View the complete text of this act

ACT NO. 56

(H.454)

Transportation Capital Construction Program; Project Development Plan

This act is the Transportation Capital Construction Program for fiscal year 2004 and the Project Development Plan for fiscal years 2005-2008. The fiscal year 2004 budget expenditures total is $354,338,631. Of this amount, $174,296,346 are federal funds, $163,536,184 are state transportation funds, $4,010,221 are local funds, and $12,464,879 are internal service funds. Funds were allocated to project categories as follows: paving and roadway, $97,665,748; state and town bridges, $33,322,163; town highway aid, structures and Class 2 roads, $31,650,994; rail, $15,057,301; and public transit, $12,893,232.

The act provides, in part, for the following:

(1) Federal New Starts funds in fiscal year 2004 for the Burlington-Essex Corridor New Starts development project shall be used exclusively for acquisition or long-term lease of the railroad right-of-way for use as a fixed guideway public transit service, intercity passenger rail service, or freight service and engineering work with respect to the potential use of the railroad right-of-way for a fixed guideway public transit service, intercity passenger rail service, or freight service.

(2) In the event of traffic congestion resulting from construction of the U.S. Route 7, Shelburne Road project, the secretary of transportation may, with the approval of the general assembly, if in session, or if not in session, with the approval of the joint fiscal committee and the chairs of the House and Senate committees on transportation, resume operation of the “Champlain Flyer” passenger train service between Vergennes and Burlington, with the operating expenses of the passenger train charged to the highway project.

(3) The Burlington-Colchester bike/pedestrian bridge project: the state’s share of this project shall not exceed $300,000.00. The project may proceed in fiscal year 2004 only upon satisfaction of the following conditions, as determined by the secretary: the agency of transportation, the city of Burlington, and the town of Colchester agree on a design, the total cost, and a financing plan within the limits of the cap on the state’s share; the Chittenden County metropolitan planning organization agrees to the proposed use of any federal aid funds to fund the project; if the project is redesigned and the total cost is less than $3,000,000.00, the state’s share shall remain $300,000.00 and the local shares shall be reduced accordingly.

(4) A town bridge initiative program is created as a subprogram under the agency’s town highway bridge program. All town bridge projects that received grants pursuant to Sec. 250(c) of No. 63 of the Acts of 2001 are enrolled as active projects in the program.

(5) The state rail policy is to provide opportunities for rail passenger services by cooperating with the federal government, other states, and providers of those services, with priority to be given to the services likely to complement Vermont’s economic development efforts and meet the needs of the traveling public.

(6) The general assembly authorizes the secretary of transportation, as agent for the state, to enter into a long-term operating agreement with the Washington County Railroad Company for the operation of freight service over the state-owned railroad line between Hartford (White River Junction) and Newport City under the terms stated in the proposed agreement attached to the May 14, 2003 memorandum of understanding between the agency and the Washington County Railroad Company.

(7) The secretary of transportation is directed to establish as a priority the discontinuance of service and the approval for railbanking of the Lamoille Valley Railroad to expedite the conversion of this state-owned resource into a year-round, multiuse recreation path. The secretary shall report the results of these efforts to the general assembly by December 15, 2003.

(8) The secretary, as agent for the state, with the approval of the governor and the general assembly, or, if the general assembly is not in session, approval of a special committee consisting of the joint fiscal committee and the chairs of the House and Senate committees on transportation, is authorized to lease or otherwise arrange for the continued operation of all or any state-owned railroad property to any responsible person provided that approval for the operation, if necessary, is granted by the federal Surface Transportation Board. Within 10 days of entering into any lease or agreement, the secretary shall report the details of the transaction to the members of the House and Senate committees on transportation.

(9) The agency of transportation, in consultation with the public transit advisory council, the regional planning commissions, the Vermont league of cities and towns, and the Chittenden County metropolitan planning organization, shall review and update the 1991 Evaluation of Statewide Park-and-Ride Facilities Final Report and the 1998 regional planning commission’s park-and-ride lot needs and priority listings. The review shall address the potential benefits of integrating the park-and-ride and public transit systems.

(10) The provisions of law establishing a project management unit within the agency of transportation and a project manager are repealed. The existing staff and work assignments of the special projects unit are to be integrated with the agency of transportation’s division of program development.

