MORE: CHANGING STATE OF STATES TRANSPORTATION FUNDING
…..applying the Massachusetts general fund transport projects principle to Vermont
The Boston Globe reported the announcement last week by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick of likely first set of transportation investments since his Legislature the first yearly shift of $800 million from general fund revenue for transportation projects.
The $800 shift from general fund revenues to transportation--about half of what Gov. Deval Patrick sought from his Legislature--goes primarily to many years overdue replacement of the subway fleets on two Boston lines, statewide electric tolling and straightening a Turnpike section, and very possibly new commuter rail service to he “South Coast” with services to long economically depressed Cities of Fall River and New Bedford. Final details of Gov. Patrick’s transportation project list will be released by Thanksgiving. Gov. Patrick says funding emphasis will be placed on improved transportation outside of Greater Boston.
Massachusetts and Virginia this year were the first states to disconnect highway, gasoline, and car-related taxes from their past singular role in transportation finance at the state levels. Translating $800 million a year to Vermont—with a tenth of the population of Massachusetts—leads an $80 million a year equivalent as a minimum starting point. And, $80 million in Vermont in just two years would enable, for examples: (1) capital and some operating support for commuter rail from Burlington to Montpelier, Middlebury and St. Albans; (2) additional intercity rail service along a circular corridor from Burlington-White River Junction-Bellows Falls-Rutland-Burlington; and (3) a light rail service from the Burlington waterfront to Fletcher Allen Health Care and University of Vermont campus via the Church Street Marketplace. As important, Vermont could begin the critically needed investments to make downtowns, urban neighborhoods and town centers walkable and bikable for the first time though investments in cycle track (protected bike lanes) and at key intersections pathed roundabouts designed to serve both the walking and bicycle modes.
At some point, a major gasoline tax at the federal level—in dollars not the nickels and dimes of the past—must be imposed (phased in over several years) to provide the kind of resources to states enabling the U.S. to join the first tier of nations whose transportation systems which are defined by either high-speed rail networks and/or walkable and bikable urban areas. (Most Western European nations qualify on both criteria.) Consider the fact that nations like Taiwan, South Korea and China already nations boast a basic network of high-speed rail countrywide. In the United States and Canada there is not a single walkable or bikable urban area—investing in infrastructure to achieve walkable and bikable urban nodes, corridors and areas poses the greatest urban transportation challenge today. (A tip of the hat though to Canada where both Montreal and Toronto extensive underground areas and corridors remain the only ones in North America and two of the few of such extensive enclosed car-free environments worldwide.)