YCQM - Brian Searles - May 6, 2012 - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

YCQM - Brian Searles - May 6, 2012

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

May 6, 2012 -- Vt. Transportation Secretary Brian Searles joins Darren Perron and Roger Garrity to discuss transportation issues.

TRANSCRIPT:

Good morning, everyone. Our newsmaker today Vermont

>> GOOD MORNING, EVERYONE. OUR NEWSMAKER THIS MORNING IS VERMONT TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY BRIAN SEARLES. MR. SECRETARY, THANKS FOR JOINING US.

>> THANKS FOR HAVING ME.

>> LET'S START WITH THE LEGISLATURE'S ACTION THIS WEEK TO PASS THE LARGEST TRANSPORTATION BUDGET IN STATE HISTORY, SOME $650 MILLION. A GOOD DEAL OF THAT MONEY INTENDED TO HELP US RECOVER FROM TROPICAL STORM IRENE.

>> THAT'S CORRECT. IT'S A 19% INCREASE OVER LAST YEAR, BUT MOST OF THAT INCREASE HAS TO DO WITH PERMANENT REPAIRS FROM TROPICAL STORM IRENE, ABOUT 94 MILLION DOLLARS.

>> WHERE ARE WE? CAN YOU BRING US UP TO DATE ON WHERE WE HAVE COME SINCE LAST AUGUST, IN TERMS OF REPAIRING?

>> THE FIRST FOUR MONTHS AFTER THE AUGUST 28TH STORM WHERE EMERGENCY REPAIRS AND GETTING THE SYSTEM OPEN. WE HAVE BEEN MONITORING CLOSELY WHAT'S BEEN GOING ON WITH THOSE EMERGENCY REPAIRS IN ORDER TO KIND OF WORK UP A PROGRAM FOR THE NEXT COUPLE OF YEARS TO GO TO THE PERMANENT REPAIRS ON THE SYSTEM. SO WE HAVE SCANNING TOURS THAT GO OUT EVERY COUPLE OF WEEKS TO CHECK ON DAMAGED SITES, AND WE HAVE OUR DISTRICT SOURCES WATCHING THE SITES AS WELL. SO THE WINTER WAS A MILD ONE, IT WASN'T A REAL TEST, LIKE WE MIGHT HAVE HAD IN A NORMAL YEAR, BUT WE FEEL AS THOUGH WE'RE GATHERING THE SORT OF INFORMATION THAT WILL LET US MAKE DECISIONS ABOUT WHAT WE HAVE TO DO TO AREAS THAT WERE REBUILT ON THE FLY, AND, IN SOME CASES, WE MIGHT HAVE TO DO SOME SIGNIFICANT WORK; IN OTHER CASES IT MIGHT JUST BE REPLACING PAVEMENT. WE KNOW WE'VE GOT A LOT OF TEMPORARY BRIDGES OUT THERE, MORE THAN A DOZEN. WE'VE GOT TO GO IN WITH STRUCTURES. WHAT ARE THOSE STRUCTURES GOING TO LOOK LIKE? WE LOST OLD BRIDGES, WE LOST SOME NEW BRIDGES. WE'VE GOT SOME DAMAGE ASSESS THAT ARE ON GOING TO BRIDGES THAT ARE STILL USABLE, SOME OF THEM WEIGHT-RESTRICTED. ALL OF THAT WORK WILL GO ON PROBABLY FOR THE NEXT COUPLE OF YEARS.

>> OVERALL, HOW MUCH OF THE WORK YOU'VE DONE IS TEMPORARY? HOW MUCH IS ACTUALLY FINISHED?

>> I THINK THE BOOK IS PRETTY MUCH CLOSED ON EMERGENCY REPAIRS. THERE IS STILL AN OPEN QUESTION AS TO WHETHER SOME OF IT IS GOING TO BE TEMPORARY OR PERMANENT, IN TERMS OF FUTURE PLANS. WE DIDN'T DO SOME THINGS THAT WE USUALLY DO IN CONSTRUCTING CERTAIN ROADS, SO I'LL USE ROUTE 107 AS AN EXAMPLE. THERE WAS ENGINEERING IN THAT PROJECT, BUT IT WAS ENGINEERING ON THE FLY. MATERIALS WHICH GO THROUGH SIGNIFICANT TESTING IN A NORMAL PROJECT MIGHT HAVE HAD LESS TESTING IN ORDER TO GET THAT PROJECT DONE BY DECEMBER 28TH, WHICH IS WHEN IT OPENED, SO WE'LL CHECK AND MAKE SURE. NOW, IF OUR ENGINEERS, YOU KNOW, MADE THE RIGHT DECISIONS GOING INTO THAT EMERGENCY SETTING, AND IT LOOKS LIKE IT'S GOING TO SURVIVE OUT INTO THE FUTURE, THEN WE MIGHT NOT HAVE TO DO ANYTHING RIGHT AWAY TO THAT STRETCH OF ROAD. THOSE ARE THE KINDS OF DECISIONS THAT WILL BE MADE.

