Thursday, January 3, 2019

Governor Scott: Stop the Hurtful Parkway!! Start a Neighborhood Roadway Re-Design!!

December 12, 2018

Governor Phil Scott
Pavilion Office Building 
109 State Street
Montpelier, Vermont 05609 

Dear Governor Scott:

The members of the Pine Street Coalition would like to congratulate you on winning another term as Governor of our State of Vermont. Our Coalition is a grassroots and volunteer citizens' organization with about 100 members dedicated to safe and quality transportation in Burlington's South End neighborhood.

In addition, we thank you, along with Transportation Secretary Flynn for meeting with a delegation of the Coalition May 8 at your Capitol Building office to learn more about our neighborhood concerns over the outdated and unsafe design of the Champlain Parkway. Its last public hearing now dates back 12 years to November 2006.

The Parkway design, a vestige of 1960s thinking, was originally thought of as a segment of a four-lane limited access ring road surrounding the center of Burlington. The public comment on the project ended in 2006 and the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact (FSEIS) issued 2009. The total project cost now estimated at $43 million funding share -- 95% federal, 3% State and 2% City monies.

Since the FSEIS was issued in 2009, the neighborhood has blossomed into the most vibrant section of our City, and major changes in laws and policies affecting highway design have also occurred. The Pine Street Coalition steadfastly maintains it would be best for all if the current obsolete and invalid iteration of the Champlain Parkway roadway design is abandoned and a modern design begun through a new Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process. A new EIS would be driven in great part by the neighborhood itself whose very economy and safety are at stake. We have suggested Re-Design Guidelines for improvements meeting current and future transportation needs—particularly by providing separate, safe walk and bike facilities totally lacking in the Parkway design. We can meet current and future needs far better and overall at lower cost. Additionally, both safety and climate change emissions now possible through “best practices” were left out of the current design considerations. Using “best practices” serious injuries could be reduced over current levels and significant reductions in climate change emissions achieved.

A re-design certainly will reduce two streets between Home and Flynn Avenues to one street, the most glaring financial waste. As well, connectivity between Burlington and So. Burlington can be preserved instead of severing one of the only two north-south corridors here in the City. Upwards of six acres can be retained for protection and preservation of Englesby Brook, park and open space, and economic development. Again, new regulations require minimizing impacts on our low income Maple/King neighborhood not even considered in the FSEIS process.

This April, the Coalition issued a detailed 240+ page set of documents detailing the changes since the 2009 FSEIS on the ground and in new laws and policies at Federal, State and City levels. This documented challenge to the City, State and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) calling for a new EIS process will be considered by the FHWA in re-evaluation as required in federal law and regulation and
sets the basis of possible subsequent federal court action. Already since spring alleged errors in land taking procedures under State laws by the City lead to the current suits before Chittenden Superior Court.

With City representatives recently stating the project could be tied up in courts for an unknown number of years, we respectfully request it is in the interests of all to stop the Parkway now and start a new EIS. This promises a far better result than the uncertain outcome of years of litigation, increasingly likely to lead to a new EIS as time goes on. This is the same contention put forth by the Coalition to Federal Highway, Vermont Agency of Transportation and local officials in meetings since early last year.

Finally, the Pine Street Coalition respectfully requests your taking action for a new EIS process at this juncture in favor of a quality and safe roadway project. Such a decision promises not only a safe and quality project, but financial savings and certain economic progress for our neighborhood, the City of Burlington, our County and our State.

Yours truly,

Pine Street Coalition

Tony Redington  -  President 
Charles Simpson -  First Vice President
Jack Daggitt - Second Vice President
Steve Goodkind  -  Treasurer
Ib Nar - Secretary

cc Vermont Secretary of Transportation Joseph Flynn
Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger
Mathew Hake, P.E., Vermont Division Administrator, FHWA
Members of the Burlington City Council