September 19, 2014

Circ draws town brass to capitol

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Macaig among officials at traffic meeting in Montpelier

June 30, 2011

By Adam White
Observer staff

Like the traffic it aims to alleviate, the Circumferential Highway project has ground to a halt – but politicians on the town and state level are determined to keep moving forward on the issue.

State representatives Terry Macaig and Jim McCullough from Williston and town manager Rick McGuire traveled to Montpelier on Tuesday to take part in a discussion with state officials about traffic issues and possible solutions. Gov. Peter Shumlin, Secretary of Transportation Brian Searles and Metropolitan Planning Organization executive director Michele Boomhower were among those who listened to input from town officials from Williston, Essex, Essex Junction and Colchester.

“The governor started by saying that … we need to do something simpler and quicker than what has been discussed in the past,” Macaig said. “He invited the towns and other interested parties … to get together in the next few weeks to start brainstorming.”

Macaig said that McGuire and other town managers will be the “key people” in organizing joint meetings between town officials and other entities, such as IBM, which have commercial interests tied to possible solutions to the area’s traffic problems. He said that an ongoing dialogue was encouraged between the towns and the Metropolitan Planning Organization, in order to pinpoint strategies to relieve traffic congestion in specific areas.

Macaig said that Gov. Shumlin did not expressly say that the Circ had been eliminated from consideration by the state. Searles opted for similar language when asked about that possibility earlier this week.

“Nothing is off the table,” Searles said. “But we have to be realistic about our options.”
Macaig said that he came away from Tuesday’s meeting with the sense that town officials were being asked to look beyond the federally approved Circ A/B Boulevard alternative at more conservative traffic solutions.

“My inference is that if the Circ and Boulevard are not dead, they are on life support,” Macaig said.

Macaig said that he was relieved at that idea, considering the potential impact that the completion of just the A Boulevard – even on a temporary basis – would have on traffic on and in the vicinity of Mountain View Rd. in Williston. Macaig said that McCullough presented an alternative idea at Tuesday’s meeting, one that he had previously discussed with Deputy Secretary of Transportation Sue Minter.

“If we built a highway to Mountain View Rd. in the area of Redmond Rd., would IBM be willing to sell its existing bridge (over the Winooski River) to the town, and create a separate, secure route around its facility?” Macaig said. “It’s an innovative idea, and Jim threw it on the table.”

Even before Tuesday’s meeting, local officials were taking action in regard to the Circ debate. Linda Meyers of the Essex Selectboard wrote a letter to other area Board chairs this week encouraging “the four impacted communities to come together and present a united response.”

“In the absence of proactive action on the part of Williston, Essex, Essex Junction and Colchester, there is a high risk that the previously earmarked future funds for the Circumferential Highway will be utilized for other purposes unrelated to the need to reduce congestion in our four communities,” Meyers wrote.

Macaig said at Monday’s Selectboard meeting that McGuire, town planner Ken Belliveau and public works director Bruce Hoar were scheduled to meet with Boomhower in early July to further discuss traffic issues in Williston and possible solutions.

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