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Route 7 rebuild project draws mixed reviews

FERRISBURGH/CHARLOTTE — Halfway through a two-year project to rebuild Route 7 in Ferrisburgh and Charlotte, local reaction is mixed, with some supporting the project and others complaining of property damage and increased traffic on the back roads as commuters avoid the construction zone.
The stretch of Route 7 has something of a split personality: a scenic rural road through stunning landscapes, and a suburban commuter pipeline carrying 14,000 cars a day through Charlotte.
The $20 million, 3-mile road reconstruction and shoulder-widening project got underway in 2016 and is slated for completion by July 2018.
The project is on schedule, said Ken Upmal, project manager with the Vermont Agency of Transportation. He said the project is 90 percent federally funded, with Vermont paying the balance.
Much of the work on the north-south road involves widening it from 28 to 42 feet. Most of that gain is in the shoulders, which will go from narrow bands to 8 feet wide. The work also includes improving drainage.
The project has both critics and supporters.
Charlotte selectboard member Carrie Spear said she supports the project and is happy with the state agency’s efforts to communicate with local officials. But she wants to see the town bring in increased police presence — including county sheriff’s deputies — to crack down on commuters speeding on the town’s secondary roads.
Francine Perkins, project outreach coordinator with the state agency, said the good communications have gone both ways. “I think the community has been really great,” she said.
Charlotte resident Jim Amblo, who runs the Tarry-Ho Miniature Horse Farm off Route 7, was a lot less enthusiastic.
Road workers “removed five maple trees and they did away with one of my driveways,” said Amblo. “They devalued my property by about $100,000. I think they’re spending too much money on what we’ve got.”
But Duker Bower, a co-owner of the Inn at Charlotte Bed & Breakfast, likes the project. He favors the shoulder widening and the tunnel that is set to allow cyclists and pedestrians to cross under Route 7.
“I think it’s safer, and I think it’s prettier, too,” Bower said. “People complain about the trees cut down, and the shoulders are an improvement and so is the tunnel underneath.”
Chris Fisher, owner of Charlotte Collision on Route 7, said he likes the project. “The turning lane into my driveway is open, and I think it looks very nice. I think they’re doing a good job,” Fisher said
At Archie’s Grill restaurant, Michael Henzel, chef-manager, said the traffic delays caused by the project “can be a headache for commuters.”
He said customers who stop in for food at the Route 7 business just north of the village of Shelburne don’t talk “a whole lot about the project.”
In Vermont, Route 7 runs for 176 miles along the western side of the state, much of it as a two-lane road.

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