Testimony of Stephanie Carter
Acting Commissioner of the Vermont Department of
Tourism and Marketing
to augment information presented on Tuesday, August 20, 2002
before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
at the State House in Montpelier, Vermont
Mr. Chairman, Members of the Committee, thank you for holding this hearing in Vermont, especially with regard to the unique transportation needs of small towns and rural America.
My name is Stephanie Carter and I am the Acting Commissioner of Tourism and Marketing for the State of Vermont.
Vermont’s rural landscape, steeped in history, rich with scenic beauty and alive with recreational activities, is also challenged in its ability to parlay information to the traveling public in a way that does not compromise these characteristics. Domestic visitors to Vermont spent $2.6 million in Vermont in 2000 and left an impact of $4.2 billion on the Vermont economy. Tourist expenditures annually contribute 75,241 jobs and generate $1.4 billion in personal income for Vermonters.
nation in 1968 to address the proliferation of roadside billboards with the
passage of a comprehensive travel information program, the twin goals of which
were to preserve scenic beauty and to provide meaningful information to the
traveling public. Many aspects of this
program relied upon the construction of travel plazas and upon the erection of
official business directory signs.
As the end of the century approached, aspects of this program began to show signs of a need to renew the 30-year-old program. With the assistance of the Federal Highway Administration, we embarked on a comprehensive study of solutions. In the end, we largely concluded the solutions to effective travel information lie in new technology rather than the continued proliferation of road signs and travel plazas.
It was by this process that Vermont entered the Rural ITS Program. With funding provided by the federal government, matched with state and local funding, the State of Vermont has implemented a comprehensive business registry database consisting of the products and services offered by Vermont businesses; developed a website known as the Vermont Travel Planner; has developed kiosks at a number of Vermont Welcome Centers; and has developed technology for en-route navigation. Within the development process, we have worked with transportation and tourism partners from New Hampshire and Maine to develop a tri-state system known as TRIO and have worked within Vermont to integrate the needs of our statewide and regional marketing partners. In other words, we have had much experience with the Rural ITS Program and we have been very happy with what we have been able to accomplish for the people of Vermont as well as our visitors, to date.
I am here to today to suggest changes, based on our experience, to enhance the Rural ITS Program.
the 50/50 match requirement. In our
experience as a small rural state with a relatively small budget, the 50/50
match requirement is becoming increasingly prohibitive as state budgetary
pressures intensify. Progress on ITS
down if the ratio is not brought in
line with other federally funded projects.
Frankly, this project competes within a budget against projects that
receive 80/20 funding and 90/10 funding, with predictable results. ITS can also represent significant cost
savings through collaboration and sharing of best practices. We recommend that federal funding be
100% (based upon the cost saving potentials) or at least 90/10 to enhance their
competitive advantage with other programs.
and encourage regional control of ITS.
Rural ITS is a regional solution, uniquely designed for the landscape in
which it is to operate. We have a
complex but excellently functioning regional project among three states
. It is
working very well. Local Federal
Highway Administrative support has been excellent, but it has often been
hampered with delays and misunderstandings when headquarters becomes involved. We recommend that project oversight remain
with the District Offices and that there be less hands-on control by
3. Maintain the autonomy of the ITS program within FHWA. Civil engineering principles do not always translate to technology projects. ITS projects are, by definition, information technology rather than traditional technology used for transportation project construction. Due to the speed of technological change, with an average generation lifespan of 18 months, change, fast response, and agility are the rule. The ITS program needs to enhance its pool of technology experts to insure that the program can remain contemporary.
the barrier to Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) integration into a
Rural ITS Project. When planning,
designing and implementing comprehensive regional ITS solutions, the current
rule that disallows Rural ITS implementation in an MPO jurisdiction leads to
inefficiency. The MPO boundaries,
particularly in rural states such as northern New England, are sometimes
arbitrary and in fact include large amounts of essentially rural landscape. Rural ITS projects must often interrupt
corridor-long deployment because of intervening MPOs, even when the lowest-cost
option would be to pursue the deployment through the MPO region. Relief from this programmatic encumbrance
would streamline project implementation and avoid artificial gaps that
“leapfrog” MPO geography in primarily rural regions. We recommend, with appropriate review and approval, Rural ITS
s to deploy in an MPO
when it can be demonstrated that t truly regional
rural approach will suffer from MPO “blackout”.
Thank you for your consideration.
Thank you fo4r than