Improving Travel – Post Circ Highway

Feb 1, 2013 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

Vermont keeps working on better ways for people and goods to get where they need to go. The threats from climate change and the high cost of maintaining our travel ways mean we need to be smarter and greener.

In 2011 Vermont’s Governor Peter Shumlin announced that the Circ Highway – an expensive, polluting and ill-conceived highway project outside Burlington — would not be built as planned. In its place a Task Force would work on solutions that won’t bust the budget or foul our air and water.

Over the past year a good part of that work looked at targeted improvements in the immediate Circ area. The result is a study of the network . With this are recommendations that were just adopted by the Task Force to move forward with making improvements to some existing roadways in and around Williston.

A public meeting will be held on Tuesday, February 5, 2013 from 7:30 – 9:00 PM at Williston Town Hall, with a presentation of the findings of the study and the recommendations. The meeting is hosted by the Williston Planning Commission. Refreshments will be served.

CLF has been mostly pleased with this work and encouraged that new and more effective solutions are moving forward. As we noted in comments to the group, a bigger role for transit and roundabouts could cut costs and pollution further.

Come learn about new projects and let the transportation officials working on these projects know what you think.

Costly New Highways, or Clean Alternatives: Vermonters Must Choose

Apr 26, 2012 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

Does this look like fun? Vermonters are spending more time driving than ever before. We need clean, efficient alternatives. Credit: Little Miss Sunshine.

Are you tired of traffic, taxes and time pollution? I don’t know about you, but spending quality time with my family is not spending it either driving kids around from place to place or being stuck somewhere in a traffic jam.  And it is no surprise to me that others have found that long commutes are harmful to your health and happiness.

With $4 per gallon gasoline and transportation being the biggest source of global warming pollution in Vermont, we need better solutions, solutions that save our environment, our health and our pocketbooks.

With the cancellation of the Circ Highway – an expensive, ill-conceived, outdated and polluting new roadway around Burlington, Vermont – there are good opportunities to invest in better ways to get around:  ways that won’t cause more Moms and Dads to spend more useless hours in a car driving kids from place to place. Progress so far looks promising.

Cancelling the Circ has freed up funds for other, more worthy projects.  In place of the Circ, communities and transportation officials are now moving forward projects like the Crescent Connector in Essex Junction.  This $3,000,000 project near Five Corners will provide the same amount of traffic relief to this area as the Circ at a fraction (one-twentieth) of the cost.

  • Nearer to Burlington, a transit hub is being considered that will allow motorists to park nearer the city and the switch to bikes or busses to get into and around the city.
  • The Circ Alternative Task Force is considering longer term solutions as well that will likely include improving existing roadways, building new bikeways and transit centers and keeping our transportation dollars closer to our daily activities.

This is all good news for our sanity and for bolstering economic development. Real estate values increase in areas where daily activities are within walking distance.

In place of traffic jams, people have more opportunities to get around and get what they need without using their cars. Waiting for someone or something can include a visit to a restaurant or gym or picking up the groceries or dry cleaning. It’s no longer Mom or Dad sitting solo in the car waiting for the dance lesson to end. It’s reducing air pollution, time pollution, while saving money, our health and our sanity.

The Wheels on the Bus go ZOOM ZOOM ZOOM!

Jan 11, 2011 by  | Bio |  1 Comment »

Let’s say you are a state agency tasked with making a tough choice on how to spend your money.  Your options are:

a.      Spend $150 million on widening 9 miles of highway despite the fact that volume has waned;

b.      Spend $56 million on building another toll booth;

c.       Spend $3.8 million on expanding an existing, highly successful bus service that will benefit thousands of commuters.

Did I mention that you have to do this all while complying with a state law that requires you to give preference to existing systems and other transportation modes (such as bus transit) prior to increasing highway capacity through road building activities?   The obvious answer here is (c), expanding bus service, specifically the ZOOM bus service that is operated by the Maine Turnpike Authority.

