Observer staff report
A pair of meetings next month will give the public yet another chance to weigh in on the long-delayed Circumferential Highway.
Each session will be held on Thursday, Oct. 4. The first runs from 1-4 p.m. at the Champlain Valley Exposition in Essex Junction. The second takes place from 6:30-9:30 p.m. at Williston Central School.
The meetings are designed to gather input on a draft Environmental Impact Statement released last month. The EIS considers 11 road-building alternatives.
“The hearings are an opportunity for the public to comment on the Circ-Williston Draft EIS,” said Neale Lunderville, secretary of the Agency of Transportation, in a news release. “We will record everyone’s comments and comments will be addressed in the final EIS.”
Public officials will be given the first opportunity to speak at each session, followed by citizens in the order they sign in. To give everyone a chance to speak, oral statements will be limited to 5 minutes. Written statements of any length can be submitted at the hearing and at anytime until Nov. 8.
Both facilities are ADA accessible. Interpreters for the hearing impaired will be provided. Anyone requiring special assistance can call Jim Purdy at 1-800-735-8999, ext. 7435 to discuss additional needs.
Written comments on the EIS can be submitted by mail or e-mail. Comments can be sent to: Mr. Kenneth R. Sikora, Environmental Program Manager, Federal Highway Administration Region 1, P.O. Box 568, Montpelier, Vt. 05601. Comments also can be sent via e-mail to [email protected] or sent by fax to (802) 828-4424.
Written comments also can be sent by mail to Mr. Kenneth Robie, Project Manager, Vermont Agency of Transportation, One National Life Drive, Montpelier, Vt. 05633. Comments can be e-mailed to [email protected], or faxed to (802) 828-2437.
Comments also can be submitted through the project Web site at www.circeis.org.
As originally conceived more than 30 years ago, the Circ was a 16-mile highway running from Interstate 89 in Williston to Vermont 127 in Colchester. The Essex Junction segment of the highway opened in 2003.
Legal disputes over the remaining segments held up construction until 2004, when ground was broken on the Williston stretch. But construction was halted soon after it began when a federal judge ruled the Circ could not proceed until a new EIS was completed.
Since then, numerous public hearings have been held and the list of options narrowed down from dozens of possibilities to the current alternatives, which can be grouped into three broad categories: a limited-access highway or a boulevard along the originally planned Circ route; widening Vermont Route 2A to three or four lanes through Williston and Essex, replacing some intersections with roundabouts; or constructing a hybrid that uses parts of each approach.
The draft EIS analyzes the impact of each road-building alternative, looking at each option’s effect on traffic, the environment and the economy.
Reading the study, however, poses a challenge for citizens who want to be well-informed. The EIS contains thousands of pages in eight thick binders and three oversize books of maps and traffic reports. An executive summary, which runs only a couple of dozen pages, provides an overview.
Copies of the study are available at public libraries, including Dorothy Alling Library on U.S. 2 in Williston Village. The study can also be downloaded at www.circeis.org. A free CD-ROM containing the study can be obtained by contacting Sikora and Robie at the above addresses.