>> CAN YOU POINT TO ANY SPECIFIC ROADS, ANY SPECIFIC BRIDGES THAT ARE STILL EITHER UNDER CONSTRUCTION OR BEING LOOKED AT BY THE AGENCY?

>> WELL, WE'VE GOT A LOT OF CONSTRUCTION ON ROUTE 100 AND ROUTE 107. THERE ARE MANY ROADS THAT ARE OPEN BUT STILL HAVE ACTIVE CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS. SOME OF THEM ACTUALLY WENT ON ALL WINTER BECAUSE OF THE GOOD WEATHER, AND ROUTE 9, ROUTE 4, FOR EXAMPLE, 106, 131 -- ALL HAD PROJECTS THAT, YOU KNOW, WE DEFINED AS EMERGENCY AND TEMPORARY AT THE TIME, AND WE'RE WATCHING THEM CONSTANTLY, AND WE FEEL LIKE WE'LL HAVE TO GO BACK AND DO SOME MORE WORK IN THE SPRING AND SUMMER.

>> CAN YOU TELL FOLKS, YOU KNOW, THIS BILL, TRANSPORTATION BILL, AS ROGER HAD MENTIONED, IS THE LARGEST IN STATE HISTORY, ABOUT $650 MILLION. HOW MUCH OF THAT IS AS A RESULT OF IRENE?

>> $94 MILLION AND 13. THE WE'RE STILL THINKING IN TERMS OF THE STATE HIGHWAY SYSTEM, THIS EVENT IS SOMEWHERE BETWEEN 175 AND A 250 MILLION DOLLAR EVENT. WE'RE NOT EXACTLY CERTAIN WHERE THAT WILL COME OUT. SO WE HAVE DONE SOMETHING IN EXCESS OF $100 MILLION ALREADY, INCLUDING THE EMERGENCY REPAIRS, WE'VE GOT 94 PROGRAMS IN FY-13, WE FEEL LIKE THE FY-14 BUDGET WILL HAVE SOME MONEY FOIREEN AS WELL.

>> TALKING ABOUT THAT FUNDING, THE EMERGENCY REPAIRS, THAT'S ALL FEDERAL FUNDING THAT WILL PAY FOR THOSE?

>> IT'S A COMBINATION. IF IT -- IF IT IS, IN FACT, DEEMED TO BE EMERGENCY, AND TEMPORARY BY THE FEDERAL HIGHWAY ADMINISTRATION, IT QUALIFIES AS 100% FUNDING. WE FEEL WE'VE GONE BEYOND THAT POINT.

>> IF IT'S GOING TO LAST LONGER, YOU HAVE TO KICK IN STATE MONEY FOR IT?

>> YES, THEN IT BECOMES AN 80-20 PROJECT, SO 20% IS STATE FUNDS.

>> THERE IS A QUESTION OF HOW MANY MILES OF ROADWAY WE'VE GOT TO GO IN AND DO FURTHER WORK ON, THAT COULD BEGIN TO ADD UP FOR STATE TAXPAYERS.

>> THE MOST OBVIOUS EXAMPLES ARE THE TEMPORARY BRIDGES, WHERE WE LOST A BRIDGE, AND WE HAD ABOUT 200 BRIDGES AFFECTED BY THE STORM. IN THE CASE OF 34 OF THEM, THEY WERE SIMPLY NOT THERE OR WERE SO BADLY DAMAGED THAT THEY COULDN'T BE USED. IN A FEW CASES, WE RECONSTRUCTED THE BRIDGES, BECAUSE THE ROAD WAS CLOSED AND WE WERE ABLE TO DO IT. IN OTHER CASES, WE HAD TO KEEP -- BECAUSE OF THE ISOLATION OF CERTAIN TOWNS -- WE HAD TO KEEP TRAFFIC MOVING, SO WE PUT TEMPORARY BRIDGES IN. NOW, SOME OF THOSE PROJECTS, HALF A MILLION TO A MILLION DOLLARS JUST FOR THE TEMPORARY PIECE, THAT WOULD BE 100% MONEY. WHEN WE GO BACK IN TO DO THE PERMANENT REPAIR IT WILL BE 80/20, BUT IT WILL COME OUT OF THE FEDERAL HIGHWAY'S EMERGENCY RELIEF FUND, AND THAT'S AN IMPORTANT DISTINCTION, BECAUSE IT DOESN'T AFFECT OUR REGULAR QUEUE OF PROJECT.

