Congress today passed a transportation funding bill that would provide almost $464 million to Vermont through 2014.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Senate Transportation Subcommittee member, helped write the bill. "At a time when about one-third of the bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete and 36 percent of the federal-aid roads need major repairs, this bill will go a long way to putting Vermonters to work to address this infrastructure crisis," said Sanders (I-Vt.).
The Senate voted 74 - 19 to send the measure the White House. The House of Representatives earlier this afternoon had voted 373-52 for the bill. President Barack Obama was expected to sign the legislation before the current law expires tonight at midnight.
The bill includes a Sanders amendment that allows the Federal Highway Administration to cover 90 percent of the cost of road repair in states recovering from extreme natural disasters. The provision could mean up to $10 million in additional funds for Vermont, where Tropical Storm Irene caused between $150 million and $200 million in damage to roads and bridges.
The measure also includes a big boost for public transit in Vermont. Funding would jump from the current level of $6.2 million a year to more than $9.5 million next year and $9.6 million in 2014. A separate provision will allow the Chittenden County Transportation Authority to continue some of its successful routes, including the Montpelier and St. Albans link.
Investments in roads and bridges and transit are one of the most effective ways to create jobs, Sanders said the projects funded by the bill will save more than 1.8 million jobs nationwide each year and create a million new jobs through an expanded infrastructure-financing program.
In Vermont, about one-third of the bridges are "structurally deficient or functionally obsolete,' 36 percent of the federal-aid roads need major repairs, and a national report recently ranked Vermont's rural roads the worst in the nation.
Sanders noted that while the bill is an important step forward, the U.S. needs to invest much more in infrastructure. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, more than $800 billion over five years is needed just to get our roads, bridges, and transit to a "passable" condition.