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Vermont Legislature
Follow VPR's statehouse coverage, featuring Pete Hirschfeld and Bob Kinzel in our Statehouse Bureau in Montpelier.

Lack Of Funding Could Halt State Highway Projects

Vermonters may have to live with rough roads, unless Congress puts more money in the Federal Highway Trust Fund.

In the past few years, many states, including Vermont, have embarked on hundreds of road and bridge construction projects and most of the projects were paid for with a large amount of federal funds.

But now there’s a problem. The Federal Highway Trust Fund is running out of money, and unless Congress acts to put more money in the Fund, many projects could be delayed this summer.

"Will we need to slow down projects that we anticipate starting very soon?" - Deputy Transportation Secretary Sue Minter

Sue Minter is the Deputy Secretary of the Vermont Transportation Agency. She says she’s very concerned about this situation.

“Congress has some very important work to do to fill the Highway Trust Fund,” said Minter. “And ensure that Vermont and every department of transportation across the country has enough money to actually pay for its obligations with the projects that are in construction.”

Minter predicts that dozens of Vermont projects will have to be put on hold if Congress doesn’t act soon to resolve the funding problem.

“Will we need to slow down projects that we anticipate starting very soon,” said Minter. “Should we be putting out to bid projects for which we are not yet certain that we will have federal money to pay for ?”

Minter points out that these transportation projects have a direct impact on the Vermont economy.

“Transportation dollars are not only about building roads and bridges it’s about good jobs in the construction industry and it’s about sustaining our economic growth,” said Minter. “So all of those things are really at risk.”

Congressman Peter Welch says it’s critical for Congress to act on the issue and he says he’ll support efforts to raise new money for the Highway Fund.

“We’ve got to come up with the revenues and whatever it is we have to do in order to make certain that our Highway Trust Fund has the funds it needs,” said Welch. “I’m going to be supportive of that.”

Welch says House Republican leaders oppose raising the federal gas tax to provide additional revenue for the Highway Trust Fund. He says it’s a case where an anti tax ideology is preventing a common sense solution.

“You simply don’t have roads go through winters that we’ve had without damage and then have this illusion that somehow spring is going to fix the problems,” said Welch. “You’ve got to put money in the Fund, you’ve got to get people on the road you’ve got to get our contractors to work.”

Welch says he also wants any new transportation funding bill to give local and state officials more flexibility in how they use those federal funds.

Bob Kinzel has been covering the Vermont Statehouse since 1981 — longer than any continuously serving member of the Legislature. With his wealth of institutional knowledge, he answers your questions on our series, "Ask Bob."
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