>> HOUSE LEADERS, REPRESENTATIVE DON TURNER, FOR EXAMPLE, HAS EXPRESSED SOME CONCERNS, SAYING WE'RE SEEING THIS HUGE BUDGET THIS YEAR, AND HE HAS RAISED CONCERNS THAT, YOU KNOW, IS THIS GOING TO SET US A COURSE FOR LARGE TRANSPORTATION BUDGETS DOWN THE ROAD WHEN FEDERAL TRANSPORTATION DOLLARS MAY NOT BE THERE?

>> NO, NO. OUR BUDGETS ARE TYPICALLY MORE THAN 50% FEDERAL. THIS YEAR THEY'RE ABOUT 60% FEDERAL, AND THAT'S BECAUSE OF THE EMERGENCY RELIEF MONEY FOR IRENE. THERE ARE SOME POSITIONS IN THIS BILL TO HELP THE IRENE PROJECTS. WE HAVE TO DESIGN THESE PROJECTS AND THEN BUILD THEM. THOSE PROJECTS -- THOSE POSITIONS ARE TWO-YEAR POSITIONS, SO THEY HAVE AN END DATE. AND SO I -- I THINK THERE'S VERY LITTLE RISK THAT WHAT WE'RE DOING OVER THE NEXT COUPLE OF YEARS FOR IRENE, AND OUR OTHER DISASTERS -- WE HAD FOUR FEDERAL-DECLARED DISASTERS LAST YEAR -- THERE IS LITTLE CHANCE THAT THAT WILL ADD TO THE REGULAR PROGRAM BUDGET IN ANY SIGNIFICANT WAY.

>> TALK TO US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE DESIGN THAT YOU JUST MENTIONED. YOU KNOW, THIS DID GIVE VERMONT AN OPPORTUNITY TO TAKE A LOOK AT OUR INFRASTRUCTURE. HOW DO WE KNOW THAT THESE PROJECTS THAT ARE UNDERWAY NOW ARE NOT GOING TO FAIL IF, GOD FORBID, THERE IS ANOTHER CATASTROPHE LIKE WE SAW WITH IRENE?

>> WELL, EVERY PROJECT THAT WE'RE LOOKING AT THAT SUFFERED SOME DAMAGE FROM ONE OF OUR STORMS, WHETHER IT WAS RELATED TO LAKE FLOODING OR FLASH FLOODING WE HAD, MEMORIAL COUNTY, BURIAL CITY, IRENE, AND EVERY PROJECT THAT WASN'T AFFECTED, QUITE FRANKLY -- WE'LL BE LOOKING AT IT A LITTLE DIFFERENTLY. WE'VE ALWAYS KEPT IN MIND THAT, YOU KNOW, WE NEED TO WITHSTAND A FLOOD, BUT I THINK WE'VE REDEFINED, GIVEN THE AMOUNT OF WATER THAT FELL, PARTICULARLY DURING IRENE, WHAT EXACTLY WE HAVE TO DESIGN TO. SO WE'LL BE DOING OUR BEST TO INCREASE THE LIKELIHOOD THAT THIS INFRASTRUCTURE WILL SURVIVE.

>> IF A CULVERT OR FWRIJ WAS WASHED OUT, YOU WON'T REBUILD IT THE SAME WAY IT WAS?

>> EXACTLY.

>> AND WHAT WILL THAT ADD IN TERMS OF COST AND IN TERMS OF HOW IT MIGHT AFFECT SURROUNDING HOMES OR BUSINESSES?

>> WELL, THERE ARE SOME POTENTIAL COST CENTERS THERE, RIGHT OF WAY, FOR INSTANCE, IF THE BRIDGE IS GOING TO BE LONGER AND HIGHER. IT MAY VERY WELL REQUIRE MORE PROPERTY, SO YOU MIGHT HAVE ADDED COSTS WITH THAT. AND CLEARLY THERE WILL BE ADDITIONAL CONSTRUCTION COSTS IF IT WAS A BIGGER BRIDGE.

