By Greg Elias
The Vermont Agency of Transportation will hold a meeting Wednesday to gather public input on the proposed Circumferential Highway segment linking Williston and Essex.
The meeting will be held Wednesday, March 16 at Williston Town Hall. It is scheduled to run from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.
The session is one of three to be held this week regarding a new Environmental Impact Statement. The new study was required after a coalition of environmental groups filed suit to halt construction of the segment, and a federal judge ruled that the state was required to complete a new EIS.
Under the EIS process, the state is required to look at all options and assess the effect the proposed highway will have on the environment.
U.S. District Court Judge William Sessions in May ruled that construction of the Circ Highway must be halted until a new EIS is completed.
Last month, some of the same environmental groups that sued proposed a pair of alternatives to building the Circ. One plan by the group, which calls itself the Smart Growth Collaborative, included widening Vermont Route 2A and replacing traffic lights with a series of roundabouts; the other involved using the roundabout plan and adding construction of a surface street that would run along the proposed route of the Circ Highway.
State transportation officials vow that they will consider all alternatives to the Circ, despite the fact that Gov. Jim Douglas promised to clear bureaucratic hurdles and get the Circ built as originally conceived when he ran for governor in 2002.
“The Circ-Williston EIS is a fresh look at transportation needs and deficiencies in the area” said Transportation Secretary Dawn Terrill in a media release. "These meetings will provide anyone interested in the project the ability to directly and personally engage in the process. We invite people to attend these sessions so they can become active in shaping the study."
Transportation officials say the alternatives they may consider would include but are not limited to: the previous Circumferential Highway design; strategies to better manage transportation demand; improving public transportation services; and improving existing infrastructure. Design variations and combinations of potential alternatives will also be studied, as appropriate.
The other scheduled Circ meetings will be held Tuesday, March 15 at Browns River Middle School in Jericho and on Thursday, March 17 at Burlington City Hall. Both meetings begin at 6:30 p.m.
The public is invited to show up at any time during the meetings. There will be a 15-minute presentation on the EIS from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. at each session.
For information on the Circ Highway and the Environmental Impact Statement, visit www.circeis.org.
More information on the alternatives proposed by the Vermont Smart Growth Collaborative is available at www.vtsprawl.org/Initiatives/sgcollaborative/VSGC_circ_alternatives_main.htm.