News

Panton forum to focus on proposed truck route

PANTON — The Panton selectboard has called a special meeting on Monday, July 29, to give town residents a chance to learn more about and weigh in on the recently proposed alternate truck route through northern Vergennes.
The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. at Panton Town Hall and include a presentation on the project by an Addison County Regional Planning Commission representative. The meeting will also include time for public comment and questions.
Unlike the Ferrisburgh and New Haven selectboards, the Panton board has yet to give a preliminary endorsement to the proposal. According to Panton selectboard Chairman Howard Hall the board wants to learn more about how town citizens feel about the plan.
Hall said and board minutes reflect that he and some members of the planning commission believe that although plans call for the route to diverge from Route 22A only in Vergennes, that the finished product’s final route could be different and potentially directly affect Panton property owners and even begin in Panton at its western end. A similar truck route floated about 17 years ago diverged from Route 22A in Panton.
Hall also noted the route would cross Panton Road in Vergennes, a major commuter artery for Panton residents, and could possibly affect town residents that way.
Agency of Transportation officials have said, however, a roundabout at the western intersection of the new road and Route 22A should relieve congestion at the problematic intersection of Panton Road and West Main Street. During morning and afternoon commuting hours traffic typically backs up at that intersection.
The tentative plan calls for a 32-foot-wide road that, heading eastward, would leave Route 22A via the roundabout, cross Panton Road, soar over Otter Creek on a new bridge, cross Comfort Hill, and then rejoin Main Street just south of Kayhart Crossing at another roundabout, all in Vergennes.
Unlike Route 22A in Vergennes, which has an 11-percent grade near Otter Creek, all grades would conform to Agency of Transportation standards, which are less steep than 11 percent.
According to a study done on behalf of VTrans by South Burlington consulting firm Stantec and unveiled at the Vergennes Opera House in April, the 32-foot-wide truck route could cost $39 million.
That study cited not only benefits to downtown Vergennes financial health and quality of life, but also the potential to develop land in the northern part of the city to enhance the city’s tax base and economic vitality. City officials refer to the proposed truck route as the Vergennes Economic Corridor.
Originally VTrans officials said the road could probably not be built for 15 to 20 years, but city officials said they have more recently been told with regional support the timetable could be moved up to 10 years.
As well as receiving preliminary support from New Haven — which would have been affected by an alternate plan to use Route 17 as a bypass — and Ferrisburgh, the regional planning commission and local lawmakers back the proposal. It is intended to reroute most of the of the 900 trucks a day that rumble through downtown Vergennes, by far the most in Vermont that travel through a village, but not divert automobile traffic. 
VTrans has designated Route 22A as the major north-south truck route in the region, and many trucks serve Chittenden County.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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