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H.322

Introduced by   Representatives Howard of Rutland City, Allaire of Rutland City, Baker of West Rutland, Branagan of Georgia, Canfield of Fair Haven, Chen of Mendon, Clarkson of Woodstock, DePoy of Rutland City, Donaghy of Poultney, Donovan of Burlington, Flory of Pittsford, Gervais of Enosburg, Haas of Rochester, Helm of Castleton, Howrigan of Fairfield, Keenan of St. Albans City, Komline of Dorset, Livingston of Manchester, Louras of Rutland City, Molloy of Arlington, Potter of Clarendon, Sweaney of Windsor, Wright of Burlington and Zuckerman of Burlington

Referred to Committee on

Date:

Subject:  Transportation; rail; Vermont rail authority

Statement of purpose:  This bill proposes to amend the designation of the Vermont transportation authority to the Vermont rail authority and to set forth its purpose and scope of operation.

AN ACT RELATING TO THE VERMONT RAIL AUTHORITY

It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:


Sec. 1.  29 V.S.A. § 701 is amended to read:

§ 701.  DEFINITIONS

As used in this chapter:

(1)  “Authority” means the Vermont transportation rail authority established by section 711 of this title.

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(4)  “Joint service arrangements” means agreements between or among the authority and any common carrier or freight forwarder, the state, any state agency, the federal government, any other state or agency or instrumentality thereof, any public authority of this or any other state, or any political subdivision, regional economic development corporation or authority, or municipality of the state, relating to property, buildings, structures, facilities, services, rates, fares, classifications, divisions, allowances, or charges, including charges between operators of railroad facilities, or rules or regulations pertaining thereto, for or in connection with or incidental to transportation in or upon railroad facilities located within the state and in or upon railroad facilities located outside the state.

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(8)  “Transportation facility” means any railroad facility and any person, firm, partnership, association, or corporation which owns, leases, or operates any facility used for service in the transportation of passengers, United States mail, or personal property as a common carrier for hire and any portion thereof.  It shall include the rights, leaseholds, or other interest therein together with routes, tracks, extensions, connections, bridges, grade crossings, connecting roadways, parking lots, garages, warehouses, yards, storage yards, maintenance and repair shops, terminals, stations, the devices, appurtenances, equipment, power plants, and other related facilities used or useful in connection with the operation of the transportation facility.

Sec. 2.  29 V.S.A. § 701(9) and (10) are added to read:

(9)  “Western Vermont transportation corridor” or “corridor” means a transportation corridor served by the Vermont railway and U.S. Route 7, a state highway on the national highway system.

(10)  “Western Vermont freight transportation gateway project” or “gateway project” means a project to upgrade the corridor, and which initially comprises four primary elements:  the relocation of the Rutland rail yard and related improvements; the development of the Middlebury spur; improvements to the St. Albans intermodal connector and freight facilities; and improvements to the Albany-Bennington-Rutland-Burlington mainline.

Sec. 3.  29 V.S.A. § 703 is amended to read:

§ 703.  COOPERATION AND ASSISTANCE OF OTHER AGENCIES

To avoid duplication of effort and in the interests of economy, the authority may make use of existing studies, surveys, plans, data, and other materials in the possession of any state agency or any municipality or political subdivision of the state.  Each agency, municipality, or subdivision is authorized to make the same available to the authority and otherwise to assist it in the performance of its functions.  At the request of the authority, each agency, municipality, or subdivision which is engaged in transportation activities, regional economic development or in land use or development planning, or which is charged with the duty of providing or regulating any transportation activities, is further authorized to provide the authority with information regarding its plans and programs affecting the state so that the authority may have available to it current information.  The officers and personnel of agencies, municipalities, or subdivisions, and of any other government or agency may serve at the request of the authority upon advisory committees created by the authority.  The officers and personnel may serve upon committees without forfeiture of office or employment and with no loss or diminution in the compensation, status, rights and privileges which they otherwise enjoy.

Sec. 4.  29 V.S.A. § 711 is amended to read:

§ 711.  ESTABLISHMENT

(a)  There is established a body corporate and politic, with corporate succession, to be known as the “Vermont Transportation Rail Authority.”  The authority is constituted as an instrumentality of the state exercising public and essential governmental functions, and the exercise by the authority of the powers conferred by this chapter are deemed an essential governmental function of the state.

(b)  All of the railroad facilities that are owned and operated by public agencies, authorities, or instruments of the state, or any combination, are hereby conveyed to the authority.

(c)  The authority shall serve the following purpose:

(1)  To own, operate, and maintain the publicly owned rail facilities in the state, except those owned by municipalities unless specifically transferred by the municipality;

(2)  To maximize the state’s freight rail capacity in order to minimize the volume of freight which must be conveyed over the state’s highways and bridges; and

(3)  To promote and assist in the development of highway improvements associated with facilitating the transfer of freight transport to the state’s rail system.

