healthy transportation choices, better connect our downtowns and improve safety. FY2017 will see more than $31 million in public transit investments including the addition of more modern and efficient buses throughout the fleet. Another $8 million will be invested in FY2017 on improvements to the Western Corridor that are critical to completing the work to deliver passenger rail service between Rutland and Burlington.
Chairman Brennan stated, “This bill continues our balanced approach at maintaining our transportation infrastructure both on the State and municipal systems. I was pleased we were able to increase funding for municipal grant programs both for class two roadways and for sidewalks.”
Senator Mazza remarked, “I’m pleased to continue to see the significant level of investment in our State highways and bridges, the backbone of our State transportation system. We have made great progress over the last six years in improving the condition of our transportation system and I’m happy to see this bill maintain that level of funding.”
Specific program investments are as follows:
$28.9 million for the Department of Motor Vehicles. This is a $1.9 million increase (7 percent) over FY2016. This budget is primarily a maintenance of effort budget and will ensure the continuation of DMV services and offerings at all current locations. The budget will also support the relocation of the mobile operation in White River Junction to a new leased space. DMV continues to exceed customer expectations, achieving a 94 percent customer favorability rating from July 2014 to June 2015. Average wait times also continue to exceed established goals in two of our offices. Ninety-two percent (92%) of our customers at the Rutland and Springfield offices received services in an average time of 30 minutes or less. Other DMV offices experienced rates of 70% to 88%. In FY2015 the DMV branch offices experienced a 13% increase in customers (56,687) and an 11% increase in transactions (47,081). This increase can be attributed to the REAL ID license requirements. DMV is also responsible for collecting an estimated $321 million in taxes and fees during FY2017. The Governor has designated DMV as the lead agency for enforcement of regulations dealing with commercial motor vehicles as well as the enforcement of state vehicle size and weight regulations. These enforcement efforts enhance highway safety and protect our infrastructure. DMV has state and federal performance expectations that must be met regarding the number of commercial vehicles inspected and weighed throughout Vermont.
$111.1 million for paving. This is an $11.1 million increase (11 percent) over FY2016. This paving budget demonstrates our continued commitment to improve the condition of the state’s highway network. A robust paving program is essential to maintaining the State’s existing infrastructure, and supporting Vermonters’ safety and mobility. This funding 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 15 percent in 2015; which is 2% higher than the 2014 pavement condition.
$105.1 million for bridges. This is an $11.1 million decrease (10 percent) from FY2016, and is the seventh consecutive year that planned bridge spending has topped $100 million. The decrease is attributed to reduced levels of available federal funds, and the completion of Irene-related bridge projects.
$31.1 million for roadway. This is a $12.3 million decrease (28 percent) from FY2016. The roadway budget includes approximately $5.5 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.
$17.4 million for highway safety and traffic operations. This is a $620,000 decrease (3 percent) from FY2016. Highway safety activities for this program are identified through the Highway Safety Improvement Program and the Strategic Highway Safety Plan.
$2.6 million for park-and-ride facilities. This is a $73,000 decrease (3 percent) from FY2016. This year’s budget proposal includes funds for scoping two park & ride facilities. It also includes construction funds for five park & ride facilities. Of these, one is a new facility and four are being enlarged and/or upgraded. All told this will result in the addition of over 159 spaces. It also includes continued funding of $250,000 for the municipal park & ride program.
$10.1 million for bicycle and pedestrian facilities. This is a $3.9 million increase (64 percent) from FY2016. Funding should increase in future years as newly awarded projects become ready for construction. The budget funds construction for 35 bicycle and pedestrian projects and four 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 46 other bicycle and pedestrian and Safe Routes to School projects. State funding for non-federal projects including municipal sidewalks is doubled from $150,000 to $300,000.
$4.6 million for transportation alternatives. This is a $192,000 decrease (4 percent) from FY2016. This budget funds enhancement and transportation alternatives projects that previously received grants and are now ready to proceed. It includes work on 45 projects, including construction funding for 26 projects, and advancement of two scoping studies. It also includes a line item for new projects to be awarded.
$31.2 million for public transit. This is a $4.1 million increase (15 percent) over FY2016. The increase reflects the need to begin ordering replacement vehicles. Existing Public Transit earmarks for vehicle replacement have been fully expended and we now have to use capital funds. Transit expansion highlights include the increased frequencies on successful routes, new inter-city routes and additional service to new state complex in Waterbury. The continued investment in technology should bring advanced information about bus arrivals and departures in real time and some experimental car and bus hailing services in the rural areas.
$24.8 million for aviation. This is a $10.1 million increase (68 percent) over FY2016. The increase is predominantly federal funds ($8.5 million) and the associated state match ($944,000). This budget funds an FAA mandate to finalize the correction of deficient runway safety area at the Rutland Southern Vermont Regional Airport, numerous improvements at the Newport Airport and Middlebury Airport. The FY2017 budget will further repair aging infrastructure to include runway and taxiway pavement, hangars, efficiency upgrades, and improve approach airspace.
$33.4 million for rail. This is a $1.7 million increase (5 percent) over FY2016. This budget invests $4.1 million of State and Federal funds for track and bridge upgrades on the Western Corridor from Burlington to Rutland which will allow increased efficiencies, train speeds and track safety. We are also focusing on crossing improvements and safety upgrades by investing $4.5 million on 12 crossings on the Western Corridor which will install new safety equipment and increased train speeds. 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.
$76.4 million for town highway programs. This is a $27 million decrease (26 percent) from FY2016. This decrease is attributed to a $23 million decrease in FEMA Public Assistance Grants associated with Irene and 2013 disasters, and $3.2 million decrease to Town Highway Structures associated with a one-time budget adjustment that shifted $3.2 million from FY2015 to FY2016. This program is fully restored to the usual annual level of appropriation. Otherwise, funding for town highway programs has decreased by a net $800,000 from FY2016. Other changes are described below:
Town Highway Programs: This budget level funds the Town Highway Aid program 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. Funding for Town Highway Aid for Federal Disasters is reduced by $160,000 (11 percent – from 1.44 million to 1.28 million). Unexpended State match budgeted in prior years is estimated to be sufficient to match available federal funds in this program. Funding for the Town Highway Structures is level funded, as are the Town Highway Class 2 and Class 1 Supplemental grant programs.
Town Highway Bridges: Funding for town highway bridges is decreased by $2.9 million (13 percent) from FY2016. This budget funds 21 town highway bridge projects that are ready for construction and 14 additional projects under development. Funding largely reflects the project pipeline and project readiness. The Administration remains committed to improving Vermont’s town highway system, and the Tri-State Annual Report comparing town highway assets across Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont is a testament to this fact.
For a listing of planned projects visit: http://vttransparency.org/