On February 1, 2017, DPW Director Chapin Spencer provided Council with a progress report on the plans for the Champlain Parkway. (Download Here)
What’s missing is a financial discussion of two scenarios: The first is the City’s plan for the immediate development of the parkway plus the City-borne cost of subsequent improvements mentioned in the letter. The second is the cost to all participants–city, state, and federal government–of the Pine Street Coalition’s (PSC) plan. Spencer doesn’t lay this out, despite admitting that the City plan is faulty, because he can’t anticipate the response of VTrans and the feds as to sharing past and future costs. But this open question should be clearly stated and made a point of discussion, with the community deciding whether they want to take the chance that a better road now might mean more or less immediate cost.
His citation of suggested improvements from the public is grossly limited. Nowhere is PSC’s key demand that C2 be scrapped, Briggs and Batchelder improved as complete streets, and the right of way already purchased between Home and Lakeside used instead to improve the Englesby Brook ravine and add two acres of light manufacturing facilities to the Enterprise Zone. Immediate savings from not building C2 are estimated at $11 million. Add in job and tax benefits from deepening our infrastructure in support of high tech and design incubators in the acres saved from C2 pavement, you significantly change the cost/benefit conversation.
Chapin Spenser’s letter treats opening the parkway at Pine as a major change calling for a new EIS. But hold on, it is already open! There’d be no change in that regard, just a roundabout intersection added that would be directly connected to the Interstate as well as to So. Burlington. The only change is conceptual; the City would have to scrap its designation of this roadway as a “limited access highway” Conceptual inflexibility seems to be the problem. Nor is there any explanation as to why for 25 years C1 was left unopened and trucks from the Industrial Park were allowed to erode the quality of life on Home and Flynn Avenues. There’s a mea culpa due there, certainly.
The City is using their usual tactic of 1) saying the decision is already made; 2) implying high costs to change without providing the figures; 3) ignoring both the costs of having failed to open C1 for 25 years and the opportunity cost of paving 4 acres along the C2 route. Oh, and saying that the state and the federal government have boxed in the City. But PSC met with Sen. Dick Mazza, Chair of the Senate Committee on Transportation, who told us that the ball was in the City’s court. He’d facilitate Burlington conferring with our state and federal partners with the goal of working out a design that meets residents real needs. These are immediately removing Industrial Parkway truck traffic from Home and Flynn; complete streets safe from bikes and walkers; saving $11 million on construction costs; enhancing our tax base in the Enterprise Zone with new space, preserving connectivity at Pine; and enhancing Englesby Brook as an environmental asset.
The ball is in the City’s court. The public needs to weigh in and see that the right decisions are made. I will if you vote me onto the City Council.
-Charles Simpson, Progressive Party Candidate for City Council, Ward 6