(11) The provision of law establishing the circumferential highway district, board of trustees, and steering committee is repealed. The agency of transportation is directed to coordinate further activities involving the Chittenden County Circumferential Highway (VT 289) with the affected municipalities, the metropolitan planning organization, and the regional planning commission in the same manner as for other state highways in the area.

(12) The agency of transportation is directed to evaluate all existing agency land and buildings, owned in fee simple or leased, to determine if they continue to be necessary, and any such properties determined to be no longer necessary are to be treated as surplus property and disposed of accordingly. All agency land owned by deed of easement shall not be part of this evaluation. The agency shall, by January 15, 2004, report to the House and Senate committees on transportation on the process and results of the evaluation.

(13) The secretary of transportation is directed to annually make available on the agency website the transportation capital program and project development plan, as passed by the general assembly, and other appropriate documents.

(14) Conceptual design of the Bennington Bypass South project is suspended for fiscal year 2004; and $250,000.00 is authorized for the acquisition of right-of-way for this project that qualifies as hardship acquisitions under federal rules. The transportation board, in cooperation with the agency, shall analyze traffic patterns and areas of traffic congestion and the projected development of traffic patterns and areas of traffic congestion in: The Vermont Route 9 and U.S. Route 7 corridors in Bennington County (the “Bennington Study Area”); the U.S. Route 4 and U.S. Route 7 corridors in Rutland County (the “Rutland Study Area”); the Vermont Route 15 corridor west of Vermont Route 2a in Chittenden County (the “Route 15 Study Area”); and the U.S. Route 4 corridor between Rutland and the intersection of Route 4 with Interstate Route 89 (the “Route 4 Study Area”). The transportation board is directed to report its findings, conclusions and recommendations with respect to the analysis. The report shall specifically include the board’s recommendations with regard to the prioritization of the traffic congestion problems in the Bennington, Rutland, Route 15, and Route 4 Study Areas for purposes of making resource allocation decisions between now and 2015; and the reasoning and basis for its recommended prioritization. In preparing this report, the board shall hold at least one public hearing in the Bennington area. The board shall deliver the report to the members of the House and Senate committees on transportation by January 15, 2004. Transportation funds in the amount of $50,000.00 are authorized for use by the board to carry out this assignment.

(15) For fiscal year 2005 and thereafter, the maximum amount of transportation funds that may be appropriated for the support of government, other than for the agency of transportation, transportation pay act funds, the cost of maintaining and staffing rest areas, construction of transportation capital facilities used by the agency of transportation, and transportation debt service, shall be the lower of $43,000,000.00 or 20.0 percent of the total of the prior fiscal year transportation fund appropriations.

(16) The joint fiscal office, in cooperation with the secretary of administration, is directed to conduct a cost allocation study to analyze the amount of state government spending which is directly or indirectly related to the support of the state’s transportation activities. A report of the study shall be submitted by the joint fiscal office to the House and Senate committees on transportation and appropriations by January 15, 2004.

(17) The state treasurer, with the approval of the governor, is authorized to issue general obligation bonds in the amount of $3 million. The secretary of transportation is directed to allocate the funds to the following projects: Alburg-Swanton, Vermont Route 78, replacement of bridge over Missisquoi Bay of Lake Champlain, to defray part of the estimated state share of right-of-way and construction costs: $780,400.00. Chittenden County Circumferential Highway, segments A-B and the new interchange between 289 and I-89, to defray part of the state share of construction costs: $2,219,600.00.

(18) It is the state’s policy to support the maintenance of existing public transportation services and the creation of new service that is accessible and affordable to those who use these services. The agency of transportation is directed to develop and periodically update a plan for investment in public transportation services and infrastructure as part of an integrated transportation system. It is additionally the state’s policy to make maximum use of available federal funds for the support of public transportation. State operating support funds shall be included in agency operating budgets to the extent that funds are available. The agency, in cooperation with the public transit advisory council, shall adopt appropriate performance and service standards for transit systems receiving federal or state assistance. The agency of transportation shall provide guidance, training, funding, and technical assistance to transit systems in order to meet the performance and service standards established.

