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Editorial: ‘Out, trucks!’ says the Little City

Folks in Vergennes have spoken: They want the big 18-wheelers off Main Street.
In a show of unanimous support, almost all of the 100 area residents who attended a public forum on the subject this Tuesday raised their hands in support of a preferred $39 million option that routes the truck traffic north of the city on what supporters called an “economic development corridor.” And for good reason: not only will it free the city center from the overwhelming burden of 800-plus trucks moving through the heart of the city each day — a number that is projected to increase to 1,200 daily within 25 years — but it will open the northern part of the city to what one study said could be $2.9 million in economic development.
That’s a far more compelling story that calling the proposed truck route a bypass.
The other two options discussed were thoroughly panned. One option included slight traffic calming improvements to the existing throughway that is Route 22A through the city at a cost of $1.9 million. While the improvements were recognized as needed, no one thought the measures went far enough to solve the existing problem. The other option would divert northbound truck traffic off Route 22A to Route 17A through Addison to New Haven Junction, then north on Route 7 to Ferrisburgh. That option, with a $26.8 million price tag, was opposed by everyone, including the traffic engineers who drafted the three alternatives, as well as the selectboards of Addison, Waltham, New Haven and Ferrisburgh.
Now what?
Wait for state funding.
Officials told residents at the meeting (click here to read our story) the state could not fund it for five years, and even then it would take another decade to plan, permit, design and build. And therein lies the challenge: Any time an AOT project has to wait years for funding, delays can occur and it’s never a sure thing.
What’s required in the interim is community persistence and unanimity.
“There needs to be broad-based support,” said Santec traffic engineer Rick Bryant. “There needs to be a clear message to VTrans. They need to see all the fish swimming in the same direction.”
Mayor Jeff Fritz had addressed the crowd early on saying that city residents “needed to do something and we need to do something now,” adding later that it was “crucial we get them (the big trucks) off Main Street… It’s crucial we maintain enthusiasm.”
Strategies to build support for such a persistent community voice championing the cause and the campaign can’t start soon enough.
Angelo Lynn

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