Burlington's long-stalled Champlain Parkway project took a big step toward reality today.
In a 63-page ruling issued this morning, the District #4 Environmental Commission of the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources has found that the South End highway project "will not cause or result in a detriment to public health, safety or general welfare" under Act 250.
However, the commission stopped short of issuing an Act 250 permit because it is waiting for state-issued stormwater permits.
Still, the decsion is a major milestone for a project conceived 45 years ago as a four-lane, limited access highway called the "Southern Connector." At one time, the highway was slated to run alongside Lake Champlain and connect with the northern Beltline highway.
As approved (or nearly approved), the revamped Champlain Parkway is instead a two-lane, pedestrian-friendly urban boulevard that will have new trees, sidewalks, new turning lanes and crosswalks. It will finally connect the abandoned highway off I-189 with Pine Street through Burlington's South End.
A small but dedicated group of property owners have fought the project, viewing it as outdated, expensive and unnecessary. While the parkway would accomplish its goal of diverting truck traffic off residential side streets, congested intersections in a low-income neighborhood — particularly along Pine Street at Maple and King streets — would barely improve under the plan.
Allan Hunt, who lives and owns property along the parkway's route, said Friday he would reserve comment until he'd had a chance to read the Act 250 ruling. Hunt (pictured at top) has fought the project for years and hired a lawyer and traffic expert to rebut the city's engineers during Act 250 hearings last summer. Hunt, or anyone else with "party status" in the case, has 15 days to appeal the decision to state environmental court, though Hunt declined to say whether he would do so.
"The devil is in the details," Hunt said.
We'll update this post later after we've dug into those details.
Photo credit: File photo by Jordan Silverman