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Champlain Pkwy. opponents seek injunction to stop June construction

Published: May. 10, 2022 at 6:19 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - After decades in the works, the city of Burlington has the go-ahead to begin construction of the Champlain Parkway in late June. But a group of longtime opponents says they’ll go to federal court next week in a last-ditch effort to throw up a roadblock.

What once was known as the Southern Connector highway back in the 1970s, is now dubbed the Champlain Parkway, a two-lane, 25 mph city street designed to move traffic from 1-89 through the South End to downtown.

“At long last, it’s here and ultimately it’ll be a good thing for the city,” said Rebecca Sears of Burlington, a neighbor of the future parkway.

“It’s not something I’ve expected to see in my lifetime and yet I’m still here. I never expected it to be dragged out this long,” said Marie Boisvert, a resident on Briggs Street, the terminus of the project.

The Pine Street Coalition is among groups that have opposed the project, saying the concept is ill-conceived, outdated, and likely to transfer traffic issues from the South End to the Maple and King Street neighborhoods. The coalition’s Tony Redington says they have proposed alternatives. “If there was an agreement among the parties in the community, we could make these changes,” he said.

The group filed a lawsuit in 2019 for an updated full-scope environmental review. Redington says a major concern is the impact of the project on one of the poorest and most diverse parts of the city. “That’s an overburdened community of color, and we would argue also low income, lowest median income neighborhood of the city,” he said.

Redington says the group plans to file an amended complaint next week which will include new concerns about pedestrian safety and bicycle access, hoping a court injunction will stop construction.

Burlington Public Works Director Chapin Spencer says they’ll review the motion when it arrives but that they expect to move forward with the late June start date. “We’ve had six previous legal challenges from the same litigants and the city has been successful in every one of those,” he said. Spencer says the pedestrian and biking infrastructure will be robust and they decided to phase in South End construction projects to ease traffic concerns. “Once we finished these five to six large projects in the South End, there will be less traffic in the King and Maple neighborhood than there is today.”

The project has met with mixed reactions from neighbors who have been watching it for years. “I think ultimately it’s going to alleviate traffic on Pine Street and just provide a really nice gateway into downtown,” Sears said.

“It’s going to create worse traffic in this neighborhood, even worse than we have now,” said Jiro Blanco, who lives in the neighborhood of Briggs Street.

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