• Berlin airport gets $6.2 million boost from feds
     | April 18,2009

    MONTPELIER - U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, in Vermont on Friday to deliver a healthy stimulus check for a local aviation project, told elected leaders and transportation officials that the Obama administration is moving ahead with "transformational" change in highway infrastructure.

    Public transit, passenger rail and improved bicycle and pedestrian networks will create "livable communities" that offer a range of transportation options, LaHood said during a round-table discussion at the Statehouse.

    The Republican appointee to the Obama cabinet said new investments in rural communities will help rehabilitate roads and bridges, though he promised the president would not use gas-tax increases to fund the effort.

    "We're not going to raise the gasoline tax," LaHood said. "The last thing this administration will do is raise taxes on a gallon of gasoline."

    LaHood said government will have "think outside the box" to devise a sustainable alternative to declining gasoline tax revenues. Tolling or public/private partnerships, he said, may offer some hope.

    Whatever the funding method, Vermont Secretary of Transportation David Dill said Vermont and other states are relying on the federal government to come through with enormous funding boosts in the next reauthorization bill.

    "We are concerned in Vermont about the reauthorization because we're so dependent on federal dollars," Dill told LaHood. "We're hoping we can see significant federal investments in infrastructure across the nation."

    LaHood flew into the Edward F. Knapp State Airport Friday to present Gov. James Douglas with a check to fund improvements at the Berlin airstrip. The $6.2 million appropriation, according to Dill, is in addition to all the other recovery money the state has received.

    "We've been working on plans for this for more than a decade, so it's ready to go," Dill said.

    The money will fund runway projects, including the separation of the primary runway and crosswind runway, which currently intersect.

    "This is being done for safety reasons," Dill said. "When this is done, there will be no danger of two planes coming into conflict there."

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