New roadblock for Champlain Parkway?

Published: Aug. 20, 2019 at 4:15 PM EDT
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Another potential detour for Burlington's long-planned Champlain Parkway. And this time it's coming from the federal government, which will pay for most of the work.

Our Roger Garrity has the latest on the so-called Road to Nowhere.

The road project linking Interstate 189 to downtown Burlington has been on the drawing board since the 1960s, previously known as the Southern Connector. At long last, the city says construction on the latest version of the road is ready to begin this year. But there is still a lawsuit pending from residents who want the project scrapped or at least redesigned.

And now, the Federal Highway Administration has agreed to revisit the environmental impacts of the project.

One section of the Champlain Parkway was built in the 1980s. It's unused and overgrown because the project stalled. A rerouted and scaled-down version of the road eventually cleared all of the planning, permitting and funding hurdles.

But there remains a legal hurdle-- a lawsuit from the Pine Street Coalition. They argue much has changed in the neighborhood since the last environmental review a decade ago.

"That is substantially impacted negatively by the current design. With new signals, it's going to increase traffic. It's going to increase traffic speeds, increase unsafety for pedestrians and generally make life miserable for that King and Maple Street area," said Tony Redington of the Pine Street Coalition.

The Federal Highway Administration, which is a defendant in the lawsuit, voluntarily re-examined the environment impact. Specifically, one of the criteria that deals with economic justice and how the project might impact the low-income residents at the northern end of the road around King and Maple streets.

The feds have asked for 90 days to complete that analysis before the lawsuit moves forward.

Federal, state and city officials have given every indication that they believe they will win the case, allowing the Parkway to be built. But it's possible the judge could order an entirely new environmental impact study, which could delay the project for many more years.