Senate Seeks to Keep Flyer, Prevent Highway Ads

05/01/02 12:00AM By Bob Kinzel



(Host) The Senate has rejected a House plan to place new business signs along the Interstate. In passing its transportation bill, the Senate also restored state funds for the Champlain Flyer commuter rail project in Chittenden County.

VPR's Bob Kinzel reports.


(Kinzel) It now appears that the House and Senate are headed for a showdown over next year's transportation bill.

There's not a lot of disagreement between the two chambers over a plan to allocate roughly $310 million for road and bridge repair projects throughout the state. Half of the money comes from the federal government and the other half comes from the state. But the two chambers have very different opinions concerning two controversial issues: New business signs on the Interstate and the future of a commuter rail project in Chittenden County.

Last week, the House endorsed a plan to allow businesses that provide fuel, food or lodging to advertise within a mile of an interstate exit. The new signs would contain four panels ¿ each panel would measure 3 by 5 feet and the individual businesses would pay to rent the space.

Senate Transportation Chairman Dick Mazza thinks the plan has several major problems:

(Mazza) "That opens up a whole new subject of who do you allow on the signs and usually the folks with the big bucks win. And we thought it was kind of unfair competition number one; number two I don't think Vermont is ready to get commercial with their sign program."

(Kinzel) The House last week also eliminated state funds for the Champlain Flyer commuter rail project. Backers of that plan said it was time to pull the plug on a failing operation. Mazza says the state has received more than $17 million in federal funds to conduct a three-year rail project and he does not want to prematurely end this experiment. Mazza says about half a million dollars in state money is needed to keep the train running next year:

(Mazza) "I see no reason at this time not to allow it to go that three years. There are certainly a lot of benefits above and beyond the Flyer freight aspect, the crossings. So we have made a commitment to the Champlain Flyer for at least the three-year contract that we have."

(Kinzel) A House-Senate conference committee will now meet in an effort to iron out these differences.

For Vermont Public Radio, I'm Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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