Envision I-89 study looks to help reduce travel demand on highways

Published: Jun. 20, 2021 at 11:55 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 20, 2021 at 11:58 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - The Envision I-89 study started in May 2019 surrounding a boom in development in Chittenden County and concerns that gridlock may become more common on the interstate.

Now, the pandemic and fewer cars on the road have caused a change in the ways people are approaching driving.

The Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission is looking at different ways to improve and modernize transportation.

“We’re going to look at everything we can do to not have to expand the highway system, but it is on the table just as a last resort,” said Charlie Baker, the executive director of the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission.

Baker says they first looked into how to expand the highway system and improve interchanges and now they are looking at ways they can help reduce the travel demand on the highways. This study is looking to improve these things through the year 2050.

“What can we do as a community to reduce the need for big investments in the interstate and that will be on all of us,” Baker said. “Do more of us get on the bus, do more of us work from home or continue to work from home?”

But some are skeptical of the study. Burlington Progressive Councilor Jack Hanson says the study should focus on fewer cars on the road and looking into how people can get around without as many cars in the future and that traffic has a big impact on climate change and people who do not have access to cars.

The Burlington City Council voted to send a resolution to the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission to refocus its study more on what they can do to reduce traffic.

“I think that’s why when you’re talking about a long-term planning study and this is looking out to 2050 that we’re building that world to where folks could access employment and health care and whatever they need without needing to have a vehicle,” said Hanson, P-East District.

The planning commission says they intend to do that, especially with a changing atmosphere of more people working from home during the pandemic. However, the study will be looking at all the changing atmospheres to see what they can do to make any changes positive for the community.

“The best in terms of equity, the best in terms of addressing our climate, the best in terms of having transportation options and supporting bus service and biking and walking and the public health that comes with that,” Baker said.

Coming up this fall, the commission will do another round of engagement with the public to hear more about their ideas for a more climate-friendly future in terms of the interstate. It’s important to note that nothing has been decided on yet.

To learn more about the Envision I-89 study, click here.

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