>> AND SOME SORT OF A COST-BENEFIT ANALYSIS THAT GOES INTO THAT FOR A 100-YEAR FLOOD TEST THAT YOU USE?

>> YES, AND OUR PRIMARY FUNDERS, THE FEDERAL HIGHWAY ADMINISTRATION, AND FEMA, WE'RE FUNDED BY BOTH, DEPENDING ON SYSTEMS, WILL HELP US WITH THAT, BECAUSE THEY'RE NOT INTERESTED IN SEEING A REPEAT OF A WASHED-OUT BRIDGE.

>> YOU HAD MENTIONED THE MILD WINTER THAT WE HAD, AND HOW THAT WAS REALLY A BONUS FOR THE AGENCY, SO CREWS COULD CONTINUE TO WORK. ANY IDEA HOW MUCH MONEY WE SAVED AND HOW, YOU KNOW, MANY EXTRA WEEKS, MONTHS, WERE THEY ABLE TO WORK AS A RESULT OF, YOU KNOW, MOTHER NATURE NOT DUMPING SO MUCH SNOW ON US THIS YEAR?

>> WELL, YOU KNOW, WE COMPLETED THE EMERGENCY REPAIRS BY DECEMBER 28TH. THERE WAS SOME PAVING GOING ON, PARTICULARLY UNDER THE 107 AND SNOWSTORMS, BUT WE HAD SOME PROJECTS THAT CONTINUED RIGHT THROUGH THE WINTER AND DIDN'T HAVE TO HALT FOR ANY MORE THAN A WEEK OR SO, SO THAT'S SIGNIFICANT. I THINK WHAT'S EVEN MORE SIGNIFICANT IS THAT, YOU KNOW, WE SAVED SOME MONEY ON THE MAINTENANCE SIDE, AND GOVERNOR SHUM LYNN ANNOUNCED ABOUT A -- SHUMLIN ANNOUNCED ABOUT A MONTH P AGO THAT WE'RE MOVING $4 MILLION INTO LEVELING. THAT'S KIND OF -- THE ENTRY-LEVEL PAVING. SO WE'RE ABLE TO DO ABOUT $12 MILLION OF LEVELING THIS YEAR, AND THAT ADDS TO KIND OF A SURFACE IMPROVEMENT ISSUES THAT, YOU KNOW, WE'RE TRYING TO CATCH UP ON.

>> ALL RIGHT, SECRETARY, WE'RE PEOPLE REALLY LOVE SNAPSHOT FROM PROGRESSIVE, BUT DON'T JUST LISTEN TO ME. LISTEN TO THESE HAPPY PROGRESSIVE CUSTOMERS. I PLUGGED IN SNAPSHOT, AND 30 DAYS LATER, I WAS SAVING BIG ON CAR INSURANCE. I WAS WORRIED IT WOULD BE HARD TO INSTALL. BUT IT'S REALLY EASY. THE BETTER I DRIVE, THE MORE I SAVE. I WISH OUR COMPANY HAD SOMETHING THIS COOL. YEAH. YOU'RE NOT... FILMING THIS, ARE YOU? AW! CAMERA SHY. SNAPSHOT FROM PROGRESSIVE. PLUG INTO THE SAVINGS YOU DESERVE WITH SNAPSHOT FROM PROGRESSIVE.

>> WELCOME BACK, EVERYONE.

>> WE CONTINUE OUR CONVERSATION WITH SECRETARY SEARLES ABOUT THE TRANSPORTATION SPENDING. TALKING ABOUT IRENE, I DID WANT TO ASK YOU ABOUT THE AMAZING PACE AND SPEED OF THE RECOVERY EFFORTS, AND THE ABILITY TO GET PROJECTS THAT WE WOULD THINK WOULD TAKE WEEKS OR MONTHS WERE DONE IN HOURS OR DAYS. WAS THERE A LESSON LEARNED IN TERMS OF A POLICY CHANGE, THAT WE'RE GOING TO DO THESE PROJECTS MORE QUICKLY, EVEN IF IT INCONVENIENCES SOME PEOPLE?

