Editorial: Vergennes truck bypass: It’s not an option to fail
In Vergennes, the fact that over 100 people attended a Nov. 4 forum on a new route for truck traffic to bypass the downtown is indicative of how critical it is to solve what is an untenable problem.
Currently, about 800 trucks barrel through Vergennes daily, less than a third of which do business in the city, according to the 2019 study, which also concluded 500 of those trucks are tractor-trailers. To put that in perspective, that same study reported the next highest daily totals on a similar stretch of road in Vermont were 370 trucks daily on Route 103 in Ludlow and 360 on Route 9 in Wilmington.
That’s no secret. Route 22A is a main thoroughfare from the Albany/New York City up to Burlington and on north. Having all that truck traffic jammed the little city’s downtown compromises the quality of life in what is otherwise a wonderful community.
The conundrum, of course, is how to eliminate the bad but keep the good. Arguably, most Vergennes businesses benefit, at least a bit, from the traffic, and already there is some concern that bypassing the downtown could harm those who gain the most. So do the necessary studies. Put mitigation measures in place, if warranted. But first and foremost push hard to get this project through to completion.
An earlier project in 1995 had a $52.5 million price tag on a 2.5-mile route north of the city, including a bridge over the Otter Creek. A 2019 student preferred a shorter route, but still with a bridge over the Otter Creek with a $27.5 million price tag. State transportation officials say that a new iteration of that 2019 proposal will be even better and that the public process they hope to follow will strive to hear all sides and, with luck, get the majority of the area residents to support it.
That can happen if the communities involved approach the upcoming debate with a willingness to:
- participate from the get-go,
- be committed to listening, studying the facts and being well informed,
- and don’t let perfection be the enemy of good enough.
No proposed solution will solve all problems, nor satisfy all residents. The goal is to support the best solution possible, and get to work on making that a reality. What can’t happen is to let another opportunity fail because of a lack of consensus. That’s the challenge that falls on city and town leaders throughout the area, as well as on state transportation officials.
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