Currently, the ZOOM bus runs a limited service between Portland, Biddeford and Saco.  The primary hubs are Park & Ride lots, if you’ve driven by those lots, you will see they are chock full.  Those crammed lots are a glowing testament to the resounding success of the ZOOM.

In an effort to build on that success, last year the Maine Alliance for Sustainable Transportation approached the Authority to see if it would consider expanding the bus service up to Lewiston and Augusta.  Along the way, West Falmouth, Gray, Sabbatus and Auburn would finally get much needed access to public transit.  But the Authority remained convinced that answers (a) and (b) were right.   After all, highway widening remains a popular solution to just about any transportation problem, despite the fact that, time after time, massive multi-million dollar widening projects only result in more traffic and more congestion. [the fact is, these roads never pay for themselves via tolls or otherwise.]

Does Portland really need another highway widening?

No, and the numbers prove it:

But transit advocates, CLF among them, were not dissuaded.   We found a savvy supporter in Representative Bradley Moulton, a newly elected Republican, who decided to sponsor the ZOOM bus bill, known formally as “An Act to Expand Fiscally Responsible Transportation Through Increased ZOOM Bus Service.”

And fiscally responsible it is.  Not only for the average commuter struggling with rising gas prices, but in the broader context of how Maine decides to spend money on transportation.  The days of subsidized highway widening projects are over.  With the fiscal belt tightening, now is a good time to make some smart decisions on transit.  The ZOOM bus goes a long way towards accomplishing that goal.

Bridging the gap between walkers, bikers, riders and drivers on Longfellow Bridge

Jan 3, 2011 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

Boston’s iconic Longfellow Bridge serves as a poster child for public transit. Every few minutes, the bridge transports Red Line commuters between Boston and Cambridge, affording its passengers a breathtaking view of the Charles River and Boston skyline– and the parallel lanes of bumper-to-bumper vehicle traffic that the speeding train leaves in its wake. While that’s a positive situation for MBTA riders, it’s a dangerous one for the rest of the city’s commuters who don’t cross the bridge by car– cyclists and pedestrians.

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) Highway Division had released plans to rebuild the historic bridge as is. In May 2010, CLF advocated for an alternative plan that would make the bridge more bike and pedestrian-friendly. In response to CLF’s call to action, MassDOT created the Longfellow Bridge Rehabilitation Task Force, which recently released its recommendations on what alternatives should be included in the project’s Environmental Assessment to submit to the Federal Highway Administration.

Last week, CLF submitted written comments to the Administrator of the Highway Division at the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) in response to those recommendations. In a letter to MasDOT Highway Division Administrator Luisa Paiewonsky, CLF explained that to comply with federal and state law, MassDOT should include at least one strong alternative plan for presentation and analysis that retains the current structure of the bridge throughout while altering its traffic pattern so that only one lane exists in both directions with a two-lane release into Charles Circle on the Boston side. Such an alternative would uphold the structural and architectural integrity of the bridge, help the state reach its health and greenhouse gas emission reduction goals and improve safety for bikers and pedestrians.

Learn more about what CLF is doing the improve transportation alternatives in communities throughout New England.

Circ Highway – Environmental Review Released

Jul 21, 2010 by  | Bio |  1 Comment »

On July 20, transportation agencies completed the Final Environmental Impact Statement for Vermont’s Circ Highway.  The planned project would be an expensive new boulevard roadway outside of Burlington, Vermont.  The project is a poor public investment and a subsidy for sprawl.

Costing over $60 million dollars, saving only 4 minutes of travel time, limiting public transportation options, destroying irreplaceable farmland and wetlands while providing less congestion relief in Essex compared to improving existing roads is simply a bad idea.

Join CLF in calling for sensible transporation solutions, NOT more crowded roads and more pollution.  Submit comments online by August 27, 2010 or attend a public hearing:

Public Hearings will be August 9 & 10:

Monday August 9th 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. @ Williston Central School Auditorium -195 Central School Drive, Williston

Tuesday August 10th 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. @ Champlain Valley Exposition-105 Pearl Street, Essex Junction

See CLF’s website for more information and sample comments.