>> WELL, IT'S MORE TO IT THAN THAT. WE REALLY REORGANIZED ON THE FLY, IN ABOUT 24 HOURS. WE KNEW WE COULD NOT DO THIS FROM OUR HEADQUARTERS IN MONTPELIER AND THAS THAT OUR DISTRICTS WERE OVERWHELMED, SO WE PUT ABOUT 700 PEOPLE ON IRENE WHO WERE RELOCATED. THE THING THAT WAS MOST REWARDING FOR ME WAS THE FACT THAT WE DIDN'T HAVE TO ASSIGN THIS; PEOPLE VOLUNTEERED AND SAID, YOU KNOW, "I'LL GO WHEREVER YOU WANT ME TO GO FOR AS LONG AS YOU WANT ME TO GO," SO THAT WAS VERY, VERY ENCOURAGING, AND WHAT WE ENDED UP WITH WERE THESE INCIDENT COMMAND CENTERS, THREE OF THEM, AND WE MOVED DECISION-MAKING TO THOSE CENTERS, AND AT THOSE CENTERS WERE PEOPLE WHO DIDN'T WORK TOGETHER ON A DAY-TO-DAY BASIS, IN SOME CASES DIDN'T KNOW EACH OTHER. WE HAD PEOPLE WORKING FROM ENISBURG IN DUMERSTON, BUT WE HAD CROSS-FUNCTIONING THINGS THAT WOULD HAPPEN, WE KNEW THEY WOULD HAPPEN, WE KNEW THEY WERE NEEDED. THE INCIDENT CHARTS FROM THE INCIDENT COMMAND SYSTEM TOLD US WHAT WE NEEDED. ONCE THE TEAMS WERE ASSEMBLED, THEY GOT THE JOB DONE IN RECORD TIME, AND IT WASN'T JUST FROM OUR AGENCY. THE AGENCY OF NATURAL RESOURCES HAD REGULAR ENGINEERS THAT WORKED WITH US, FOR INSTANCE. IF IT WORKED THIS WELL IN AN EMERGENCY, IT OUGHT TO BE ABLE TO WORK AS WELL WITH A REGULAR PROGRAM, SO WE'RE LOOKING AT SOME OF THOSE IMPROVEMENTS. THE ONE THAT YOU JUST MENTIONED, ABOUT CLOSING ROADS, HAS TO DO WITH BRIDGES. WE KNEW THIS BUT HADN'T REALLY TESTED IT EXTENSIVELY, THAT IF YOU CLOSE A ROAD, DON'T PUT IN A TEMPORARY BRIDGE, AND DON'T HAVE THE COST OF THAT BRIDGE, WHICH IS OVER A HALF MILLION DOLLARS, AND THE RIGHT OF WAY ASSOCIATED WITH IT -- AND YOU FIND A DETOUR THAT PEOPLE CAN USE, THAT MAY BE AN INCONVENIENCE, BUT YOU CAN DO A BRIDGE IN LESS THAN 30 DAYS THAT MIGHT OTHERWISE TAKE FOUR TO SIX MONTHS AND DO A BRIDGE THAT MIGHT COST $1 MILLION FOR LESS THAN HALF A MILLION DOLLARS. VERY SIGNIFICANT. WE DEMONSTRATED THAT IN ROXBURY ON ROUTE 12-5, WE HAD TWO BRIDGES IN FOUR MONTHS, AND THAT WAS FROM DESIGN ALL THE WAY TO CONSTRUCTION. AND THE CONSTRUCTION PERIOD ON THOSE BRIDGES WAS VERY SHORT. THE ROAD WAS CLOSED ANYWAY; WE HAD LOTS OF PROBLEMS WITH THAT ROAD. SO WE'RE GOING TO TAKE THESE IDEAS AND PUT THEM INTO OUR PROGRAM FOR 2013, AND WE HOPE THAT 30% OF OUR BRIDGES WILL ACTUALLY BE DONE IN THIS VERTED PROCESS. THE LEGISLATURE WAS VERY EXCITED ABOUT IT, WE ARE, AND WE THINK IT'S GOING TO SAVE A LOT OF TIME AND MONEY.

>> DID YOU GET FEEDBACK FROM THE PUBLIC SAYING THIS LOOKS LIKE EFFICIENCY AND WE CAN PUT UP WITH THE INCONVENIENCE?

>> WELL, WE HAD GOTTEN A LOT OF PUSHBACK. THERE IS INCONVENIENCE, PARTICULARLY TO SOME BUSINESSES, BUT ONCE PEOPLE SAW WHAT COULD HAPPEN DURING IRENE ON A WIDESPREAD BASIS, AND THE AMOUNT OF TIME THAT COULD BE SAVED AND MONEY THAT COULD BE SAVED, I THINK, PARTICULARLY THE LEGISLATORS, SAID, YOU KNOW, WE REALLY OUGHT TO DO THIS MORE OFTEN. WE CAN SOLVE MORE PROBLEMS IN THE LONG RUN IF WE USE THIS PROCESS.

