Champlain Parkway Opponents Threaten to Derail Burlington Project | 802 Much | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Champlain Parkway Opponents Threaten to Derail Burlington Project

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The proposed route of the Champlain Parkway - GRAPHIC BY JOHN JAMES
  • Graphic By John James
  • The proposed route of the Champlain Parkway

When officials first dreamed up Burlington's Champlain Parkway in 1965, Lyndon B. Johnson was president, no man had set foot on the moon and Bernie Sanders was living in New York City.

The 2.3-mile stretch of road through the city's South End is finally scheduled for construction in 2019, but a group of activists wants to halt the project and redesign it.

The Pine Street Coalition argues that the environmental review of the project is too outdated to take into account the needs of bikers, walkers and a thriving business community. The review, completed in 2010, is "stale, obsolete and invalid," said Tony Redington, a member of the coalition who said he's opposed the project since 2000.

The group members outlined their objections at a Tuesday press conference, where they displayed a series of detailed posters of Burlington zoning districts, maps of the project's environmental impacts and more than 60 printed pictures showing changes to the South End since the 2010 environmental study.

The coalition also sent an inch-thick stack of papers to city, state and federal officials demanding that the federal government conduct a new environmental review. If the Federal Highway Administration or the State of Vermont doesn't respond within 90 days, the group plans to file a lawsuit in federal court.

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger, for his part, isn't having any of it.

"The time for debate, amendment and appeal has long passed," he said in a statement. The parkway, intended to connect Interstate 189 to downtown Burlington, is expected to cost about $43 million — 95 percent of which is federal, 3 percent state and 2 percent local. 

Among the coalition members is Steve Goodkind, a former director of Burlington's Department of Public Works, who said he oversaw the project plans for 15 years. He said the parkway would "restrict commercial development." Another group member, Charles Simpson, was more blunt: The current design, if built, would send the city's vibrant South End tech and art sectors into a "death spiral," he said.

And if the project is held up for another few years — or decades? Redington shrugged. "We want to do it right," he said.

Correction, April 5, 2018: A previous version of this story misattributed a quote to Steve Goodkind.

The original print version of this article was headlined "Endless Highway"

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