Vermont scrambles to cope with funding shortfall for roads

| Monday, September 25, 2006

In an effort to plug a hole in its transportation fund, the state of Vermont plans to use nearly $1 million in federal “toll credits” to ease its shortfall.

Transportation Secretary Neale Lunderville listed $950,000 in credits as part of a plan to deal with a projected $10.5 million deficit for roads.

State officials this summer revised their estimate of what the transportation fund would collect in fiscal year 2007 by $950,000, The Associated Press reported. Sagging fuel tax revenues resulting from fewer miles traveled due to escalating prices at the pump and more fuel-efficient vehicles were cited for the revision.

According to Lunderville, the Vermont Agency of Transportation’s plan that was presented to lawmakers won’t jeopardize federal funds, harm municipalities that rely on state aid or delay major projects, The AP reported.

The toll credits are geared to states that need money to maintain their toll booths. However, capital improvements to ferry systems, such as the Lake Champlain Ferries in Burlington, also are eligible for the credits.

When a state taps into the funding source, it can count those expenses against its share of the matching funds it must put up for a wide range of projects. Typically, 80 percent of the tab is picked up by the federal government while the state pays for 20 percent.

The bulk of Lunderville’s plan to deal with the deficit for roads relies on $3.6 million allotted to the agency for discretionary spending to help out during financial emergencies, The AP reported. Another $1.9 million will be saved by delaying some projects.

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