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ACT NO. 144

(H.760)

Transportation Capital Construction Program; Project Development Program

This act is the Transportation Construction Program for fiscal year 1999 and the project development program for fiscal years 2000-2003. The fiscal year 1999 appropriations total $175,222,495.00.

Of this amount, $103,254,180.00 are federal funds, $66,684,384.00 are state transportation funds and $5,283,931.00 are local funds.

The act provides, in part, for the following:

(1) The sum of $135,000.00 is appropriated from the transportation fund for fiscal year 1999 to the agency of transportation (AOT) for small betterment projects.

(2) Funding has been increased for the Charlotte-Burlington passenger rail project to reflect the actual project schedule.

(3) Funding in the amount of $5,708,631.00 has been provided for the statewideproject for operating assistance for public transit operators in fiscal year 1999.

(4) Funding for the portion of the Bennington Bypass known as the Bennington Bypass South has been deleted for fiscal year 1999. The AOT is directed to evaluate funding and design alternatives to the portion known as the Bennington Spur. The agency is further directed to obtain full control of access to the Bennington Bypass and its points of interchange to ensure that the project does not induce sprawl and to conduct a traffic analysis, including consideration of upgraded rail service to the area. The AOT is directed to report to the House and Senate Committees on Transportation no later than January 15, 1999.

(5) The AOT is directed to limit total expenditures on the Rutland MultiModal Transit Center to the fullest possible extent under the terms of existing contracts. On or before June 1, 1998, the Secretary of Transportation is directed to report to the chairs of the House and Senate Committees on Transportation on the agency's progress in controlling costs.

(6) For AOT planning purposes, by fiscal year 2003, the proportion of funds allocated to the non-highway modes shall not be less than the proportion of funds allocated to the non-highway modes in fiscal year 1998.

(7) The AOT, in consultation with the regional planning commissions and the metropolitan planning organization, is directed to examine the criteria for prioritizing transportation construction projects financed in whole or in part with state funds, and to report to the House and Senate Committees on Transportation by January 15, 1999.

(8) The AOT is directed to develop a strategy for improvements to the state's principal arterial highways, US 2, US 4, US 7, VT 9, VT 78 and VT 103, and to the state's inventory of bridges. The agency is further directed to develop a strategy for upgrading the railroad line between Hoosick Junction, NY and Burlington.

(9) In anticipation of increased federal transportation funding, the AOT is directed to examine financing options and report to the House and Senate committees on transportation by January 15, 1999, on the following projects:

a. Bennington Bypass.

b. Chittenden County Circumferential Highway.

c. Upgrading the state-owned railroad line between Hoosick Junction, NY and Burlington by way of North Bennington, Manchester, Rutland, Middlebury and Vergennes.

d. Upgrading the state-owned railroad line between Bellows Falls and Rutland by way of Ludlow.

e. Improvements to US 7.

(10) Federal funds not specifically allocated in the fiscal year 1999 Transportation Capital Program and Project Development Plan shall not be expended until the Secretary of Transportation has briefed the Joint Transportation Oversight Committee.

(11) The sum of $275,000.00 is appropriated from the transportation fund for fiscal year 1999 to the Department of Buildings and General Services for the purchase of land in the town of Colchester to be used for relocation of some functions now conducted at the AOT's District #5 maintenance facility at Fort Ethan Allen.

(12) A new class 2 town highway rehabilitation program is established to provide grants to municipalities to rehabilitate class 2 town highways. The sum of $500,000.00 is appropriated during fiscal year 1999 from the transportation fund to the AOT. The local share in this grant program will be one-third. Additional funding for this program will come from the proceeds of the sale of AOT's maintenance facility at Fort Ethan Allen and from excesses in the Budget Stabilization Reserve that are not necessary to match additional federal funds.

(13) A new town highway bridge maintenance program is established with the local share being one-third. During fiscal year 1999, the sum of $500,000.00 from carryover funds from the town highway bridge program is appropriated to AOT for this program.

(14) The Secretary of Transportation, in consultation with the New England Central Railroad (NECR) is directed to evaluate the feasibility of improving restrictive clearances along the NECR line to accommodate double stack traffic, including improvements to the railroad tunnel at Bellows Falls. The Secretary is to report to the House and Senate Committees on Transportation by January 15, 1999.

