Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Public Hearing on Champlain Parkway Thursday, Sept. 26, 5:30 pm, City Hall, Contois Auditorium



CHAMPLAIN PARKWAY “ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE”
OUTREACH MEETING

Thursday, September 26, 2019, City Hall 5:30 p.m


The Department of Public Works describes the meeting as a “Public outreach meeting for Champlain Parkway CUSTOMER SERVICE,  DPW-PINECUSTOMERSERVICE@BURLINGTONVT.GOV, DEPT. OF PUBLIC WORKS, BURLINGTON…information about the Champlain Parkway project and is seeking input from the greater King Street and Maple Street neighborhood...There will be an open house beginning at 5:30PM. Following that, starting at 6PM, will be a presentation followed by public comments...For additional information, please visit the project website:  www.champlainparkway.com


Do it right the first time” is the position of the Pine Street Coalition (PSC), our volunteer grassroots group committed to a new street design to replace the outdated and hurtful project, particularly the six additional injury-generating traffic signals. Our low income King/Maple neighborhood bears the brunt of negative impacts. Those traffic signals waste gasoline, up global warming and other pollutants, and cost more to maintain. Build safe pedestrian sidewalk or safe bikeway! None in the Parkway design now. Stop the dead ending Pine Street permanently disconnecting from Queen City Park Road, remove six acres of asphalt better used for Englesby Brook preservation and economic development. Install “best practice” safe-for-all modes roundabouts (cut global warm emissions 23-29%) to access City Market, Flynn at Parkway, and Pine Street intersections including Maple and King, etc. Go “cheaper, greener, quicker and safer.”

Pine Street Coalition — Stop, Re-Design Champlain Parkway Sign the Petition:   https://www.ipetitions.com/petition/re-design-champlain-parkway-for-safety-climate

Website: SafeStreetsBurlington.com  Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SSBPineStreetNOW/


Monday, August 26, 2019

VT Digger Parkway News Today


Well, a busy day with a new lead story on the Parkway in VT Digger August 26.


Our response in the comment area is as follows:
"The Parkway history travels back decades, but the last public hearing in 2006 on this design determined by a 2009 environmental document employed the 2000 Census, outdated 2005 traffic data, obsolete street design technology, no evaluation of safety, no attention to global warming emissions, nor, obviously, recent development like City Market South End. Add the clearly fatal flaw of walling off the Pine St. connection to Hannaford/Lowes/Palace.  [City spends $10 million to reconnect Pine and St. Paul at City Place but disconnects Pine at Parkway makes no sense!]

New "best practices" roundabouts and cycle track now are standard. Several laws, plans and regulations after 2009 must be addressed--the project foundation became solid as quicksand. Safe sidewalk is removed, none added. This plus not a single inch of separate/safe bikeway shows why the City's Walk Bike Council wrote supporting the Pine Street re-design guidance. Spending $47 million then saying we will fix things after?—hole in the ground 2? Redington is a Pine Street Coalition leader."
September 16-21 is National Roundabouts Week, the miracle circular design which cuts serious and fatal injuries 90%, ped injuries too as well as a decrease in bike injuries; a 23-29% reduction in global warming emissions as well as gas consumption; and reduce delay for everyone.  They fit just about everywhere and handle the largest vehicles with ease.

Pine Streets supports an up to date Parkway design--a new start with a blank slate Environmental Impact Statement process.   Note the planning and design monies of $30 million were spent on the now abandoned Circumferential Highway.  Planning and re-design of a modern highway project (this design is not!!) generally is about 10% of project construction cost or about $4-5 million. Pine Street re-design can save more than that by just building one street instead of two from Home to Flynn and dropping entirely (except for a separate and safe sidewalk and bikeway!) new roadway from Flynn to Lakeside Ave.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Federal Highway Administration Delays Pine Street Court Suit to Do Homework! News August 15, 2019


              Champlain Parkway:  Let's shape a roadway our City can love!