Sec. 5.  29 V.S.A. § 712 is amended to read:

§ 712.  MEMBERSHIP; VACANCIES

(a)  The authority shall consist of a chair and four other members appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the senate.  Members shall be residents of the state during their term of office and must have been registered voters of the state for at least one year next preceding their appointment.  Each member shall hold office for the term of his appointment and until his or her successor is appointed and qualified.  A member shall be eligible for reappointment.  A vacancy shall be filled in the same manner as the original appointment, but for the unexpired term only.  The membership of the authority in office at the time of adoption of this amendment shall be dissolved and shall be replaced by an authority consisting of nine members, including:

(1)  a chair and six members appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the senate;

(2)  the secretary of transportation or designee;

(3)  the treasurer or designee; and

(4)  the chairs of the house and senate committees on transportation or designees.

(b)  The chair and six appointed members of the authority shall be residents of counties affected by the state’s rail system, with no more than one member coming from any given county, and must have been registered voters of the state for at least one year next preceding their appointment.  Each member shall hold office for the term of his or her appointment and until his or her successor is appointed and qualified.  A vacancy shall be filled in the same manner as the original appointment, but for the unexpired term only.

(b)(c)  The term of office of a member shall be five years except that the governor’s initial appointments to the reconstituted board shall be staggered so that the term of one member shall expire each year on February 1.  Members shall be eligible for reappointment to one five-year term but shall not be eligible for further reappointment.

Sec. 6.  29 V.S.A. § 713 is amended to read:

§ 713.  OFFICERS; QUORUM

(a)  The members shall meet at least once every year and at their first meeting annually shall elect one of their number to serve as vice-chairman vice chair for a term of one year.  The powers of the authority are vested in the members and three five members of the authority shall constitute a quorum.  Action may be taken and motions and resolutions adopted by the authority at any meeting by the affirmative vote of at least three five members of the authority.  The business of the authority may be conducted in whole or in part via teleconferencing using the same quorum requirements.

(b)  The chairman shall be the chief executive officer of the authority and shall be responsible for the discharge of the executive and administrative functions and powers of the authority.  He shall be empowered to delegate the functions or powers, including, without limitation, that of appointment, discipline and removal of officers or employees, to one or more executive officers appointed by the authority.

Sec. 7.  29 V.S.A. § 730(d) is added to read:

(d)  The finance, design, construction, maintenance, and operation of the gateway project as defined in section 701 of this chapter shall be an authorized project pursuant to this chapter.

Sec. 8.  29 V.S.A. § 731(a)(6) is amended to read:

(a)  The authority has the following powers for carrying out the purposes of this chapter:

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(6)  To enter into, under procedures it determines to be appropriate, and enforce all contracts, agreements, or leases necessary, and to execute all instruments necessary or convenient for the purposes of the authority or for the performance of its duties and the execution or carrying out of any of its powers under this chapter;

Sec. 9.  29 V.S.A. § 731(a) is amended to read:

(a)  The authority has the following powers for carrying out the purposes of this chapter:

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(11)  To conduct investigations and hearings in the furtherance of its general purposes and to have access to any relevant books, records or papers.  If any person, whose testimony is required for the proper performance of the duties of the authority, shall fail or refuse to aid or assist the authority in the conduct of any investigation or hearing, or to produce any relevant books, records or other papers, the authority may apply for process of subpoena, to issue out of any superior court whose process can reach the person, upon due cause shown; and

(12)  To do all things necessary, convenient or desirable to carry out the purposes of this chapter or the powers expressly granted or necessarily implied in this chapter;

(13)  to promote and enhance regional economic development;

(14)  to pursue economic development of its property alone or in conjunction with regional economic development corporations and authorities, or both.

Sec. 10.  29 V.S.A. § 732(a)(2), (7), and (9) are amended to read:

(a)  In addition to the powers granted the authority under section 731 of this chapter, and only pursuant to projects specifically authorized by section 730 of this title, the authority:

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(2)  May, on the terms and conditions and pursuant to procedures it determines necessary, convenient, or desirable establish, construct, effectuate, operate, maintain, renovate, improve, extend, or repair any transportation facility related to, supporting, or connected with an authorized project; including the gateway project, in connection therewith it may provide for the establishment, construction, effectuation, operation, maintenance, renovation, improvement, extension, or repair by contract, lease, or other arrangement on the terms it deems necessary, convenient or desirable with any person, including but not limited to any firm, corporation, partnership, common carrier or freight forwarder, the state, any state agency, the federal government, any other state or agency or instrumentality, any public authority of this or any other state, or any political subdivision or municipality of the state.  In connection with the operation of any authorized project, the authority may establish, construct, effectuate, operate, maintain, renovate, improve, extend or repair or provide by contract, lease or other arrangement for the establishment, construction, effectuation, operation, maintenance, renovation, improvement, extension or repair of any related services and activities it deems necessary, convenient or desirable, including but not limited to the transportation and storage of freight and the United States mail, feeder and connecting transportation, parking areas, transportation centers, stations, rail yards, and related facilities.