(15) The Secretary of Transportation, in consultation with the Secretary of Commerce & Community Development, Vermont Railway, Inc. and Omya, Inc., is directed to investigate alternative means of transporting marble between Omya's quarry near East Middlebury and its processing plant in Pittsford. The Secretary is to report to the House and Senate Committees on Transportation by January 15, 1999.

(16) The AOT is directed to include critical path scheduling techniques in implementing the project manager system. Under the critical path method, design and construction work is arranged and advanced so that each operation can follow the preceding operation as closely as the requirements of the various types of design and construction will permit, so that combined successive operations are limited to a minimum length of time.

(17) The AOT is directed to produce a Public Transportation Policy Plan and submit a draft report to the House and Senate Committees on Transportation no later than January 15, 1999. The process shall include public hearings and shall be guided by a steering committee. The final report shall be submitted to the General Assembly no later than April 15, 1999.

(18) A Public Transit Advisory Council, composed of 12 members representing the General Assembly, the AOT and various interest groups, is established. The council is to be chaired by the Secretary of Transportation or the Secretary's designee. The council is limited to six meetings. The council is staffed by the AOT.

(19) A committee is created to coordinate the efforts of the states of Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine to establish and maintain an international trade corridor along Route 2 across the three states. The committee shall consist of one member of the House and one member of the Senate. On or before January 15, 1999, the committee shall report to the General Assembly.

(20) Law enforcement officers are authorized to remove unattended vehicle which obstruct highway maintenance activities.

(21) A motor vehicle operator who receives a ticket for inoperative lights shall not be required to pay the fine, provided that within 72 hours of receiving the ticket the issuing department receives proof that the defect has been repaired by an authorized inspection station.

(22) The AOT, on behalf of the state, is authorized to enter into an agreement with the state of New Hampshire whereby ownership, as well as repair and maintenance, of the Maidstone Bridge across the Connecticut River is shared equally between the two states.

(23) One permanent, full-time position in the Joint Fiscal Office is authorized to provide professional staff support to the House and Senate Committees on Transportation. The sum of $40,000.00 is appropriated for fiscal year 1999 from the transportation fund to the Joint Fiscal Office for this position.

(24) The AOT is directed to hire a person for a temporary part-time position to serve as the Cross Vermont Trail Supervisor. The sum of $25,000.00 is appropriated for fiscal year 1999 from the transportation fund to AOT's engineering and construction program for this position.

(25) The sum of $20,000.00 is appropriated for fiscal year 1999 from the transportation fund to the AOT for the State Infrastructure Bank to be used for the non-federal share of a van pool loan program.

(26) The Transportation Board is authorized to: approve airport and restricted landing area sites and other air navigation facilities; provide appellate review regarding the fairness of rents and fees charged for the occupancy or use of state-owned properties administered by the AOT; approve requests to open new highways or other public ways into established limited access facilities; and to resolve disputes involving the amount of compensation to be paid railroads for utility use of railroad corridors.

(27) The term of the members of the Transportation Board is reduced from six to three years and board members may be reappointed for not more than two additional three-year terms.

(28) The scope of AOT's Transportation Planning Initiative in fiscal year 1999 shall include consideration of multimodal facilities, encompassing appropriate location and integration of modes, by Vermont's regional planning commissions and the ChittendenCounty Metropolitan Planning Organization.

(29) The AOT is directed to investigate alternative guardrail types.

(30) The AOT and the Agency of Natural Resources are directed to jointly review and evaluate the VT 78 project in light of the November 1997 memorandum of agreement between the two agencies regarding wetlands mitigation or compensation. A report shall be filed with the House and Senate Committees on Transportation by January 15, 1999.

(31) A provision of law is continued which prohibits suppliers of forestry and industrial equipment from limiting the geographic areas in which their dealers may sell or deliver inventory.

Effective Date: Those sections of the act containing an appropriation and enhanced Transportation Board duties take effect on July 1, 1998. The remaining sections take effect from passage, April 27, 1998.