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ACT NO. 18

(H.537)

Capital Construction Program; Project Development Program

This act is the Transportation Construction Program for fiscal year 2000 and the Project Development Plan for fiscal years 2001-2004. The fiscal year 2000 budget expenditures total $252,797,975.00.

Of this amount, $165,532,142.00 are federal funds, $80,818,079.00 are state transportation funds and $6,447,754.00 are local funds.

The act provides, in part, for the following:

(1) The Secretary of Transportation (Secretary) is directed to make every effort to ensure that the schedule for each transportation project is maintained.

(2) The sum of $900,000 in state funds has been added to the public transit operators funding for a total of $3 million. Additionally the sum of $500,000 has been added to support the 49 U.S.C. Section 5310 program for special transportation needs of the elderly and disabled.

(3) Funding for the Agency of Transportation's (AOT) paving program level and shim has been decreased by $1,500,000 to accommodate decreases in federal government reimbursement of costs.

(4) A bridge inspection program on the former Boston & Maine Bennington Branch between Hoosick Junction, and the New York-Vermont state line near White Creek, NY has been added in preparation for the proposed Albany-Bennington-Rutland-Burlington (ABRB) passenger train service.

(5) The public transit statewide project's funding has been increased by $25,000 for the allocation for "new starts". $20,000 of which are federal funds and $5,000 of which are state funds.

(6) The Secretary has been authorized to advance other projects in the event that delays occur in scheduled projects. Decertification or cancellation of projects is prohibited without the approval of the General Assembly.

(7) The Secretary is authorized to accelerate projects approved by the General Assembly to take advantage of additional federal funds. The Secretary is also directed to report quarterly to the Joint Transportation Oversight Committee and House and Senate Committees on Transportation on any changes in project scheduling and cost overruns.

(8) The AOT is authorized to receive and spend any additional federal funds designated for rail projects and the Secretary is authorized to transfer up to $1,000,000 from any unexpended prior year state funds from any agency program, excluding the town programs, to match such additional federal funds.

(9) The AOT is authorized to acquire up to $5,000,000 of replacement Central Garage maintenance equipment.

(10) The Secretary is authorized, as agent for the State of Vermont, to acquire the Boston & Maine Corporation's railroad line between White River Junction and Wells River, to lease the line for continued railroad operation, and to assist with rehabilitating the line to repair washouts and to remedy deferred maintenance. This authorization shall "sunset" on January 1, 2000.

(11) The Secretary is directed to continue to evaluate the feasibility of making the New England Central Railroad (NECR) line, between Montreal and New London, CT, including the tunnel at Bellows Falls, suitable for double-stack rail traffic, taking into account local and regional input as well as NECR and state agencies and departments. Additionally a new project has been added to the Rail and Aviation program for assistance to NECR and the sum of up to $100,000 of federal funds has been appropriated, which is to be matched by NECR and used for preliminary engineering of improvements to the Bellows Falls tunnel. The secretary is directed to report to the House and Senate Committees on Transportation by January 15, 2000 on the status of the evaluation and on any recommended courses of action.

(12) The State of Vermont's policy is that improvements to railroad infrastructure should be constructed to a standard that will accommodate rail equipment at a laden weight of 315,000 pounds except where the Secretary determines otherwise.

(13) The AOT is directed to hire a qualified consultant to study the feasibility of relocating the railroad yards in Rutland and Burlington and to develop a list of proposed sites for each yard and their associated cost estimates. The consultant's report shall be submitted to the House and Senate Committees on Transportation by January 15, 2000.

(14) The AOT is authorized to accept a Federal Transit Administration (FTA) grant for a survey, in consultation with the Department of Agriculture, Food and Markets of alternative methods of vegetation control along railroad rights-of-way.

