Transportation agency submits new Circ Highway plan

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(Host) The state Transportation Agency has reapplied for pollution permits for a new Chittenden County highway. Agency officials say the road will not damage nearby streams, but environmentalists say they’ll continue to challenge the project.

VPR’s John Dillon reports.

(Dillon) The Transportation Agency has withdrawn its stormwater pollution permit for the Circumferential Highway, a road that’s designed to link suburbs around Burlington.

The highway will cut through several areas where the streams are already damaged by stormwater runoff. Environmentalists had appealed the permit. They argued that the Transportation Agency wasn’t doing enough to protect the waterways.

Transportation Secretary Brian Searles says the new permit application isn’t much different that he old one. He says it was resubmitted to conform with a new stormwater law passed by the Legislature. Searles wants to see work on the new, four-mile section of the road begin later this year.

(Searles) “We’re still on a track to advertise this project in October. That is our schedule. And if we do that, depending on the weather, it’s possible to have construction activity begin this fall.”

(Dillon) Environmental groups plan to file another appeal. Mark Sinclair of the Conservation Law Foundation says the Agency’s new plans are basically business as usual:

(Sinclair) “The action is not strong enough. It allows additional pollution to be generated before we’ve cleaned up the streams that are already in crisis. So it’s a very soft approach with no guarantee that we’re going to see clean water in the near future.”

(Dillon) But Searles says the highway has been looked at enough:

(Searles) “This project has had significant review. It’s undergone a lot of changes in response to concerns, a lot of public input and three different legislatures. I just think that everybody’s made their case on this and it’s been determined that the project is worthy of building.”

(Dillon) Environmentalists disagree. They say that the Transportation Agency is being held to a more lenient standard than private businesses.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon.

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