Fuel efficiency purchase fee, mileage reduction mandate also proposed in House bill
By Guy Page
A proposed House transportation bill, H552, would fund a ‘feasibility study’ of rail service between Montpelier and Barre.
The study must be completed by next January. The bill also requires similar studies for rail service between Burlington and Middlebury and St. Albans, Essex Junction and Montpelier.
The Montpelier-Barre rail study would be the second in three years. Upgrading almost eight miles of railroad track between Montpelier and Barre to handle commuter rail would cost up to $97 million, VT Agency of Transportation (AOT) Rail and Aviation Bureau Director Dan Delabruere told the House Transportation Committee in January, 2020.
The estimate is found in the commuter rail study requested by the committee in the 2019 Transportation Bill and published in November of that year. AllEarth CEO David Blittersdorf purchased 12 diesel-powered, self-propelled Budd commuter rail cars in 2017 and has expressed a desire to run the cars between Montpelier and Barre. The study does not mention any commuter rail proposal or estimate operational costs. The $67-97 million estimate is for necessary track upgrades alone.
Employer commuter reduction mandate – the bill also would “require certain employers to establish a transportation demand management (TDM) plan.” All employers with 50 or more employees performing services for the State would be required to design, adopt, and implement a TDM plan that includes measures to reduce vehicle miles traveled. And it would allow the Vermont Agency of Transportation to develop rules for TDM implementation.
Fuel efficiency fees and rebates – H552 also would create “the Efficiency Fees and Rebates Task Force to calculate purchase fees for non-fuel efficient cars, SUVs and trucks and rebates for fuel-efficient cars, SUVs and trucks. This carrot-and-stick scheme would assess vehicle purchase fees of up to $750 for the least fuel-efficient, and rebates of up to $1500 for the most fuel-efficient.
The bill also appropriates $20,000 to market the efficiency fees to Vermonters.
H552 also would fund $11 million in grants to install Level 2 car chargers in apartment buildings, businesses and municipalities.
Four of the bill’s lead sponsors sit on House Transportation. 60 House members have signed on as sponsors – no Republicans among them. H552 is now in House Transportation.