Lawmakers Shake on $592 Million Transportation Bill | Off Message

Lawmakers Shake on $592 Million Transportation Bill


House and Senate negotiators go over their compromise before shaking hands on a $592 million transportation project bill. - NANCY REMSEN
  • Nancy Remsen
  • House and Senate negotiators go over their compromise before shaking hands on a $592 million transportation project bill.
House and Senate negotiators shook hands Friday morning on a $592 million transportation project bill, after overcoming their differences on bicycle safety provisions.

House negotiators won concessions from their Senate counterparts for new guidelines governing how motorists and bicyclists interact on roads. The House had proposed new rules for sharing the road following four cyclist fatalities last year, but the Senate preferred to rely on education to improve safety.

Assuming the full House and Senate approve the compromise bill and Gov. Peter Shumlin signs it, state law will recommend that motorists give cyclists four feet of space when passing. It will also advise motorists planning left turns to wait and allow oncoming bicycle riders to proceed first.

In return for these concessions, senators won an increase in the potential fine cyclists could face if they are riding two abreast and they are impeding normal traffic flow. Most cycling fines are $25, but the gangs of cyclists blocking traffic could be fined up to $100.

The bill also expands the use of ignition interlock systems for individuals convicted of driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. These systems require the driver to pass a breath test before the vehicle can be turned on. The motorists in three of the four recent cycling fatalities had been drinking.

Negotiators agreed to strip out a provision the House had wanted that would have allowed police to use a roadside saliva test to determine if drivers were impaired by marijuana and alcohol. The test became less important after marijuana legalization floundered. The bill calls for a study of this kind of testing.

Senate negotiators cheered the creation of a dedicated fund to pay for cruiser replacement for the state police. House negotiators cited the $400,000 in extra money they won for town class two roads. And Sen. Rich Westman (R-Lamoille) secured $400,000 for the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail project.

“That is the best thing in the bill,” he quipped.

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