The Pine Street Coalition—a Grassroots Volunteer Community Group
         
          For a Cheaper, Greener, Quicker and Much Safer Roadway

                                                          www.SafeStreetsBurlington.com
                                                https://www.facebook.com/SSBPineStreetNOW       

                                Stop!  Reevaluate!  Redesign:  the Champlain Parkway


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE  -- 15 August 2019  
Contacts:
Pine Street Coalition Tony Redington 343-6616
Post Office Box 8726 Steve Goodkind 316-6045
Burlington, VT 05402 Charles Simpson 865-5110

FEDERAL COURT DELAYS CHAMPLAIN PARKWAY LAWSUIT:
FHWA TO RE-ASSESS ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE IMPACTS OF PROJECT

BURLINGTON.  
The US District Court on August 9 granted a request by the US Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to delay proceedings in an environmental lawsuit brought by citizens' group Pine Street Coalition, so that the government agency can undertake further study of the environmental justice impacts of the proposed Champlain Parkway.  The $47 million dollar project was initially proposed in the 1960s, and the most recent public hearings were held in 2006. 

Pine Street Coalition's legal challenge asserts that changes to laws, environmental conditions and development in Burlington's South End render the government's prior review of the project outdated. The Coalition claims the design does not meet current safety performance practices, lacks safe and separate walk and bike facilities, and features excess global warming emissions.   
The Pine Street Coalition has also raised concerns regarding the disproportionate and dangerous impacts of the proposed highway project King/Maple Street neighborhood, which is the second poorest in Burlington, with over 80% low and moderate income population, including many families with young children living adjacent to roadway development. Regulations adopted in 2012 require federal agencies to pay close attention to the impacts of development projects on low-income communities, which have often born the brunt of negative environmental impacts like noise, air and water pollution.  FHWA will engage in outreach in this community over the next few months to assess the environmental justice impacts of the proposed highway.


The Pine Street Coalition, formed in 2014, has called for a cooperative approach to redesign the Champlain Parkway project to save money and insuring a safe, quality transportation investment beneficial to the South End neighborhood and City.

Friday, July 5, 2019

A Dystopian Mayor with No Thought for the "Public Interest" in BTV Development, Champlain Parkway?

Does the Mayor of Burlington Want its Citizens to Face Hurtful Investments?  Glitter in the Gutter?

On July 3, Pine Street Coalition leader, South End resident, Professor Emeritus in Sociology SUNY Plattsburgh, wrote this summary of misguided city development at any cost--Dr. Charles Simpson words here:

Young, energetic, a gym-goer, parent of young girls, attractive in a riverboat gambler sort of way, holding developer credentials that include "affordable housing", our mayor is "a man in a hurry" to get things done. What's not to like about Miro? That's his campaign persona, at least. It worked once, then again, netting him the support of the reliable middle class voters with a property stake in the city along with the backing of the developer community. 
His problem now is that he didn't deliver. Not very much, at least. We got an absurdly expensive remake of the bike/walk path, made more expensive due to a toxic soil fiasco that had the City storing it for nearly a year at a public park.  After eliciting proposals from far and wide, he couldn't pull off a Moran Plant remake. It was flawed in concept to begin with: an ice climbing wall? Please. Following up on the example of a 2006 move by the School District to sell the Taft School, a structure built in 1939 with funds from private philanthropy and over $111,000 from the Works Progress Administration--a structure that in its post-education phase was required to become housing for indigent men according to the Taft will--he tried to put Memorial Auditorium similarly into play. Imagining it as simply a fiscal liability rather than a vibrant civic arena, he sought to pass it out of municipal control to UVM until the university opened the bag and found a cat instead of the pig. The cat was the absence of adjacent parking and the presence of likely structural decay. Twisting and turning for a new project, he promised to revive a remnant of the '80s circumferential highway through the South End, pretending that the public purpose of moving interstate highway traffic into the downtown core was still a viable goal. Not to worry that the highway was to end at Lake Street and the downtown had evolved away from a mass shopping function. Thanks to alert citizen activists, that plan is in the courts. Then, there's his efforts to prime the development pump. First there was spot zoning, specifically setting aside the results of a planning process with elaborate public input, specifically Plan BTV, to boost the height limits for two blocks of downtown. The resulting demolition of existing stores destroyed the financial viability of our only department store while the project itself, despite the promised transfusion of some $22 million in tax increment funding, remains a hole in the ground. In desperation for some achievement, he next fixated on a $6 million-plus redesign of a completely serviceable public park, a grandiose and unneeded "improvement" proposed overtly as a solution to soil management issues and less obviously as way to rid the downtown of panhandlers. This too has been stalled by civic activists, unconvinced that lighted and pulsating water jets represent the tourism attraction that visitors seek in New England. 

