Circ Highway critics say roundabouts are viable alternative

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(Host) Critics of Chittenden County’s Circumferential Highway say there are cheaper, more efficient ways to move traffic. They want their proposals considered when the state is preparing the environmental impact statement for the project.

VPR’s John Dillon has more.

(Dillon) The environmental groups’ proposals rely heavily on roundabouts to ease traffic congestion in fast-growing Chittenden County.

The members of the Vermont Smart Growth Collaborative say that their alternatives cost $15 to $30 million less than the next phase of the Circumferential Highway. And they say the alternative plan would move cars and people faster through suburban Williston past the crowded Five Corners Intersection to the IBM plant in Essex Junction.

Lucy Gibson is a consultant that environmental groups hired to look at options to the Circ. She says roundabouts move traffic much more efficiently than traditional intersections controlled by traffic lights.

(Gibson) “Traffic lights are actually quite inefficient and the best example is Five Corners, where you have a lot of traffic waiting to get through and one little stream of people turning left, or very small numbers of traffic actually moving. Most traffic is actually stopped waiting to move. In a roundabout, there’s always cars moving through the circle.”

(Dillon) Some of the environmental organizations now proposing alternatives to the Circ went to court two years ago to stop the project. They won a victory last May when a federal judge said the project needed a new review.

The environmentalists want the state to look at their plans as it develops an environmental impact statement for the next section of the highway. Brian Dunkiel is a lawyer for Friends of the Earth, one of the groups that sued to stop the new highway. His says legal action remains an option.

(Dunkiel) “These organizations took very scarce resources and applied it to a project that the government should have done, and should have done a long time ago. And we’re hoping that they get a full and honest hearing. But if they don’t, I’m sure some of the organizations wouldn’t hesitate if necessary to do what they have to do.”

(Dillon) The Smart Growth Collaborative spent about $15,000 developing alternatives to the Circ. The members say that so far the Douglas administration has not responded to their proposals.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Burlington.

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