(7)  May, in its own name or in the name of the state, apply for and receive and accept grants of property, money, and services and other assistance offered or made available to it by any person, government, including the federal government or state agency whatever or instrumentality, or both.  It may use that assistance to meet capital or operating expenses, make payments of principal and interest on bonds and other loans issued to fund capital costs of projects, including the gateway project, and any other use within the scope of its powers, and to negotiate for the same upon the terms and conditions the authority may determine necessary, convenient, or desirable.

(9)  May, whenever it determines that it is in the interest of the authority, sell, convey, lease, exchange, or otherwise dispose of any real property or other personal property which it determines not necessary, convenient, or desirable for its purposes.

Sec. 11.  29 V.S.A. § 732(a)(11) through (13) are added to read:

(a)  In addition to the powers granted the authority under section 731 of this chapter, and only pursuant to projects specifically authorized by section 730 of this title, the authority:

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(11)  May, on behalf of the state, the agency of transportation, and on its own behalf:

(A)  Issue special obligation bonds to be secured by an annual pledge of a portion of the federal highway grants to the state;

(B)  Issue such other bonds as may be necessary to provide the nonfederal match to any such bonds as may be required by federal law; and

(C)  Borrow funds directly from the federal government pursuant to loan authorizations that include those contained in the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (Section 1503 of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, “TEA 21”) and the Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing Act (Section 7203 of TEA 21), collectively, the “federal loans”, and otherwise pursuant to the provisions of Titles 23 and 49 of the United States Code, all as it may determine to be necessary to finance some or all of the costs of improvements to authority facilities, including the gateway project.

(12)  May, whenever it shall determine that it is in the interest of the authority, enter into contracts, credit leases, guarantee leases, financing leases, and other forms of credit agreements with any agency, including the agency of transportation, or instrumentality of the state, and any private party necessary to secure payment of any bonds, notes, or other obligations issued by the authority, including the gateway project.

(13)  May take all necessary actions to secure any federal assistance which is or may become available to the state or any of its political subdivisions for any purposes of this chapter.  If any federal law, administrative regulations, or practice requires any action relating to such federal assistance to be taken by any agency or instrumentality of the state other than the authority, including the agency of transportation, such other agency or instrumentality is authorized and directed to take all such action, including filing applications for assistance and supervising the expenditure of federal grants or loans to the foregoing, and the authority is hereby authorized and directed to take all actions which are not inconsistent with state law and which are necessary to permit such other agency or instrumentality to comply with federal requirements.

Sec. 12.  29 V.S.A. § 734(a) is amended to read:

(a)  The authority shall establish and maintain a special fund called the “Vermont Transportation Rail Authority Reserve Fund” in which there shall be deposited:

(1)  All moneys appropriated by the state for the purpose of the fund;

(2)  All proceeds of bonds required to be deposited therein by terms of any contract between the authority and its bondholders or any resolution of the authority with respect to the proceeds of bonds; and

(3)  Any other moneys or funds of the authority, including:  grants and other federal assistance received by the authority either directly or through other agencies, including the agency of transportation, and instrumentalities of the state; any monies received from collection of fares, tolls, rentals, rates, charges, and other fees; and other monies received from public and private sources, however received, which it determines to deposit therein.

Sec. 13.  29 V.S.A. § 751(b) is amended to read:

(b)  The state does pledge to and agree with the holders of the bonds or notes issued under this chapter, that the state will not limit or restrict the rights hereby vested in the authority to perform its obligations and to fulfill the terms of any agreement made with the holders of its bonds or notes or in any way impair the rights or remedies of the holders of those bonds or notes until the bonds and notes, together with interest thereon, and interest on any unpaid installments of interest are fully met, paid, and discharged.  The authority is authorized to execute this pledge and agreement of the state in any agreement with the holders of such bonds or notes, including the holders of bonds issued pursuant to section 732 of this chapter.

Sec. 14.  29 V.S.A. § 771(a) is amended to read:

(a)  The authority is authorized to provide by resolution at one time or from time to time, for the issuance of its bonds and notes in an amount necessary to provide sufficient funds for achieving its purposes, including the acquisition, establishment, construction, effectuation, operation, maintenance, renovation, improvement, extension, or repair of any transportation facility, and including, without limitation, the gateway project, the payment of interest on bonds and notes of the authority, establishment of reserves to secure such bonds and notes, the provision of working capital and all other expenditures of the authority and its subsidiary corporations incident to and necessary or convenient to carry out their purposes and powers.


Sec. 15.  29 V.S.A. § 776(a) is amended to read:

(a)  The authority may, in any resolution of the authority authorizing, or relating to the issuance of any bonds or notes, covenant, and contract with the holders of the bonds or notes:

(1)  To pledge all or any part of the fares, tolls, rentals, rates, charges, federal highway grants, and other fees made or received by the authority or any of its subsidiary corporations and other monies received or to be received, to secure the payment of the notes or bonds, subject to the agreements with bondholders or noteholders then existing;

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Published by:

The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street
Montpelier, Vermont


www.leg.state.vt.us