MONTPELIER — House lawmakers have given final approval to a transportation bill that creates a threshold for marijuana intoxication, with critics saying the legislation is not based on science and could lead to the disclosure of private medical information. On Wednesday, lawmakers approved SB 225, which lowers the threshold for a driver’s alcohol level when combined with marijuana, and paves the way for roadside saliva tests that reveal not just the presence of THC — the active ingredient in marijuana — but other drugs as well. Under the terms of the bill, a driver would be considered impaired when having a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.05 when combined with a THC count of 1.5 nanograms.
The current drunken-driving BAC threshold is 0.08. Prior to Wednesday, the bill called for an intoxication level of 0.05 for alcohol when combined with any measurable amount of marijuana. However, Rep. George Till, D-Jericho, introduced an amendment setting a specific amount of THC, which he said was based on numerous studies equating 1.5 nanograms with intoxication. Continue Reading →
WASHINGTON – Vermont will see a significant increase in the money it receives for road and bridge work as part of the first long-term federal highway bill in a decade. Congress has approved a 5-year, $305-billion bill that includes $1.1 billion for Vermont, an increase of $95 million, as well as increases for public transportation and charging stations for electric vehicles. “While this legislation does not have everything I would have hoped for, I am pleased it includes more than $1 billion for Vermont’s roads and bridges in the coming years,” said U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who serves on the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, which has primary jurisdiction over federal road and bridge programs.
Vermont will see a 5-percent increase in federal funding during the first year and a 15-percent increase over a five-year period. U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, who has been a long-time advocate of passing a long-term highway bill, said the bill will allow officials at the state level to better plan their infrastructure projects. “This is going to give greater stability and security to our Agency of Transportation, and give them the critical confidence they need to plan their projects,” Welch said. Continue Reading →
EAST MONTPELIER — U.S. Rep. Peter Welch and Vermont Agency of Transportation Secretary Sue Minter are urging Congress to pass a long-term transportation spending plan before federal spending authorization expires on July 31, which would put dozens of Vermont projects at risk. Welch and Minter held a news conference Tuesday at a Route 14 bridge in East Montpelier that intersects with Route 2. The bridge has been deemed structurally deficient and has visible signs of degradation, including at least one hole in the deck offering a view of the water below. “We in Vermont have bridges that are crumbling,” Welch said. “This bridge next to us is falling apart, and I hate to say that because I don’t want to scare the driving public, but the driving public knows how bad our roads and bridges are.”
In the recent past Congress has passed short-term spending resolutions to keep transportation and infrastructure projects around the country funded. Continue Reading →
MONTPELIER — The House Transportation Committee is in a holding pattern as it tries to figure out how to deal with declining revenues in a gas tax based on the price of the fuel. Members discussed various ways to deal with a $6.6 million gap facing the transportation fund Wednesday, including adjusting the Transportation Infrastructure Bond Fund, or TIB, to help bring in more revenue. Committee Chairman Rep. Patrick Brennan, R-Colchester, said the fund, launched in 2009, is bringing in less revenue as prices at the pump fall. The fund is filled with a 2 percent assessment on the retail price of gasoline and a 3 cent per gallon assessment on diesel fuel. Brennan said those rates worked well when the fund was launched and gasoline was more than $3.80 per gallon. Continue Reading →
The Vermont Transportation Board today released its Annual Report, which documents the comments the Board collected during a recent series of public forums that focused on the Transportation needs and wants of young adults. After hearing from some 250 Vermonters during a series of eight public forums that were held during the fall of 2014, the report documents that young adults are not only dissatisfied with Vermont’s transportation services, but believe that the state’s limited public transportation options combined with its limited number of bicycle-and-pedestrian facilities is causing many of their peers to either move away from the Green Mountains or not consider Vermont when choosing a place to live, work and raise a family. “Vermont’s population of young adults has been on the decline for decades now,” said Transportation Board Chairman Nick Marro. “The reasons for this trend are multifaceted, but somewhere within this decline lies a transportation nexus. Understanding how young people view the current state of Vermont’s transportation system, and understanding how those views differ from previous generations, is one of the keys to being able to properly plan for the state’s future.”
Vermont for years now has seen a steady decline of young adults. Continue Reading →
Testifying before a U.S. Senate Committee today, Gov. Peter Shumlin urged Congress to act quickly to replenish the Federal Highway Trust Fund so Vermont and other states can get to work repairing crumbling infrastructure. The Governor warned that in Vermont, projects relying on federal money need to go out to bid next month in order to begin construction in the spring. Failure of Congress to act could put at risk those badly needed projects and the jobs that go with them. The Governor was joined by Republican Gov. Robert Bentley from Alabama in a bipartisan show of support for continued transportation infrastructure funding from Congress. Vermont alone relies on roughly $300 million each year in funding from the Federal Highway Trust Fund, which will become insolvent in May if Congress fails to act. Continue Reading →
MONTPELIER — Gov. Peter Shumlin is heading to Washington Wednesday to provide testimony to the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works about the need for funding in the Highway Trust Fund. Vermont and other states rely on the federal fund to complete road, bridge and other infrastructure repairs and projects. But the fund, which is replenished through the federal gas tax, has solvency issues as that revenue source plummets. The fund is supported with a federal gas tax of 18.3 cents per gallon, and a tax of 24.4 cents per gallon of diesel fuel. But Americans are driving less and the fund is not keeping pace with infrastructure needs across the country. Continue Reading →