Bill Pays for Road Projects, Allows More Highway Signs

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(Host) The House late Thursday gave its preliminary approval to next year’s Transportation bill. The legislation contains a controversial provision that authorizes new business information signs on the Interstate.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) The Transportation Bill contains the spending plan for road and bridge projects throughout the state.

In the past few years, fueled by an increase in federal transportation funds, a large number of projects have been started. But the future of federal funding is now very much in doubt because the Bush administration has proposed sharp cuts in these programs.

Transportation Committee Chairman Dick Pembroke of Bennington told House members that the state cannot afford to maintain all of its priorities and his Committee decided to cut funding for many paving projects by 50 % so that other road upgrade projects can be completed:

(Pembroke) "So it has been a real struggle for us to be able to spread what money we had around to accommodate all the projects to keep them moving and not to slow them up or get our contractors discouraged because there was no work available."

(Kinzel) One of the most controversial parts of the bill concerns the placement of new signs within a mile of exits on the interstate. Up to four signs would be allowed – each sign would contain information about food, gas and lodging establishments at the exit. Each business would have a 3-by-5 foot panel on the larger sign which could accommodate up to four of these panels.

Rockingham Representative Michael Obuchowski says the proposal conforms with federal highway requirements:

(Obuchowski) "The bill provides for a process to allocate these signs in both cases, the supplemental guide signs as well as the specific service signs. The Agency of Transportation, in cooperation with the Travel Information Council, will identify and inventory all of the potential sites for the signs."

(Kinzel) It is expected that an amendment will be offered on Friday that will attempt to remove the new-sign section from the bill.

For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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