Vermont Poised to Delay 38 Highway Projects

Tue August 26, 2014 - Northeast Edition

BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) The Vermont Transportation Agency is poised to delay 38 bridge, rail and road projects that were to be put out to bid Aug. 1 because the federal money relied on for those projects might not be available.

Unless Congress acts, the federal Highway Trust Fund is expected to become insolvent in early August and federal officials would be forced to curtail reimbursements to states.

“I am so frustrated that our record construction season might end prematurely because of inaction by Congress,’’ Vermont Transportation Secretary Brian Searles told the Burlington Free Press. “The 38 projects involved are important, not just to travelers, but to the thousands of people who make their living in construction.’’

The highway trust fund gets its money from the federal gasoline tax, which has remained at 18.4 cents since 1993 and has generated too little to keep pace with the cost of road and highway construction.

Congress has been unable to agree on a remedy.

Searles said a revised payment plan being considered could trim federal reimbursements to Vermont by 30-to-50 percent.

State Treasurer Beth Pearce and the administration of Gov. Peter Shumlin have a plan to pay up to $15 million in unreimbursed federal expenses that could cover some delays in the arrival of federal funding.

But if Vermont reaches the cap, Searles said he would have to consider halting projects.