(Host) Commentator John McClaughry disagrees with the recent court decision on the Circ highway.
(McClaughry) The Conservation Law Foundation, VPIRG, and their allies won a big victory on May 10 when Federal Judge William Sessions halted construction on the 3.8 mile Segments A-B of the Chittenden County Circumferential Highway in Williston.
To gain standing to sue, CLF and its allies had to produce testimony from people who claimed that they would be injured by construction of the Circ. Reading the complaints of CLF’s eleven designated victims is a real eye opener. Ms. S. is alarmed that paving of the highway would deprive her children of the opportunity “to explore and learn about nature.” She worries that children might not be able to push their bikes across the bike path overpass, further described by Mr. L as a “terrible eyesore, a concrete and iron jungle”.
Twice a year Dr. D hops on his bike and makes a 35-mile loop around the area. He worries that “any increase in traffic and commercial and residential development along that route will make it harder and less safe and enjoyable.”
Mr. B is afraid that construction of the highway would cause the loss of certain endangered species far downstream, and that would “harm [his] appreciation of the ecological integrity of the Lake and river.” He also worries that his dog might come into contact with algal blooms.
Throughout CLF’s 38 pages of damage claims run recurring themes: the victims value the “vibrant downtown” of Burlington, exult in its cultural amenities, cherish the clear demarcation between country and city, resent having to drive to the suburbs to find stores of sufficiently high quality, lie awake nights worrying what their dog might eat, and regard any expense or inconvenience to themselves, their children, and their pets as unbearable punishment.
Meanwhile, lots of other people are paying on a home and a half acre in the suburbs to bring up their kids. They prefer suburban schools to Burlington’s, favor Taft’s Corners over Church Street, willingly pay extra to drive an SUV or van to shop and work, and would like better highways.
From the CLF perspective, these people are wildly irresponsible. They are putting their preferences ahead of what’s good for everybody. The CLF prescription is clear: No more highways. No more suburban development. No more mega marts. Crowd people back into Burlington. Let them walk and take the bus. Keep people out of the countryside, because their selfishness is ruining the planet. It will be interesting to see if that turns out to be anywhere close to a majority view, even in Chittenden County.
And here’s one final ironic footnote. The Circ project was launched with a $50 million dollar special appropriation contained in a 1982 act of Congress. Its rationale was to demonstrate how quickly and smoothly state and local governments could build a 16-mile circ highway if slow-moving federal bureaucrats were kept out of the way. Twenty-two years later, 4.5 miles of highway have been built.
This is John McClaughry – thanks for listening.
John McClaughery is president of the Ethan Allen Institute, a Vermont policy research and education organization.