Then there's the "sins of omission", beginning with the mayor's failure to scotch the Air Force's plans to station 18 nuclear-capable fighter/bombers at our airport in the most densely settled area of the state and including his financial deal with a private investor that guaranteed the sale of our municipal telecom.
  
Had Weinberger listened to authentic public input rather than the charade it became as orchestrated by "outreach consultants", each of these projects would have been greatly improved to the benefit of the public. Citizens developed a much better plan for the remnant of the circumferential highway that would actually enhanced travel connectivity and neighborhood life. Had the mayor listed to critics of downtown development, a reasonably-sized project there would be in the last stages of construction adding jobs, housing, and office space. Had His Honor listened to park enthusiasts, there would be a public bathroom in the downtown and an oasis of shade and grass for the residents rather than another festival venue. Perhaps we'd even have a public toddler play area. 

Some changes have happened for which Mayor Weinberger can take credit. He blocked his own Parks and Recreation department's proposal to expand public moorings at the lake, including refusing the federal grant that went with it, in order to transfer that development opportunity to a group of private investors allowed to lease the public waterfront. He can count on more than 700 units of new housing at Cambrian Rise, a project "greased" with $2 million in public funding to secure its lake view and green space.  Citizen activists wanted additional public benefits--more open land and space for wildlife--but they were rebuffed. Now, with construction underway, even that deal is beginning to seem suspicious as conflict of interest allegations between buyers and sellers have been raised.

To a great degree, politics is a matter of projection. Voters endow candidates and officials with their own hopes and dreams and a positive self image. Here in Burlington, we want to think that our town is dynamic, innovative, compassionate, and trend-setting while delivering quality social services with the costs justly apportioned. This conviction allows us to feel better about ourselves. Our choice of community is thus validated. It takes a lot of failure to chip away at this cultural capital. And for a long time we may be distracted by the razzle-dazzle: "cool" electric scooters on our bike path, a spectacular fireworks display on July 4th, announcements of great works just around the corner including bouncing colored water jets in City Hall Park. But my sense is that it's the morning after Mardi Gras. The only razzle-dazzle we can see is some glitter in the gutter.   

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Hannafords Gives South End a Taste of Hurtful Parkway Design Staring July 1


News Flash: “Old 'Kmart Plaza' traffic cut-through to close, Free Press June 29, page 6A. A taste of current Parkway design current South End connection via Pine Street and Queen City Park Road to S. Burlington's Kmart Plaza closes Monday July 1—Hannaford new store build closes the connection for an indefinite period. No more Pine St. connection to Kmart Plaza south to Hannafords, Lowes and Palace! Everyone ready for tripping back and forth via Shelburne Road traffic to get to those popular S. Burlngton destinations? (No news on whether those on foot and bike will find a pathway through the construction.) Parkway design now fully walls all modes from Pine Street to Queen City Park Road, Kmart Plaza etc. Note Hannfords was contacted by our Coalition and they expressed absolutely no concern about lack of access from the South End to their new store with a built Parkway. The Coalition Re-design Guidelines call for a safe Pine St./Parkway/Queen City Park roundabout.


