Vergennes mayor expresses city’s frustration with truck traffic

VERGENNES — During Monday’s Vermont Transportation Board public forum on proposed changes to the state’s rail service and on downtown truck traffic, which was held at the Bixby Library in Vergennes, Alderman Jeff Fritz read a statement from Mayor Bill Benton on the city’s ongoing frustration with the many trucks that rumble through its center every day.
That statement from Benton, who could not attend, drew applause from the roughly 30 citizens who attended. Transportation board members said they would forward the statement, along with other testimony from citizens who overwhelmingly said they believed the state should act to help alleviate the problem in Vergennes, to legislators and Vergennes Agency of Transportation officials.
Benton’s statement read as follows:
“Dear Board,
Over the course of our more than 200-year history, the City of Vergennes has worn many faces. A commercial and industrial center in the 19th century with a thriving social community, by the 20th century our fortunes reflected the less hopeful tone of the rest of rural America. Now, in the 21st century, our citizens have undertaken a remarkable revitalization of our community. We are a hub of commercial activity, a favored place to live and raise a family and the home to two architectural and cultural gems, the Bixby Library and Vergennes Opera House.
We are succeeding. However, our primary challenge today, is that Vermont Route 22A is our Main Street. Daily, consistent, large truck traffic has been to the detriment of our downtown. Studies have been undertaken with no concrete efforts at instituting a solution. At present 700–800 Class 10-13 trucks rumble through our downtown daily, the majority of these, through trucks to Chittenden County and beyond. Studies have been undertaken with no concrete efforts at instituting a solution.
The noise, vibration, noxious odors and dangers to pedestrians and bicyclists are well known. Many of the trucks carry hazardous materials. We actually do know what would happen if a compressed natural gas truck tipped on its side and vented to a source of ignition. May God forbid that ever happen.
The Truck Network Improvement Study, undertaken by VTrans, states “large trucks should avoid congested and historic urban areas that have on-street parking and pedestrian and bicycle traffic.” The City of Vergennes is the poster child for why trucks should not be traveling in downtowns.
The citizens of Vergennes have waited patiently for help with our through truck problem. As we continue to grow, the volume of truck traffic will undoubtedly increase. We embrace our local commerce truck traffic as an economic necessity but we do not feel that we should bear the adverse effects of commerce headed elsewhere.
Vermont has a westerly rail line that could reduce commercial truck traffic with the planning and implementation of cargo freight. This option could help reroute truck traffic that uses the U.S. Route 7 and Vermont Route 22A corridors. Further, we must consider the use of designated truck routes to provide safety and security to the populations of towns that incur truck use on existing transportation routes.
The City of Vergennes cannot idly stand by as public and private entities ignore our unique set of circumstances.
We need help reducing through truck traffic. We need help in protecting our fragile economy and protecting the health and well being of our engaged and concerned community.
I would ask that the Vermont Transportation Board consider our plight in preparing for future transportation needs. We support addressing our problems as part of a larger transportation plan that benefits everyone.
William D. Benton, Mayor
City of Vergennes, VT.”

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