>> LET'S TALK ABOUT SOME OF THE OTHER THINGS IN THIS TRANSPORTATION BILL. THERE'S MORE MONEY FOR TOWNS. TELL US ABOUT THAT. HOW MUCH, AND WHAT WILL THIS MONEY BE USED FOR?

>> WELL, THERE'S A COUPLE OF THINGS IN HERE THAT ARE EXCITING. ONE, THERE'S A MILLION AND A HALF DOLLARS MORE FOR TOWN HIGHWAY AID PROGRAM AND FOR TOWN STRUCTURES, TOWN BRIDGES, SO THAT'S THE FIRST INCREASE IN ABOUT SIX YEARS FOR THESE PROGRAMS. SO WE'RE VERY EXCITED ABOUT THAT. BUT THERE'S ALSO BUILT INTO THE BILL SOME INCENTIVES FOR TOWNS TO CUT THEIR SHARE OF PROJECTS IN HALF BY USING THE ACCELERATED BRIDGE PROCESS, FOR INSTANCE, AND SO WE HOPE THAT THE $500,000 INCREASE WILL ALLOW TOWNS TO DO MORE OF THEIR BRIDGE WORK, AND IF THEY'RE WILLING TO CLOSE THE ROAD AND REDUCE COSTS, THEN WE'LL EAT HALF OF THE NORMAL MATCH. SO THERE'S SOME GOOD STUFF IN THIS BILL FOR TOWNS, AND, YOU KNOW, GIVEN WHAT THEY WENT THROUGH IN 2011 ON THEIR OWN SYSTEMS, WHICH WE HAVEN'T EVEN TALKED ABOUT, THAT'S, SOME WOULD SAY, A BIGGER PROBLEM THAN WE HAD -- THEY NEED SOME RELIEF.

>> WHAT ABOUT BIKE PATHS, OTHER TRANSPORTATION ISSUES WITHIN TOWNS AND MODES OF TRANSPORTATION?

>> WE'VE GOT INCREASEDS IN CONSTRUCTION ON BIKE PATHS AND PARK-AND-RIDES, AND MOST OF IT, WE'LL ADD SPACES FOR MORE THAN 500 VEHICLES IN THE PARK-AND-RIDE PROGRAM. ON THE BIKE-PED PROGRAM, WE'VE REOPENED IT TO NEW PROJECTS, AND BECAUSE OF THE QUEUE, BECAUSE OF THE BACKLOG, THAT PROGRAM WAS CLOSED DOWN A FEW YEARS AGO, BUT WE'VE REOPENED IT, AND WE HE HOPE TO DOUBLE IT, WE'VE GOT SOME CAPACITY ON THE CONSTRUCTION SIDE IN 2015 AND HOPE TO GET SOME PROJECTS READY FOR THAT TIME. IN TERMS OF RAIL, YOU KNOW, THERE'S ABOUT A LEVEL-FUNDED EFFORT THERE. IT LOOKS LIKE IT DROPPED DRASTICALLY, BUT THAT'S BECAUSE OF THE FEDERALLY COMPLETED PROJECT ON THE NEW ENGLAND CENTRAL, BUT WE'RE GOING TO CONTINUE ON OUR EFFORT OF VERMONT INTO MONTREAL, WE'RE INVESTING MORE IN THE WESTERN CORRIDOR, WE WANT TO GET THE EXPRESS INTO BURLINGTON, AND WE WANT TO GET ALL OUR BRIDGES UP TO 286,000 POUNDS PER FLEET, VERY IMPORTANT FOR OUR BUSINESS COMMUNITY AND OUR RAILROADS TO ENSURE THAT WE'RE NOT AN ISLAND AMONG OTHER STATES.

>> ON THE PASSENGER RAIL ISSUE, WHAT'S THE HURD UNTIL CONVINCING THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT THAT THOSE AMTRAK PROJECTS ARE WORTHWHILE?

