Circ Highway environmental impact statement draft published

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(Host) Another step has been taken in the debate about whether to build a highway bypass through the Burlington suburbs.

Today, a draft was published of the environmental impact statement that’s needed for the so-called Circumferential Highway.

Governor Jim Douglas and business supporters want to build a section of that highway in Williston. A section in Essex is already open and would connect to the stretch in Williston.

But the administration was required by federal court to do a full study of how the road would affect the environment, including exploring alternatives to building it at all.

Deputy Transportation Secretary David Dill says today’s report analyzes those alternatives but doesn’t make a final recommendation.

(Dill) "I don’t think there’s any surprises in there in terms of what alternatives are being identified, studied and analyzed. But we’re not to the place yet where we’re ready to pick the preferred one."

(Host) Opponents of the highway went to court to force the administration to conduct the full environmental study.

Sandra Levine of the Conservation Law Foundation says she’s glad that a draft version is done. But she says she can’t evaluate the work until the state settles on the alternative it prefers.

(Levine) "I’m hopeful that the preferred alternative will recognize opportunities other than building the Circ Highway, which remains a very expensive option to meet traffic and congestion concerns."

Copies of the draft environmental impact statement are available at libraries and at V-Trans offices in Montpelier and Williston.

A meeting to discuss the alternatives is planned for September and the public will have until November to comment on them.

A final decision isn’t expected until next year.

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