House Passes Transportation Modernization

Going into this legislative session, one of our key priorities was a set of policies designed to advance modernizing Vermont’s transportation infrastructure – to give Vermonters better access to affordable transportation, and to cut our climate pollution. Just past the halfway point in the session, we just hit a major milestone in advancing that goal.

Just two days ago, the Transportation Modernization Package in the Transportation Bill (H.433) – passed the Vermont House of Representatives with overwhelming support.

This Transportation Modernization Package is the strongest move Vermont has made yet to cut costs and carbon pollution in the transportation sector.

The Transportation Modernization Package will save Vermonters money by reducing transportation costs while accelerating Vermont’s efforts in cutting climate pollution. And with the pandemic still impacting Vermonters in so many ways, it is so important that we focus on equity as we push forward in our climate efforts – which is exactly what this package does.

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While more must be done on transportation modernization and transportation equity in the months and years to come, this is a big step forward.

As passed, the Transportation Modernization Package expands vehicle incentive programs like MileageSmart and the state EV Incentive Program, making the purchase of high-mpg and electric vehicles easier for low- to moderate-income Vermonters.

On top of that, the package creates a “Replace Your Ride” program that allows income eligible Vermonters to trade in vehicles 10 years or older for a $3000 incentive on the purchase of an all-electric or hybrid-electric vehicle, electric bike, or public and private transportation options. Even better, the Replace Your Ride Program can be stacked on top of either the state EV Incentive Program or MileageSmart, increasing the maximum incentive to $8,000 for income-eligible Vermonters (not including utility-led incentives and federal tax credits).

On top of those direct incentives, to make it easier for all Vermonters to make the decision to go electric it also funds additional charging infrastructure in downtowns, and at multifamily housing (a key gap in current charging infrastructure that creates a barrier for renters, many of whom are lower income, considering an EV).

And while electric vehicles are critical to transportation modernization, they’re clearly not enough by themselves. That’s why the package also includes infrastructure and equity measures for non-drivers. It requires that all public transit routes in Vermont be zero-fare through June of 2022. It also requires the Agency of Transportation to create a Public Transit Electrification Plan that maps out exactly how we will be creating an all-electric public transit system. Lastly, the package also expands the Downtown Transportation Fund in a way that prioritizes making roads safer for cyclists and pedestrians.

While there’s no question that Vermont needs to invest more – much more – in transportation modernization and transportation equity in the coming years, the work the House Transportation Committee did on this package is a big step in the right direction.

We’re thrilled that it’s leaving the House with bipartisan support, but there’s still much to do as it makes its way through the Senate. Making sure that House Representatives know that their constituents support these measures will lay the foundation for success in the Senate – and build on this year’s Transportation Modernization Package with even more significant investments in 2022 and beyond.