Friday, February 5, 2010
Governor Jim Douglas
Secretary David Dill
Scott Rogers, Joe Flynn & Rail Council Members
Pat Brennan – Chair House Transportation Committee
Dick Mazza – Chair Senate Transportation Committee
Mike Coates – Chairman Infrastructure Sub-Committee
Christopher Parker, Lee Kahn & members – Vermont Rail Action Network
On Wednesday, February 3rd, during meeting with Scott Rogers I informed him I would be resigning as member of the Vermont Rail Advisory Council and also as chairman of the Passenger Rail –Subcommittee. This was not an easy decision to make, on my part. The past 9 years serving on the rail council have been very rewarding, but I must be honest and tell you that they have also been frustrating.
Working with the members of the Rail Council, Passenger Rail-Subcommittee and the Vermont Rail Action Network has been a positive and a very good experience for me personally and for rail in general for the state of Vermont.
I’m very, very pleased that the recent grant was approved for the Vermonter line, but I do regret that we were not successful in our grant application for the western corridor. Even though there may be another opportunity in the future, we need to examine very closely why this application was not approved. We need to look at our track record in utilizing our existing monies to get rail projects completed. I’m expressly making reference to the $30M Jeffords earmark for the western corridor. Why has this money not been spent after 7 years? What is the incentive for our Washington delegation to continue to secure funds if we are not going to spend the monies they have secured? This is unacceptable and someone needs to be held accountable. Not another dime of state, federal or taxpayer (my money) should be appropriated on rail until these existing funds have been spent. Year after year we continue to hear that the funds are obligated, but to be frank, I’m tired of hearing that and seeing no action.
During my testimony over the years to both the house and senate transportation committees and also conversation with the Secretary of Transportation, I have asked if the state of Vermont can afford to be in the railroad business. With the slow economy and the budget deficit, I would say that the answer would be no. It is time for the legislature to get an answer to this question. This needs to be examined in detail, we have spent thousands on studies, and I would recommend that a study be done on this. The study must examine what being a owner of railroads is costing the taxpayers, what are the benefits to the taxpayers, what is the return on the taxpayers investment, what revenues has the state enjoyed, the lease between the state and the operator needs to be examined in detail, when does it expire, has it recently been extended, if so, who signed this and why was it extended? How can the state get out of this agreement if they did determine that being in the railroad business was no longer a benefit but a burden on the taxpayers?
I have truly enjoyed serving on the rail council and chairing the passenger rail sub-committee and I would like to thank Governor Douglas for allowing me to be associated with something that is very dear to my heart, but is very important to the future of Vermont. We have an opportunity to improve our railroads, get trucks off our highways and put people to work. It takes support from the top down for this to happen.
49 Smith Street
St. Albans, VT 05478