Gov. Peter Shumlin today applauded news from Washington that Congress is poised to remove a cap on federal road and bridge assistance, likely ensuring up to $250 million in aid for repairing Vermont's state transportation infrastructure damaged in Tropical Storm Irene. The measure also provides more than $1.6 billion to the Federal Highway Administration emergency fund to guarantee funds are available.
"I cannot overstate how critical this bill is to our state. This is the difference between a financial calamity for Vermonters already facing tough times and our ability to now rebuild Vermont better than Irene found us, which I am bound and determined to accomplish," the Governor said. "Vermont's Congressional delegation fought hard to secure this aid. I am so grateful to Sens. Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders, and Rep. Peter Welch for their work."
Gov. Shumlin said the federal assistance will ensure Vermont can afford Irene-related repair work, building projects in a way that reduces the likelihood of future weather-related damage, as well as transportation projects already on the books and unrelated to storm damage.
Sen. Leahy announced today that House and Senate negotiators had reached this important compromise. The full House and Senate are expected to approve the measure.
The negotiators agreed to:
· Restore funding to the depleted FHA emergency fund to help states with infrastructure repair from the Tropical Storm;
· Remove a $100 million cap on federal assistance, enabling the state to receive aid from Washington for between $175 million to $250 million of repair costs depending upon the state-federal match for work, which has yet to be determined;
· Authorize 100 percent reimbursement for emergency repairs beyond the current limit of 180 days -- meaning projects that extend into the spring and beyond will be eligible for full coverage from Washington.
Failure to reach that settlement could have left inadequate federal funding for assistance, limited Vermont's share of aid to $100 million -- far less than the total cost of damages, and provided assistance only for projects completed within 180 days.
The negotiations also pave the way for heavy trucks to move off smaller state roads and instead use the Interstate highways, which will reduce damage on state and local roads.