A new twist in Burlington's road to nowhere - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

A new twist in Burlington's road to nowhere

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The Champlain Parkway, previously known as the Southern Connector, faced more than a few speed bumps during the past 50 years, not the least of which was widespread public opposition.

"It's just going to move traffic from one area of the neighborhood to the other and I don't think that's the solution," said Thea Lewis, who opposes the parkway.

Lewis, who used to work for WCAX, lives on Home Avenue, one of the streets that would be directly intersected by the Champlain Parkway.

"It really is going to impact the quality of life for me and my neighbors," she said.

The parkway is intended to solve the problem of traffic that gets backed up on Pine Street and provide a direct connection between Interstate 189 and the Burlington waterfront.

Unfortunately for Thea Lewis, the city has secured funding and received conditional approval from the state to get this project started.

"We are here today to mark, to celebrate a new consensus about the future of this part of Burlington," said Mayor Miro Weinberger, D-Burlington.

Under Act 250 law, once the city has preliminary approval they cannot add on to the project. So Weinberger proposed another project to help curb complaints from people like Lewis.

"Taken together the impact of the two is more positive than either one of them individually," Vt. Transportation Secretary Brian Searles said.

That's where the rail yard access project comes in. It's meant to connect Battery Street to Pine Street, to help relieve some traffic created by the Champlain Parkway.

"We are at the beginning of the scoping process. Numerous alternatives will be looked at during the design and scoping process," Weinberger said.

The problem with the new project? They're at square one, which means the city must get approval from the City Council and begin the environmental permitting process, which took the parkway 50 years. On top of that are a lot of unknowns.

"It's very difficult to know what the cost will be," Weinberger said.

"I'd hate to predict just how long it will take," Searles said.

Weinberger says he plans to take the project to the City Council in October and ask them to support pushing both projects forward simultaneously.

So who pays for the projects once the price tag is known? For the Champlain Parkway it's a small contribution for the city of Burlington. The federal government will cover 95 percent of that project, the state will cover 3 percent and the taxpayers 2 percent. For the new rail yard project, officials anticipate it will be 80 percent federally funded and 10 percent from both the state and public.

Click here for more stories on the Champlain Parkway.

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