Public comment begins on new Circ Highway plan

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(Host) The public has less than two weeks to comment on a new highway planned for Chittenden County. The state Transportation Agency wants public comments on its environmental assessment of the sixteen-mile Circumferential Highway. But critics say the assessment itself is flawed and overlooks some of the potential impacts of the road project.

VPR’s John Dillon reports.

(Dillon) The $180 million Circumferential Highway is designed to link many of the suburbs around Burlington. It’s also supposed to relieve traffic congestion around the IBM plant in Essex.

The environmental assessment looks at the next eight miles of the road to be built from Williston to Colchester. Brian Dunkiel, a lawyer who represents the Friends of the Earth environmental group, says the state should have studied the environmental impact of the entire project.

(Dunkiel) “There are several problems with the document. One of the major flaws with it is that the document is only half a loaf. They only looked at half the highway and they’ve excluded more than eight miles of highway. So this opportunity for public comment is failing to provide the public with an evaluation of almost half the highway.”

(Dillon) The assessment also concludes that the project won’t have major impacts on air quality, water quality and suburban sprawl. Dunkiel disagrees. He says the study failed to look at some of the air pollution that would be released by the additional cars on the highway.

He says the assessment also notes that the highway will not fix the problem it’s intended to solve. He says the data in the document shows that road congestion will be just as bad after the road is built as it is now:

(Dunkiel) “All along, and I believe this documents shows the same, is that with or without the Circ Highway, congestion at IBM gets worse. The Circ does not solve IBM’s congestion problem. In fact, the Circ makes congestion at the IBM intersection worse than it is today.”

(Dillon) Officials for the highway project weren’t available this week. The public has until September 9 to comment.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon.

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