Vt transportation infrastructure faces challenges

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(Host) Transportation Secretary Neale Lunderville says he doesn’t think the state should borrow money to help repair the state’s transportation system.

Lunderville says he hopes to dedicate enough money for road, bridge and culvert repairs by reorganizing the priorities of his agency.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) There’s little doubt that Vermont’s transportation infrastructure faces some major challenges.

Twenty percent of the state’s roads are rated as being in "very poor" condition and this number is expected to double in the next three years unless there’s a sizeable increase in the state’s $56 million paving budget.

In addition, hundreds of state and town bridges are considered to be structurally deficient, and a large number of culverts are in need of significant repair.

Some state officials believe Vermont should issue a large transportation bond to deal with this situation. They argue that the repair work is going to have to be done at some point and the cost of doing the work now will be cheaper than waiting for a number of years.

Speaking on VPR’s Vermont Edition, Transportation Secretary Neale Lunderville expressed strong concerns about this approach:

(Lunderville) "One of the key considerations there is we just recently received our triple-A bond rating from Wall Street – very high achievement for the state, something we’ve been working to build back for many years. … The question is do we run the risk of jeopardizing that bond rating, jeopardizing our fiscal health by putting in a big bond package?"

(Kinzel) Lunderville says he’s conducting a top to bottom review of all the programs in his agency to see if money can be freed up by establishing new priorities. The overall budget for the Agency is $420 million.

(Lunderville) "I think the first thing we need to do is make sure we’re spending all $420 million of that money in the best way we can and make the hard choices in our budget. And with our programs that we already have, do we need all these programs? Are we spending the money the best we can? Do we need all of the extras of some of these road and bridge projects that we do? And if then we satisfy ourselves to say we are spending that money on the best we can and we do need to look at additional revenue, then we look at it."

(Kinzel) Lunderville says he’s strongly opposed to raising the gasoline tax to help fund transportation repair projects. He says he might be willing to consider increasing some motor vehicle fees if it can be demonstrated that the state needs additional funds for these programs.

For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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