(19) The agency of transportation, in cooperation with the public transit advisory council, is directed to develop an annual report of financial and performance data of all public transit systems that receive operating subsidies in any form from the state or federal government. The report shall be modeled on the Federal Transit Administration’s national transit database program with such modifications as appropriate for the various services, including the guidance found in the most current short-range public transportation plans and the most current state policy plan. The report shall describe any action taken by the agency pursuant to contractual authority to terminate funding for routes or to request service changes for failure to meet performance standards. The report shall be available to the general assembly by January 15 of each year.

(20) The agency, in cooperation with the public transit advisory council, is directed to prepare a report on the performance of the existing job access reverse commute (JARC) routes for submission to the joint fiscal committee, and the chairs of the House and Senate committees on transportation by January 15, 2004, with recommendations for continued funding with respect to fiscal year 2005 of productive routes, route modifications for marginally productive routes, or implementation of new services in the affected regions as defined in each region’s short-range public transit plan. The report shall include time frames for implementation of any service modifications or revisions to be effected at the start of fiscal year 2005.

(21) In conjunction with the agency’s evaluation of statewide public transit needs in calendar year 2003, the agency shall evaluate opportunities to provide a public transit fixed route system that would respond to the needs of commuters between Franklin County and Essex Junction and between Burlington and Montpelier.

(22) As part of its process to develop a long-range statewide integrated and seamless public transit system, the agency of transportation is required to solicit input from interested parties, including but not limited to the department of aging and disabilities, regional planning commissions, the Chittenden County metropolitan planning organization, public transit providers, the Vermont Public Transportation Association, the Public transit advisory council, and the user and employer communities. This outreach effort shall include individual meetings with various entities and at least two public hearings.

(23) A Central Vermont Public Transit Advisory Board is established and consists of: an elected official from each municipality in Washington County and from the towns of Orange, Washington, and Williamstown, to be selected by the legislative body of each municipality; and a representative from each of the following organizations: central Vermont regional planning commission, the Central Vermont Chamber of Commerce, the department of aging and disabilities, the Central Vermont Council on Aging, the Vermont Center for Independent Living, Project Independence, and the Central Vermont Community Action Council, to be selected by each organization; and representatives from the general riding and ride-sharing public, to be selected by the board. The board shall explore long-term options for public transit in the central Vermont region and shall meet at least bimonthly. The Chittenden County Transportation Authority general manager and Green Mountain Transit Agency regional manager shall attend the bimonthly meeting and report on public transit operations in the central Vermont service area. The Chittenden County Transportation Authority general manager is required to submit annual reports to the board and other reports as may be requested by the board.

(24) In addition to the area of operation authorized in its charter, the Chittenden County Transportation Authority is authorized to operate within Washington County and the towns of Orange, Washington, and Williamstown pursuant to: a contract with the state; or a contract with a public transit system. The central Vermont public transit advisory board and the central Vermont regional planning commission are required to hold three public hearings on the service provided in Washington county by the Chittenden County Transportation Authority. The board shall deliver a report on January 15, 2006 to the members of the House and Senate Committees on transportation and to members of the House and Senate representing Washington County and the towns of Orange, Washington, and Williamstown stating recommendations regarding the structure, management, and operations of public transit services within the central Vermont region. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Chittenden County Transportation Authority is authorized to operate outside its area of operation to provide day trips for senior centers, provided the trips are approved by the Central Vermont public transit advisory board. These provisions are not be construed to extend the authority’s ability to assess municipalities in Washington County or the towns of Orange, Washington, and Williamstown nor do they apply to a municipality that elects to become a member of the authority.

(25) The Chittenden County Transportation Authority is authorized to provide public transit services between Chittenden County and Franklin County through June 30, 2006. This shall not be construed to extend the authority’s ability to assess municipalities in Franklin County nor does it apply to a municipality that elects to become a member of the authority.

(26) The agency of transportation, in conjunction with the department of fish and wildlife, the local roads project, and the Vermont League of Cities and Towns, is directed to explore the use of available “flow devices” that control water damage by beaver and to prepare a cost-benefit analysis indicating the cost-savings benefits of each option. The agency shall submit a report of its findings and recommendations to the House and Senate committees on transportation by January 15, 2004.