>> WELL, THERE IS NO REAL HURDLE EXCEPT THAT THERE ARE IS A LACK OF FUNDING, GIVEN THE NEED. YOU KNOW, WE BASICALLY DISMANTLED OUR RAIL SYSTEM, PARTICULARLY PASSENGER RAIL SYSTEM, IN THIS COUNTRY, WHEN THE AUTOMOBILE BECAME THE WAY TO GO. WE'VE ACTUALLY DONE A LITTLE BETTER JOB IN VERMONT THAN SOME OTHER STATES IN MAKING SURE THAT WE KEPT CONTROL OF OUR LINES, AND SO WE'VE GOT PRETTY GOOD SERVICE. THE ADMINISTRATION HAS A HIGH-SPEED RAIL SYSTEM, AND THE BOSTON/MONTREAL IS THE NEW CORRIDOR, THAT HELPS US A LOT. THE CONGRESS IS NOT AS EXCITED ABOUT RAIL, PARTICULARLY THE U.S. HOUSE, BUT ELECTIONS HAPPEN, AND WE'VE GOT A PLAN FOR THE FUTURE, AND WE KNOW RAIL HAS GOT TO BE A PART OF IT.

>> THE MONTREAL CONNECTION WOULD NOT LIKELY BE FUNDED UNLESS THE BOSTON TO MONTREAL CORRIDOR IS FUNDED?

>> WELL, IT'S ALL PART OF THE CORRIDOR, SO THE STIMULUS GRANT OF $52 MILLION THAT WENT INTO THAT CORRIDOR WAS ALL ABOUT THAT CONNECTION. SO WE'RE, YOU KNOW, RIGHT NOW, THERE WAS AN AGREEMENT SIGNED JUST THIS WEEK IN MASSACHUSETTS ON THE $72 MILLION PROJECT TO TAKE THAT DETOUR OUT OF THE VERMONTER SERVICE THAT GOES OVER TO PALMER, MASS, AND GOES THROUGH SPRINGFIELD SO WE CAN GO STRAIGHT THROUGH AMHERST AND OTHER PLACES, AND ANOTHER PROJECT $70 MILLION IN CONNECTICUT THAT'S ABOUT TO START CONSTRUCTION. WE'VE -- WE'RE TALKING WITH THE PROVINCE OF QUEBEC AND THE CANADIAN GOVERNMENT AND OUR OWN GOVERNMENT ABOUT PRE-CLEARANCE FOR SOME OF THESE AT THE TRAIN STATION IN MONTREAL, VERY IMPORTANT TO THIS. SO, YEAH, WE FEEL LIKE REAL PROGRESS IS BEING MADE, YOU KNOW, WE COULD USE SOME MORE HELP FROM THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, BUT WE'RE CONSTANTLY WORKING WITH OUR CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION WHO HAVE BEEN UNANIMOUS IN THEIR SUPPORT FOR AIDING RAIL.

>> CAN WE TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE POTHOLE PROBLEM, MUD SEASON, PAVING, WHAT ARE THE PRIORITIES?

>> WELL, THIS BRIDGE -- I MEAN, THIS BUDGET HAS ABOUT $240 MILLION OUT OF THAT $658 THAT GOES DIRECTLY TO BRIDGES AND PAVING PROJECTS. THEY'RE BOTH VERY, VERY LARGE PROJECTS. IN TERMS OF PAVING, WE'VE GOT SOME SURFACES OUT THERE THAT ARE IN VERY BAD SHAPE. AS A MATTER OF FACT, ONE OF OUR GOALS IN THIS BUDGE SET TO WORK WITH POOR CONDITION, DOWN BELOW 25%. IT'S CURRENTLY UP AROUND 30%. SO YEAH, WE'LL BE DOING ABOUT 290 MILES OF RESURFACING THIS YEAR, WITH A BUDGET, INCLUDING THAT LEVELING MONEY I TALKED ABOUT, IS ABOUT 117 MILLION. SO PEOPLE WILL SEE A LOT OF CONSTRUCTION ACTIVITY, AND WE ASK FOR THEIR PATIENCE, BUT THEY'LL HAVE BETTER SURFACES. AFTER THAT. WE'VE GOT A $123 MILLION BRIDGE PROGRAM, THE BIGGEST IN THE STATE, A LOT OF THAT IS IRENE, BUT THERE ARE 80 BRIDGES THAT WILL BE WORKED ON THIS YEAR.

>> THIS IS TACKLING THE GREATER DEFERRED-MAINTENANCE PROBLEM THAT WE HAVE?

>> YES.

>> 30% OF BRIDGES ARE STRUCTURALLY DEFICIENT IN VERMONT, ACCORDING TO YOUR DEPARTMENT'S REPORT.

