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(Host) Commentator Tim McQuiston is here today with some thoughts on regional planning: both good and bad.

(McQuiston) I’m sitting in my car in the breakdown lane of I-89, stuck in traffic as far as the eye can see.

We’re here because of an accident up near the Williston off-ramp on the south-bound side. Some commuters, not picking up on the clue suggested by dozens and dozens of motionless cars, go right up to the exit and stop dead in the travel lane, and then wait for someone to let them off the highway. This is dangerous.

Two weeks ago, the entire interstate was jammed because of an accident at the same exit. Fire truck after fire truck after ambulance after ambulance after police car had to wade through the two lanes of traffic to get to the accident scene. An SUV had flipped over.

So what does all this have to do with the Regional Technical Academy and the Circumferential Highway? A lot.

Exit 12 in Williston, the Circ and the proposed technical high school all suffer from the same combination of too little planning and too much money. The technical high school is certainly a good idea, the Circ should have been built a long time ago, and, say what you will about the whole Taft Corners sprawl, it’s probably the best location around for that kind of retail development.

But in each case, the planning was poorly conceived and the money made taxpayers wilt. At Exit 12, what the state needs to do, besides making for a longer green light at the exit, is widen the overpass, similar to what they did in the early 90s in Colchester. There, they widened the overpass before a lot of the new development, like Costco, Shaw’s and the buildout of Water Tower Hill, was completed. In Williston, they put the shopping cart before the horse.

Both the high school and the Circ were heavily supported by the local business and political communities, and the concept of each makes sense, but nothing else has. Each project is over $40 million. The initial enrollment projections for the high school were simply not realistic, which soured voters to its feasibility, if the pricetag already hadn’t. It’s defeat at the polls last Tuesday was inevitable. Hopefully a better plan for the school can be found.

For the Circ, instead of working with all parties involved and selling it for what it really is: an economic development SLASH traffic diversion plan, Circ proponents tried to ram it through the courts, on the one hand, and use the fear of losing IBM, on the other, to get it built. That’s not a very constructive process.

This is how former governor Richard Snelling defined planning: to me. “How do a whole lot of us think that we as a group can get where we want to go from where we are.”

This is Timothy McQuiston.

Timothy McQuiston is editor of Vermont Business Magazine.

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