By Guy Page
State transportation officials expect a new federal infrastructure bill will soon deliver a large influx of federal transportation money to Vermont.
The amount and project scope of the Vermont share of the expected transportation and infrastructure stimulus package is undetermined at this time. But it will be substantial, is virtually certain to arrive, and will provide 100% project funding, Vermont Agency of Transportation Finance and Administration Officer Lenny LeBlanc told the House Transportation Committee on a Zoom teleconference this morning.
The funds will be eligible to pay for projects planned for the 2020-2021 budget year, the Transportation bill for which is still under construction by the committee. Projects are subject to the same substantial federal requirements for environmental guidelines and permits, property easements, etc.
The 100% project funding is a huge draw for state transportation planners. Most federal funding requires a 20% state match, which on large, expensive highway projects can add up to tens of millions of dollars. It is not yet clear which categories of AOT construction projects would be eligible. It also is not clear whether legislators could shift savings from the 20% match to other initiatives, such as carbon reduction initiatives or increased funding for town road repair and construction.
Vermont highway transportation revenue, based mostly on fuel consumption taxes, was up about five percent for the fiscal year through February but March figures are expected to go into steep decline and remain for the duration of the State of Emergency.
At present, AOT planners are trying to adjust existing state projects to be most eligible for the expected federal windfall.
Virtually all state highway construction projects are on hold due to social distancing work requirements. However, emergency projects such as the Georgia I-89 culvert are still ongoing.
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