(27) A summer study committee is established, consisting of the chair of the House committee on transportation, two other members of that committee appointed by the speaker of the House, the chair of the House committee on appropriations or designee, the chair of the House committee on ways and means or designee, the chair of the Senate committee on transportation, two other members of that committee appointed by the committee on committees, the chair of the Senate committee on appropriations or designee, the chair of the Senate committee on finance or designee, the secretary of the agency of transportation or designee, and the secretary of the agency of administration or designee. The committee is authorized to hold up to six meetings. The committee is directed to investigate, seek pertinent information from appropriate persons, and make recommendations with respect to the following: the options for defining the structure, content, and format of the state transportation budge that will accomplish the objectives of infrastructure preservation and asset management and that will provide benchmarks to measure the progress of the agency in achieving program objectives. The committee is further directed to examine the systems currently used by the agency for providing oversight of project implementation, delays, advancement, and cost overruns, specifically: the agency’s system for implementing planned activities for authorized projects; the agency’s system of reallocating funds from projects with expenditures less than predicted to other authorized but unfunded projects or to cover the cost of authorized, funded projects with expenditures greater than predicted; the most effective and appropriate ways to report budgetary and capital program information; and the system used by the agency to implement new, unauthorized, unfunded projects for emergency or other reasons of public interest, including the authority to delay planned expenditures on authorized projects and reallocate the funds to cover the costs of the new projects. The agency, the legislative council, and the joint fiscal office shall provide staff support for the committee. The legislative council is required to prepare proposed legislation to accomplish the recommendations of the committee. The committee shall deliver the proposed legislation to the members of the House and Senate committees on transportation by December 31, 2003.

(28) The agency of transportation (in the case of state highways) and municipalities (in the case of town highways) are authorized to cooperate with federal projects to modernize border crossings between the United States and Canada by relinquishing to the federal government those portions of state or town highways approaching the border that may be required by the federal government for its border crossing projects. In connection with these relinquishments, the agency and municipalities are authorized to execute agreements with the federal government, including a conveyance of an interest in real property, easements, leases, and other instruments necessary to assure that federal requirements are met. The federal government shall be responsible for maintenance of those state and town highways relinquished under this section.

(29) The Vermont Association of Snow Travelers, Inc. (VAST) is requested to examine, with assistance from the Governor’s Snowmobile Council, the department of finance and management, and groups representing private landowners, whether additional funding mechanisms may be needed to support the Statewide Snowmobile Trails Program (SSTP). Findings and recommendations shall be compiled in a report to be submitted by December 15, 2003 to the House committees on transportation, ways and means, and appropriations and the Senate committees on transportation, finance, and appropriations.

(30) The joint fiscal office, in cooperation with the agency of transportation and the agency of administration, shall investigate the following: the relationship between the growth rates of existing transportation fund revenue sources and the growth rates of the different categories of costs which are defrayed by transportation fund revenues; options with respect to restructuring the tax and fee revenue base of the transportation fund, consistent with a user fee model, so as to raise the correlation between the growth rates of the revenues generated and the costs defrayed by the transportation fund; and the impact of any changes in the existing structure of transportation fund taxes and fees on the competitiveness of Vermont businesses.

(31) It is the intent of the general assembly to continue implementing project recommendations found in the U.S. Route 4 report issued in January 2002, and that there be an annual effort to continue upgrades on U.S. Route 4 east of Rutland to White River Junction.

(32) The commissioner of buildings and general services is authorized to: implement a “Motorist Aid Refreshment Program” at state rest areas and information centers; accept, without active solicitation, donations for the services and associated supplies; and permit nonprofit organizations and contracted information center operators to provide free refreshments to motorists. Nonprofits and contracted information center operators may accept voluntary donations, without active solicitation, from motorists.

(33) The joint fiscal office, in cooperation with the agency of transportation and the agency of administration, and in consultation with the Vermont League of Cities and Towns, is directed to analyze: the continuing validity of the policy rationales underlying the different treatment of municipalities in current law with respect to local match funding requirements for state-funded transportation projects; the differential fiscal impact of the current local match system on municipalities with respect to their ability to plan and accomplish transportation improvements; options to redefine the standards for fixing local match funding requirements; and the fiscal impact which implementation of any alternative system of local match requirements would have on the state transportation fund and municipalities. The agency of transportation shall hold two public hearings and report the findings to the joint fiscal office and the agency of administration by October 1, 2003 The joint fiscal office shall deliver a report of its findings and analysis to the members of the House and Senate committees on transportation by January 15, 2004.

