2nd leg of Vt.'s Bennington bypass open to traffic - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

2nd leg of Vt.'s Bennington bypass open to traffic

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It's a project 50 years in the making now one step closer to being complete.

"This project has more lives than any cat ever born on this Earth," said Gov. Peter Shumlin, D-Vermont.

Despite decades of state politics sometimes slowing down and other times speeding up progress on the Bennington Bypass, the second to last stretch of road officially opened Thursday.

"Let's not forget, I'm the first governor from the south in about 50 years that knows Vermont doesn't end at Route 4. But it actually protrudes a little bit farther south than some up there think," Shumlin said.

The new stretch of Route 279 is part of a road linking Route 7 in New York to Route 9 in Vermont; a path that used to take you through downtown Bennington, now overlooks it instead.

"What we're hoping for is that with Route 279 open, it's going to alleviate some of that traffic, some of that congestion, making it safer for other motorists to use downtown Bennington," Bennington Police Chief Paul Docette said.

Business owners like T.J. Carmody says his customers at Carmody's Irish Pub won't miss the loud chugging of trucks interrupting their lunch.

"Hopefully it gives people a little better feel to downtown Bennington, so they'll come here and have lunch and shop and do things," Carmody said.

But he does worry the bypass may deter tourists and leaf peepers from coming to town.

"New people are going to come, they're going to get on their GPS's and their Garmin's and it's going to take them around town. So, it's going to take a lot of advertising and it's going to take a lot of word-of-mouth," Carmody said.

While the rubber can finally hit the latest stretch of the road, the final part of the project still hasn't gotten the green light.

"It's largely fueled by transportation revenues and those revenues are down at both the federal level and the state level," Vt. Transportation Secretary Brian Searles said.

Searles says Vermont has two major projects in line for funding before the tens of millions can trickle down to pay for part three of the bypass.

"We know this is our future," Searles said. "We've got to figure out a way to raise more money so that we can get everything done."

A project decades in the making that still might have a long road ahead.

Construction for the new stretch of road cost just over $70 million.

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