>> RIGHT. THIS DOES NOT MEAN THAT THEY'RE UNSAFE; IT MEANS THAT THEY REQUIRE AN AWFUL LOT OF MAINTENANCE, AND THAT THEY WILL NEED TO BE REPLACED AT SOME POINT. WHAT WE WANT TO AVOID IS A SITUATION WHERE WE HAVE TO CLOSE A BRIDGE. AND, YOU KNOW, THAT'S HAPPENED, THE MOST NOTORIOUS BEING THE LAKE CHAMPLAIN BRIDGE. WE DON'T WANT TO BE IN THAT SITUATION. AND WE'RE WORKING HARD SO ENSURE THAT WE'RE NOT, BUT I CAN'T STRESS ENOUGH THAT, YOU KNOW, THE FEDERAL PIECE OF THIS IS SIGNIFICANT. GENERALLY, WHEN IT COMES TO OUR CONSTRUCTION PROGRAM, WE MATCH FEDERAL FUNDS. THE TRANSPORTATION BILL THAT COULDN'T -- UNFORTUNATELY, DIDN'T GET -- WASN'T GOING TO GET ENOUGH VOTES IN THE HOUSE, U.S. HOUSE, WOULD HAVE LEFT US ABOUT $30 MILLION SHORT OF WHERE WE ARE IN TERMS OF FEDERAL FUNDS, AND IT WAS RECOGNIZED 20 YEARS AGO THAT THERE ISN'T ENOUGH MONEY GOING TO THIS SYSTEM.

>> AND WE'RE NOT CATCHING UP. AS LONG AS WE'RE NOT MAKING ANY GAINS ON REDUCING THE NUMBER OF BRIDGES AND ROADS THAT ARE STRUCTURALLY DEFICIENT.

>> WELL, THAT'S BEEN THE CASE. BUT THIS YEAR WE ACTUALLY ARE GOING TO MAKE PROGRESS IN BOTH OF THOSE AREAS, PARTICULARLY ON THE PAVEMENT AREAS. THAT DOESN'T MEAN THAT EVERYBODY'S ROAD IS GOING TO BE SMOOTH, BUT IT MEANS THAT WE'LL GET TO OUR GOAL OF LESS THAN 25% IN POOR CONDITION.

>> IS THERE A LIST IN THE AGENCY LIKE, ALL RIGHT, THE TOWN OF ENISBURG OR -- IS THERE A WAY TO PRIORITIZE TO DESCRIBE WHICH BRIDGES, WHICH ROADS, TAKE PRIORITY?

>> ABSOLUTELY. YEAH, THERE IS A FORMULA THE ENGINEERS LOOK AT, THERE'S A NUMBER OF DIFFERENT PAVEMENT APPLICATIONS THAT RANGE FROM $100,000 A MILE UP TO $900,000 A MILE, DEPENDING ON THE TYPE OF PROJECT. IF YOU'VE GOT A ROAD THAT'S IN FAIR CONDITION, YOU CAN DO THAT ONE LESS EXPENSIVELY WHICH IS WHY YOU WANT TO MAKE SURE THEY DON'T GET TO "POOR" CONDITION BECAUSE WHEN THEY DO, THE FIX IS MORE EXPENSIVE. WE LOOK AT THE NUMBER OF CARS PER DAY ON THAT ROAD. TRUCKS -- VERY IMPORTANT. YOU KNOW, THERE'S A NUMBER OF THINGS THAT GO INTO THIS. THE INTERSTATE, WHICH IS CONSTRUCTED AT A MUCH HIGHER LEVEL THAN MANY OF OUR OTHER STATE HIGHWAYS AND LOCAL ROADS, REQUIRES LESS IN ORDER TO STAY IN VERY GOOD CONDITION, BUT, BECAUSE OF THE SPEEDS, WE HAVE TO PAY ATTENTION TO THAT, AND THAT -- THAT CAN NEVER GO TO A "POOR" CONDITION.

>> WE'LL HAVE TO LEAVE IT AT THAT. VERMONT TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY BRIAN SEARLES, THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR JOINING US.

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  • Big buyer for Big Blue?

    Big buyer for Big Blue?

    Thursday, April 17 2014 7:07 PM EDT2014-04-17 23:07:19 GMT
    IBM and chip production may soon be parting ways. The Wall Street Journal reports that Big Blue is looking to unload three chipmaking plants-- two in upstate New York and its Vermont plant in Essex Junction.More >>
    With indications IBM may sell off its chipmaking plants, we talked to the company experts say may buy them. GlobalFoundries already has employees working at IBM in Essex Junction through a partnership, and experts say that could help the company decide whether the plant is a worthy investment.More >>
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