11.14.11

Final Transportation Funding Bill Includes Leahy-Authored Emergency Funding And Cost Waivers Provision

Leahy Provisions Crucial To Helping Vermont Rebuild Roads and Bridges After Irene

WASHINGTON (MONDAY, Nov. 14) – U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) announced Monday that House and Senate negotiators have agreed to include in a final transportation budget bill for the coming year his provision to replenish the Federal Highway Administration’s Emergency Relief Fund and provide important cost waivers that Governor Shumlin and others consider to be crucial to repairing and rebuilding roads and bridges damaged by Tropical Storm Irene.

The bill also includes Leahy’s truck weight provisions for Vermont, to move heavy trucks from smaller state roads, including roads crossing through the downtowns of several Vermont communities, onto the state’s interstate highways.  

Leahy is number two on the Senate Appropriations Committee and also a senior member of its Transportation Subcommittee, which handled the writing of the bill.

Governor Shumlin has called the Leahy waivers a top priority for Vermont among many disaster-relief steps that are now pending before Congress.  Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Congressman Peter Welch (D-Vt.) both support Leahy’s provision, and Welch played a critical role in pushing the Leahy-authored waivers among leadership in the House of Representatives.

Following is a summary of the Leahy provisions in the final bill –

  • Leahy worked to add $1.662 billion to the depleted Federal Highway Administration emergency fund, upon which Vermont will depend for help in repairing and rebuilding roads washed away or damaged by Irene-related flooding.  The emergency highway account today is almost empty.  Also vital to Vermont are several cost-waiver provisions Leahy added to the bill, which would save Vermont millions of state tax dollars by allowing Vermont to:

o    Be reimbursed for more than the current $100 million per-state limit on federal emergency highway repair funds, which is especially critical as Vermont’s repair costs are expected to exceed the current cap;

o    Be reimbursed 100 percent for emergency repairs beyond the current limit of 180 days.

  • The bill also includes another high priority for Vermont: Leahy’s legislation to move heavy trucks off state secondary roads and onto the state’s Interstate highways for the next 20 years.  Leahy’s provision will help Vermont businesses and communities struggling due to the large number of state and local roads heavily damaged during the flooding disaster.  Leahy’s Vermont provision is paired with a similar change for Maine, authored by Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine). 

Leahy will speak on the Senate floor tomorrow, Tuesday, Nov. 15, at approximately 11:45 a.m. about the legislation, and how it will help in Vermont.

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David Carle: 202-224-3693