Champlain Parkway faces another possible permitting hurdle

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) Burlington's Champlain Parkway faces yet another possible hurdle after federal officials have rescinded a decision about the project's impact on key downtown neighborhoods.
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The project, over four decades in the making, seeks to link interstate 189 to downtown Burlington. But court documents from last month show the Federal Highway Administration rescinded a 2010 Record of Decision (ROD) pertiaining to the King/Maple Street neighborhoods.

Federal officials are mandating that the city go back and conduct more research and outreach as to how the Champlain Parkway will effect one of Burlington's poorest neighborhoods.

"Environmental justice is a criteria that says federally-funded projects cannot disproportionally impact low income or minority neighborhoods," said Steve Goodkind with the Pine Street Coalition, a group that has pushed to restructure the project.

If the current parkway design is built, traffic on Pine Street is projected to increase by about a third, impacting residents in the King and Maple Neighborhood, which has the second greatest concentration of low-income and minority residents in the city.

Goodkind, a former Burlington Publlic Works director, says getting new federal approval could be a challenge going forward. "When they look at it, I think they're going to realize that there are a lot of other things that are no longer valid anymore from the last go-around. Some of the information in the EIS that the ROD is based on -- some of that is 20 year-old stuff," he said.

But Chapin Spencer, Burlington's current DPW director remains optimistic that the project will move forward. He says its unclear if any major design changes will be needed after the collection of new population data. "From our standpoint, this project has its final design and we are doing the additional outreach that the federal highway has requested and the additional census data evaluation and we're confident that this project will proceed," he said.

It's currently unclear what determination the federal government will make when they receive the data from the King/Maple neighborhoods.

City leaders say they see a path forward where the project can be out to bid in the first half of next year.