Sunday, June 16, 2019

Charles Simpson on What "Everybody Knows" About the Champlain Parkway Letter


Letter of South End Resident Charles Simpson of May 13, 2019  Representatives of the Pine Street Coalition spoke out at the CCRPC Board of Directors meeting May 15

The Champlain Parkway: To What End?

Dear Andy Montroll (Burlington representative to Chittenden County Regional Planning Board [CRPC]); Charlie Baker, CCRPC Executive Director; and Chapin Spencer, Director, Burlington Public Works:

To put it in a nutshell, the “purpose and need” justifying the construction of the Champlain Parkway is defunct. And the parkway planned to accomplish that “purpose and need” is obsolete. It’s “sell by” date is decades old. Structures from a previous era--the 19th century buildings that embellish our streetscapes--serve a purpose. They remind us of our history in an aesthetically impressive way. Utilitarian infrastructure planned in another era does not.

In the more than 20 years I’ve lived in Burlington, I’ve continually marveled at the C1 section of the Champlain Parkway [“Road to Nowhere” between Pine St. and Home Ave.], a relic of past-planning and past needs that social changes have obviated. The beltway concept that girdled so many cities with obstructions that decimated waterfront areas has been abandoned. Not just abandoned, but undone. Witness the $22 billion Boston spent on removing and replacing the elevated Southeast Expressway running through the heart of the city. Witness New Orleans’ brush with death when planners sought to level the French Quarter to make room for a beltway. Or Manhattan’s hallucinatory quest to scour out Chinatown-Little Italy, SoHo and Midtown to build elevated highways linking New Jersey with Long Island. In every case, the tunnel vision of highway planners made the same mistake: they reduced thriving communities to bits of expendable geography separating one place from another.

It appears that a new generation of highway planners here in Vermont has inherited the same set of blinders, the same narrow focus on transit rather than arrival, on locomotion rather than life-in-place.

In the words of Lenard Cohen, “Everybody Knows” the Champlain Parkway makes no sense. You know it, I’m sure. The public knows it. But for the record, let us count the ways. 1) Less rather than more traffic is what’s desired downtown, with private vehicles replaced with right-sized electric buses and bikes to the extent possible. The old suburb-to-center-city model of urban vitality is dead. 2) The South End has emerged as the city’s center of technological innovation, the arts, food entrepreneurship, and residence. It needs full-spectrum travel corridors that separate bikes. pedestrians, and cars on roadways and paths designed primarily for local use. The Champlain Parkway design throws walkers and bikers together on the same paths, puts bikers in the street in sections, and flouts the very notion of “connectivity” central to our planning mantra by severing the head off of Pine Street and separating it from So. Burlington. 3) If the challenge of our age is anything, it is about preservation of the environment. That means augmenting the drainage corridor of Englesby Brook as a natural setting able to absorb surface water rather than dump effluent into our lake. The CP [Champlain Parkway] would burry it in 200 feet of culvert, accelerating its flow, paving its banks. 4) The future accessibility of our city lies in park-and-ride infrastructure. We already recognize this with our van system to Hill institutions and private businesses. Yet the CP would carve a 150 foot swath through our enterprise zone without replacing parking there, waste up to 6 acres of what would otherwise be job-creating space, all to move cars from Home to Lakeside where it would then dump them as congestion in the center of the Enterprise Zone. Congestion and inadequate concern for safety, one might add due to a rigid fixation on signaled intersections rather than roundabouts. And at a time when the City has trouble maintaining the present street surfaces, it proposes to build two parallel roads, Briggs and the CP 2, mere yards apart and serving the same purpose.

Ah, proponents say, but this is a $43 million dollar [now $47.1 million] stimulus to the city’s construction industry, “free” federal money. Well, it’s not free if we waste 6 acres of our valuable and limited manufacturing area. It’s not free if the locality bares the cost of future maintenance and the promised “post-construction modifications” that the “limited access” design will require to be made. It’s not free if it doesn’t meet current safety standards. “Everybody knows” that Burlington shouldn’t be an adjunct to the construction or real estate industries. Shouldn’t be, but too often, is. Nor is our decision making a matter of febrile excitation, the need to just get something, anything, done. Yet, as we see with the downtown hole-in-the-mall, it often is.