(15) The Governor is permitted to reactivate the Vermont Transportation Authority (VTA) for a possible role in passenger train projects such as the Charlotte-Burlington and Albany-Bennington-Rutland-Burlington routes. The VTA is directed to determine the costs associated with operating rail passenger service between St. Albans and Montreal and to report its findings to the Senate and House Committees on Transportation on January 15, 2000.

(16) Towns may receive emergency relief funds from federal sources other than the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

(17) The Secretary is authorized to transfer $900,000 of state funds from the Rail & Aviation program to the Town Highway Bridge Program to cover anticipated expenditures during FY 1999.

(18) The AOT is authorized to use state and federal funding to pay for rehabilitation of projects involving structures that are part of the Historic Bridge Program.

(19) The AOT is directed to provide the House and Senate Committees on Transportation, on or before December 15, 1999, with a coordinated action plan for advancing construction of improvements along the US 7 corridor between the north end of the existing limited access highway between Bennington and Dorset ("Super Seven") and the US 7/I-189 interchange in South Burlington. The plan shall include right-of-way acquisitions and construction of improvements, traffic signals, road rehabilitation, and environmental permitting. AOT, ANR, and ACCD are directed to ensure that improvements begin by the close of the 2000 construction season because of the need for timely completion of improvements to US 7. The Secretary's of these agencies are directed to report to the General Assembly by January 15, 2000 on their progress.

(20) For FY 2001 and thereafter, public transit providers who are in the third year of receiving federal funds under the Congestion Mitigation Air Quality program may not be eligible to receive state operating funds.

(21) The AOT is directed to produce a Public Transportation Policy Plan to be submitted to the House and Senate Committees on Transportation by January 15, 2000. The plan is to include recommendations for statutory changes necessary to implement the plan.

(22) Several changes have been made to the "Lemon Law". These amendments modernize the law to jibe with developments of the past 15 years. The amendments affect the definition of "motor vehicle" and "new motor vehicle," and also affect the enforcement of warranties section, the procedure to obtain refund or replacement, organization and membership of the Board, appeals from the Board, and other sections.

(23) An appropriation of up to $1,100,000 from the Transportation Fund to the Agency of Administration will be made for the purchase of a new state finance system, contingent upon replenishment of the Transportation Fund Budget Stabilization Reserve to its statutory maximum.

(24) Any unexpended balance on June 30, 1999 in the Lake Champlain Bridge Commission account shall revert to the transportation fund.

(25) For a one year period beginning July 1, 1999, operators of motor buses with a capacity of 20 or more passengers, except nonprofit operators or governmental entities, shall report quarterly, on a form as prescribed by the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles, all miles operated in Vermont.

(26) The AOT, in cooperation with the Agency of Tourism and Marketing, the Department of Buildings and General Services, and the Department of Environmental Conservation, is directed to implement a program consisting of: investigation of the continuing operation of the Sharon I-89 southbound rest area; and possible construction of a new Vermont Welcome Center, at the interchange of US 7 and VT 9, as part of the Bennington Bypass project.

(27) The first $1 million of any amount over $11 million received from the federal government for reimbursement of indirect costs associated with federal-aid-transportation projects shall be used by the Agency of Transportation for leveling and sealing along the state highway system. Any further such reimbursement shall be used by the Agency of Transportation for support of town programs.

(28) The AOT is directed to install "rumble strips" on all interstate highways within the State of Vermont on or before December 1, 2000.

(29) The exemption for "official traffic control signs" from the Vermont Billboard Law has been expanded to include signs directing people to official state visitor information centers and post-secondary educational institutions. The Billboard Law has been amended to allow signs erected pursuant to 10 V.S.A § 494(13) to remain in place through November 30, 2001. Municipalities are allowed to permit installation of temporary signs for civic events within the limits of municipal highways.

(30) The AOT, on or before January 15, 2000, is directed to provide the Senate and House Committees on Transportation with a Corridor Preservation Plan addressing development of access category standards and design and construction standards and specifications, and use of AOT's existing rulemaking authority.