(34) The sum of $50,000.00 of transportation funds is authorized for expenditure by the agency to support the development by the Vermont interagency bridge and culvert team of a training and software system to assist towns in developing inventories of their transportation infrastructure assets.

(35) The agency of transportation is directed not to negotiate nor offer for sale any state property for less than fair market value without the prior approval of the general assembly, if in session, and if not in session, the joint fiscal committee. The agency may sell or lease land to municipalities for less than fair market value when and for so long as the land is to be used by the municipality for transportation purposes.

(36) The state treasurer, in consultation with the agency of transportation and the agency of administration, shall investigate and report to the members of the House and Senate committees on transportation and appropriations by January 15, 2004, on the advisability of utilizing Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicle (GARVEE) bonds for the purpose of accelerating priority transportation infrastructure projects in Vermont. The treasurer shall coordinate the investigation with the capital debt affordability committee and address any potential impacts to the state’s debt statement, credit ratings, and ability to issue general obligation debt. The report shall include a detailed cost-benefit analysis and a specific proposal to utilize GARVEE bonds for consideration by the 2004 general assembly.

(37) The department of motor vehicles is directed to investigate staffing, systems, and systems management options to reduce: on-site peak capacity service waiting times; and mail inquiry response times. The department shall complete and have available a report of its investigation by January 15, 2004. The report shall include the department’s findings and a plan that could achieve reduced waiting times. The plan shall describe any additional staffing or systems resources and associated costs which would be required and a timetable for implementation of the plan if adopted by the general assembly.

(38) A resident who has moved into the state from another jurisdiction is required to register his or her motor vehicle within 60 days of moving into the state and to obtain a license to operate the vehicle.

(39) The agency of transportation, in consultation with representatives of those persons who have petitioned the transportation board for redress of an issue, is directed to examine current board functions and report to the House and Senate committees on transportation by January 15, 2004. The report shall include recommendations as to whether the current functions of the board are utilizing the expertise and capacity of the board or whether additional responsibilities should be vested in that body.

(40) The Vermont transportation enhancement grant program shall be limited to enhancement activities as defined in federal law which are sponsored by municipalities, nonprofit organizations, or political subdivisions of the state other than the agency. Eligible applicants must provide all funds required to match federal funds awarded for an enhancement project. All grant awards shall be decided and awarded by the transportation enhancement grant committee. The following federal aid highway program funds received by the state under the federal aid highway reauthorization act, and succeeding reauthorization acts, that succeed the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (Public Law 105-178 as amended) shall be exclusively reserved to cover the costs of enhancement projects awarded grants under the Vermont transportation enhancement grant program with respect to federal fiscal years 2004 and thereafter: at a minimum, four percent of the state’s apportionment of surface transportation funds received by the state under federal law over the life of the applicable federal reauthorization act; and, if greater, and at a maximum, the state’s apportionment of federal aid highway program funds that are exclusively reserved for transportation enhancement activities under federal law received by the state over the life of the applicable federal reauthorization act. The sum of $1,450,000.00 of federal funds apportioned to the state under federal law with respect to federal fiscal year 2004 is authorized and reserved for the enhancement grant program. Grant awards with respect to these funds shall be made in January 2004.

(41) If the Williston-Essex CIRC projects are delayed for any reason, funds authorized for the projects for fiscal years 2004 and thereafter shall not be reallocated to any other project or projects without the approval of the general assembly, or if the general assembly is not in session, a special committee consisting of the joint fiscal committee joined by the chairs of the House and Senate committees on transportation. Any proposed reallocation of funds shall endeavor to optimize the use of the funds to advance or complete the highest priority projects in the state which are not funded or which require additional funds.

Effective Date: The portions of the act authorizing bonding and the use of any additional federal funds take effect on July 1, 2003 and the remainder of the acts takes effect from passage, June 4, 2003.