(Host) A decision to postpone construction of Chittenden County’s Circumferential Highway for two years could free up nearly $35 million in funds for other transportation projects. Some lawmakers are concerned that if this happens, there may not be enough money for the Circ in the future.
VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.
(Kinzel) The House and Senate conference committee reviewing next year’s transportation bill has been given a new issue to deal with – one that could affect the timetable for a variety of local bridge and road projects across the state. That issue is determining if anything should be done with the $35 million that has been allocated for the Circ Highway over the next two years.
Earlier this week, a federal judge halted construction of the highway because the environmental review for the project was outdated. The Douglas administration has decided not to appeal the decision and instead will seek a full environmental assessment – a process that could take two years to complete.
House Transportation chairman Frank Mazur, who strongly supports the highway, thinks the money designated for the Circ should be used to help move up the timetable for other critical projects:
(Mazur) “We have projects all around the state. There are bridges collapsing around the state, there are roads collapsing around the state, and we have needs in Chittenden County that have to be built and we’re going to address those needs. And we’re not going to put the money aside for the sake of just holding it. We have to meet the needs of the public.”
(Kinzel) But Senate Transportation Chairman Dick Mazza is concerned that if the Circ money is reallocated to other projects there may not be enough money for the Circ when the time comes to resume construction.
(Mazza) “I’m very concerned. One of the issues has been over the years the Legislature has not funded this project. We now are funding it and I do not want to hurry and release these funds to other projects knowing that the Circ has been on this list for a long time. So I as one person am going to be very cautious about releasing these funds to other projects.”
(Kinzel) Mazza says the possible reallocation of Circ funds may have to be limited to projects in Chittenden County because the money has been designated for use in the county’s regional transportation district. A final decision about using the money is expected to be included in next year’s Transportation bill.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.