(31) During the remainder of calendar year 1999, the AOT is directed to work with the Chittenden County Metropolitan Planning Organization and, in regions other than Chittenden County, with the regional planning commissions to develop and apply criteria for identifying those roadway projects that merit advancement to the construction phase. On or before January 15, 2000, The AOT shall present the General Assembly with a list of those roadway projects recommended for cancellation.

(32) The sum of $2,000,000 from the Transportation Fund is appropriated to the AOT for the Town Highway Grant Program.

(33) The AOT, in consultation with the Agency of Natural Resources and the Division of Historic Preservation, is directed to review interagency processes related to transportation project approval, develop measures to expedite transportation projects that are currently in the AOT's project development process and identify state statutes and rules that delay construction of transportation projects. The AOT is further directed to establish an appropriate timetable for projects and report to the House and Senate Committees on Transportation and the Joint Transportation Oversight Committee. The reports shall begin prior to August 1, 1999, and shall be issued on a monthly basis until the end of the calendar year. A final report shall be submitted to the Senate and House Committees on Transportation not later than January 15, 2000, identifying legislative or administrative action needed to improve the project development process.

(34) The AOT is directed to provide the House and Senate Committees on Transportation, on or before January 15, 2000, with a coordinated action plan for the remainder of the Chittenden County Circumferential Highway (VT 289) project, including but not limited to, estimated time frames for obtaining or renewing environmental permits and completing right-of-way acquisition.

(35) The sum of $2,512,350 from the Transportation Fund is appropriated to the Department of Buildings and General Services for design and construction of highway garage complexes in Colchester, Waitsfield, and Ludlow.

(36) Upon final payment of a paving contract with the AOT which contains liquidated damages from a paving contractor for failure to complete work on time, the damages shall be paid by the agency to the town or towns in which the work was not completed on time. This applies to paving projects commenced in the 1998 construction season and thereafter.

(37) The sum of $100,000 is appropriated from the transportation fund to the Department of Buildings and General Services for the design and construction of a downtown information center pilot project in White River Junction. On January 15, 2001, the Department of Buildings and General Services shall report to the Senate and House Committees on Transportation on the effectiveness of this Center.

(38) Persons riding a bicycle two abreast shall not impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic on a highway, and on a laned roadway, shall ride within a single lane.

(39) The Vermont Transportation Enhancement Advisory Committee has been created and consists of the Secretary of Transportation, or his or her designee, a representative from the Division of Historic Preservation, one member to be appointed by the Secretary of Transportation to represent the tourism and marketing industry, a representative of the Agency of Natural Resources, three municipal members designated by the Vermont League of Cities and Towns, two members of the House designated by the Speaker and two members of the Senate designated by the Committee on Committees. The sum of $2,000,000 is appropriated in federal funds for fiscal year 2000 for the local enhancement program. Transportation enhancement projects were created by Congress as part of the 1991 ISTEA legislation. Under federal law, states must allocate at least 10 percent of their surface transportation program (STP) funds for transportation enhancement activities. The committee is directed to review all of the enhancement application funded by this appropriation as well as future enhancement applications.

(40) The AOT is directed to determine which culverts, located on town highways throughout the state, were originally installed as a requirement for the construction of the interstate highway system. The agency shall examine these culverts and shall consult with appropriate town officials. The agency shall report to the Senate and House Committees on Transportation, on or before January 15, 2000, the number and location of these culverts in each town.

(41) The sum of $45,000 from federal funds has been appropriated to the AOT for reimbursement of eligible expenses for the Ticket to Ride program operating in Washington County for the direct transportation services for the elderly and disabled.

(42) The Travel Information Council is directed to develop a policy for supplemental guide signs on the interstates and state highways and a plan for implementing the policy. The Council shall report to the House and Senate Committees on Transportation on January 15, 2000.

Effective Date: Those sections of the act containing an appropriation take effect on July 1, 1999. The remaining sections take effect from passage, May 13,1999.