Vergennes officials float proposal for truck bypass

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VERGENNES, Vt. (WCAX) Vermont's smallest city has a big traffic problem -- as in big rigs -- and city leaders want to do something about it.

It's the latest and perhaps the most dramatic example of what city officials in Vergennes don't want to repeat. Last week a 250,000 pound natural gas tanker got stuck on Main Street. The oversized tanker was not loaded, but it still lost it's transmission trying to get up the steep hill in the busy downtown. For three hours it caused traffic troubles.

Cory Foote, the owner of Small City Market, caught the truck lumbering up the hill on his security camera just a few yards away. "Without question, that's the biggest one we've every seen," he said.

The size is uncommon, but not the frequency of trucks that breakdown on the hill. Foote says it happens about once a month.

"My response is it's typical what we experience here in Vergennes," said Vergennes City Manager Matt Chabot.

Route 22A, the main truck corridor on the western side of Vermont goes right through his community. Chabot has a solution. He would like to see all big rigs diverted around the city.

Reporter Joe Carroll: A bypass...
Matt Chabot: For lack of a better word.

A study just released by The Addision County Planning Commission includes the bypass option, or what Chabot prefers to call an "alternate truck route." "Our preferred option is at this point is an alternate truck route around downtown Vergennes," he said.

Chabot says 800 trucks go through the city each day and 97 percent of them just go right though. The 1.6 mile project is estimated to cost $33 million. Most of it would go through agricultural land, including a bridge that would have to be built over the Otter Creek River. There would be roundabouts on both the south and north end of the city.

Chabot is optimistic the bypass will be done in the 10 to 15 year range. However, no money has been set aside for the project.