Tuesday, November 12, 2013

VT TRANSPORTATION BOARD COMMENT PERIOD ON TRANSPORTATION PROGRAM DEADLINE NOV 30


 NOVEMBER 30TH DEADLINE FOR VERMONTERS TO COMMENT ON TRANSPORTATION PROGRAMMING 

The Vermont Transportation Board [website: tboard.vermont.gov ]  is in the midst of six public hearings

for the purpose of taking public comment on a variety of transportation-related
topics. The Board also will accept public comment via email until November 30.
Please submit electronic comments to the Board’s executive secretary at

The two remaining hearings are: St. Albans, November 15 and Middlebury November 20 (details on website).  However, certainly everyone can be encouraged to submit their specific concerns in regard to any transportation issue.  Certainly every time a citizen comments in support of bicycle and walker infrastructure as well as its funding helps the cause of finally getting a real start on a walkable and bikable community, a vision we all share.


My comments submitted to the Transportation Board for changes in state transportation programming will address and include:

1.  Protected Bike Lanes (Cycle Track)   Over the past year policies for bicycle infrastructure moved from now pass√© bicycle lanes to a truly “complete” streets composed of protected bicycle lanes called “cycle track” paired where feasible with roundabouts armed with separate or shared walker/bike paths so bicyclists can choose the generally safer course of not “taking the lane” at an intersection.  Only through this new infrastructure (note NY 9 roundabout and separate bike and walker facilities north and south) approach can we begin to achieve true bikability in Vermont—now nowhere to be found in our downtowns, village centers and other built up areas.  An immediate infusion of $2-$3 million for cycle track within the current year budget (SFY 2014) can kickstart cycle track with administration placed in the Bicycle-Pedestrian Program.

2.  Rail Passenger Service Expansions  With sharp drops in the proportion of Vermont workers (3%) choosing car travel to work, a general end to car travel growth and the aging Vermont population (124% increase 2000-2030 of 65+ versus under 2% for under 65—U.S. Census), it is clear we need to: (1) advance the date of Amtrak extension of service from Rutland to Burlington to SFY 2015 nor 2018 as now projected; (2) Initiate an Ambus connecting the Vermonter at St. Albans to Montreal, a sure money maker and reducer of State Amtrak support dollars until rail service extension is completed in the indefinite future; (3) Complete planning and start initial service elements within two years of” (a) commuter rail service between Burlington along the corridors to Montpelier, Middlebury and St. Albans, (b) a “circuit” intercity service Burlington-White River Jct.-Bellows Falls-Rutland-Burlington, and (c) light rail service Fletcher Allen Health Car/UVM to the Burlington waterfront via the Church Street Marketplace.

3. Intersection Roundabout Conversions  With two states and two Canadian provinces adoption of “roundabouts first” policies and the undisputed safety and service benefits of the single lane roundabout for all modes, it is long past the time for Vermont transportation programming to: (1) immediately undertake through regional transportation planning a list of intersections to be converted to roundabouts taking into consideration walking/bicycling/economic factors and prioritizing the conversion list; (2) revise all new construction and other major projects (like the Burlington Champlain Parkway)  by replacing all designed/planned signals to roundabouts; and (3) moved quickly to a 20-30 roundabouts per year installation rate, easily achievable with the addition of the Transportation Funding Initiative (TFI) outlined herein.

Note the AARP policy advocating roundabout conversions because of the far higher incidence of senior driving and walking fatalities at intersections compared to the under 65 age population.  Transportation research clearly shows the primary differential in skills and abilities which change with aging involve judging gaps in traffic and speeds, major elements addressed by roundabouts versus the context of the signalized or signed intersection.

4.  New $90 Million Annual State Allocation of General Funds for Transportation  As car travel New England wide increased only 3 percent so far this century the revenue streams from car related taxes no longer even sustain necessary basic highway needs.  Meanwhile the rapidly expanding travel modes—rail and bus passenger services, walking and bicycling—all demand substantial additional resources to both meet demand and for first time installation in the case of cycle track and roundabouts.  Two states for the first time dealt straight up with the changed transportation funding needs—Virginia in February abolished the gas tax and replaced it with an across the board sales tax of one percent to be used to fund all transportation modes; and Massachusetts shifted for the first time on a regular basis $890 million yearly from general funds, again to fund needs for highway, rail passenger, public transportation, walking and bicycling.  The Vermont equivalent of the Massachusetts general fund shift of $890 million is $90 million (note Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick fought tooth and nail for an amount double that which his legislature finally approved).

 Examples of what $90 million in Vermont funds are: (1) a light rail system running from UVM and Fletcher Allen Health Care to the Burlington waterfront via the Church Street Marketplace (including the purchase of the light rail cars); (2) the full capital costs of commuter rail services from Burlington to Middlebury, Montpelier, and St. Albans plus intercity rail extended in a circular service Burlington-White River Jct.-Bellows Falls-Rutland-Burlington—including self-propelled rail cars; (3) 90 miles of downtown and village center cycle track; (4) 30 roundabouts with paths accommodating both bicyclists and walkers; and (5) rehabilitation of 45 miles of Vermont highways.

With Vermont households cutting back their almost $2 billion expenditure on car travel, the increase in taxes on progressive basis still results in an overall reduction in the typical Vermont household budget for transportation.  In a sense the new funding, a Transportation Funding Initiative (TFI) just reflects the consumer choice already clearly expressed in the marketplace.

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