U.S. Senate okays Irene help for Vermont

The U.S. Senate just passed a transportation bill that, if enacted into law, would solve some of the state’s chief post-Irene fiscal dilemmas. The bill to repair damage to the state system alone could hit $250 million. That’s down drastically from the $620 million officials initially projected, but still a significant chunk of money in a state where yearly transportation spending totals just more than $500 million.

If approved, the Senate transportation bill would see the feds cover 80 percent of all Irene-related repairs above $100 million (the federal government, by statute, is already responsible for the first $100 million).

The bill additionally waives the 180-day time limit usually imposed on federally funded emergency repairs. In Vermont, where things like ice and snow tend to complicate the road work season, the six-month time limit could prove problematic.

Sens. Patrick Leahy and Bernard Sanders are leading the charge on Vermont’s behalf, though it’s still unclear whether the proposed legislation will make it through the U.S. House. The emergency funding provisions, which would also help other Northeast states pummeled by Irene, would require an additional $1.9 billion in transportation funding.

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