Please, listen to public voices such as those of the Pine Street Coalition and reopen the planning for roads in the South End. The first step would be to delay moving ahead with CP until you have a current environmental impact statement. The second would be to open C1from Home to I-189 to serve the industrial area via a roundabout at Pine. Then rebuild Briggs to serve local needs. That’s it!

Very truly yours,
Charles Simpson, Burlington




Sunday, June 2, 2019

Action Alert -- Champlain Parkway for June 3 City Council Meeting

ACTION ALERT – CHAMPLAIN PARKWAY

Action Alert:

Please Sign the Petition! https://petitions.moveon.org/sign/governor-scott-federal

Note Governor Scott by federal law has power to stop the Parkway

  1. Contact City Councilors by email/phon, and/or attend, speak Monday, June 3 at City Council Public Forum at 7:30 pm, Contois Auditorium
    City Council members email and telephone: https://www.burlingtonvt.gov/CityCouncil
  2. Oppose $2.5 million in City taxpayer funds to pay for Parkway contaminated soil removal/disposal, $700,000 more for City share of project approaching $50 million
--City $2.5 million costs for contaminated never discussed publicly
--Mayor Weinberger pushes for entire $3.2 million spending without a word of discussion or explanation – a councilor will have to object in order for this to be discussed and voted on
--the project in addition to up to unneeded 1.5 miles/6 acres asphalt has no “best practices” roundabouts (intersection safety belt) and separate/safe walk and bike facilities
--goal: stop the project, start new blank slate environmental impact statement process driven by this generation of South Enders and BTV residents

What is at stake?

The Parkway will proceed to construction this year with only the Pine Street Coalition effort in courts able to perhaps stop this hurtful project. The project not only increases injuries to South End travelers, it destroys key connectivity to Queen City Park Road, sharply increases climate change emissions, fails to address environmental justice to our lowest income neighborhood, creates about six acres of asphalt better used for economic development and public space, has no safe entries to new Petra Cliffs and City Market, builds two rather than one quality street between Home and Flynn Avenues, and forces higher ongoing street maintenance than necessary including six new traffic signals, a long ago discredited and outmoded technology.

Goal: A new environmental impact statement process, the goal of Pine Street, starts with a clean slate in a community driven process to design a roadway our City can love! Let's do it right the first time!

This meeting is the first since the illegal public hearing on project necessity and site visit early in 2018—we were not allowed in a public hearing to speak on the merits of the Parkway!

The now decade old 2009 environmental document—340 pages—and project design harks to 1950s car centric design and when it got watered down from a four-lane divided roadway only increases injuries to South End travelers, walls off the South End from Kmart Plaza, Hannafords, etc., does not contain one inch of new separate and safe walk/bike facilities, and does not conform to literally a dozen laws and policies at all levels ranging from the Vermont Complete Streets Act (2011), the federal requirements for best safety practices (2013), and the City Transportation plan (2011) along with planBTV Walk Bike (2017).

There is not one paragraph of safety analysis in the current base Parkway document, the the Weinberger administration itself erased the one safe sidewalk in the Parkway about 2016, now to force pedestrians to share space with high speed bicycle commuters, E-bikes, and likely E-scooters. Weinberger this action makes walking and bicycling “safer” for South Enders -- in a recent year on a shared use path Lebanon-Hanover, NH a bicyclist crashed into an killed a pedestrian, a second similar crash sent pedestrian to hospital in critical condition. 

Pine Street websites: SafeStreetsBurlington.com https://www.facebook.com/SSBPineStreetNOW/


Parkway items 5.18 and 5.19 set to be approved on the “consent agenda” without discussion.