Roadblock surfaces on bypass project

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(Host) An alternative truck route around the Village of Morrisville has been in the works for 37 years.

Just when it appeared the bypass would finally be built, another roadblock has surfaced.

VPR’s Amy Noyes has our story:

(Noyes) The Morrisville bypass project has been on Vermont’s books since 1970.

Today, it’s first at the starting gate of major state transportation projects. Even so, the Agency of Transportation recently told local officials construction of the bypass would be pushed back again, from 2009 to 2012.

The new leg of the Bennington Bypass is being constructed first because right of ways have been obtained.

Locals fear another five years of heavy truck traffic over an 80-year-old downtown bridge will leave them with no direct way across the Lamoille River.

State Senator Susan Bartlett:

(Bartlett) “With the increased truck traffic that has been happening on that bridge for the past ten years, but certainly the past five years, if that bridge were to suddenly be posted, the impact is to effectively sever east and west in this part of Vermont. It really becomes one of those you can’t get there from here.”

(Noyes) The aging, narrow bridge is not the only obstacle truckers face in negotiating their way through Morrisville on Route 100.

Dave Pelletier is a Regional Transportation Planner.

(Pelletier) “There are at least three, arguably four ninety-degree corners, three of which have buildings very close on either sides of the corners that truck drivers must navigate through the Village. There’s also regular automobile traffic that needs to be held up, and sometimes managed with flaggers just to get the large vehicles through the Village. So it’s quite an ordeal.”

(Noyes) Local and regional officials, businesspeople and residents all support the bypass.

They’ve banded together to push lawmakers to keep the 25 million dollar project going, despite the delay announced by the Transportation Agency.

Many locals say the Agency is dropping the ball on right of way purchases. They also think this delay could be a fatal blow to the whole project.

Fifty people recently turned out in the middle of the day to complain to the Senate Transportation Committee. The Committee came to Morrisville to get an update on the bypass. Chairman Dick Mazza says he got the message, and he understands the urgency.

(Mazza) “I know how important this project is to this community. And working with Senator Bartlett, I’ve heard what’s happened this past year, this past summer. And I just want to make sure that we visited it onsite to make sure that we can do what we can to keep this project moving.”

(Noyes) Shaun Bryer, who’s chairman of the Morristown Selectboard, says there are many reasons the bypass has so much support.

(Bryer) “I think, specifically, with economic development, and also in terms of traffic, safety for pedestrians in our downtown area.”

(Noyes) Senators left Morrisville pledging to help keep the project moving. But some of the money for the project may be shifted to upgrade current bridges and roads.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Amy Noyes.

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