Circ Task Force takes a hit from storm

Town planner: improvements likely to be de-prioritized

Sept. 8, 2011

By Adam White

Observer staff

Williston Planning Commission members (left to right) Shannon Hiltner, Meghan Cope and Jake Mathon listen during a meeting on Tuesday as town planner Ken Belliveau (not pictured) gives a report on progress made by the Circ Highway Alternative Task Force during the past month. (Observer photo by Adam White)

Local traffic issues in the area have been sent on another detour — this one courtesy of Mother Nature.

Williston town planner Ken Belliveau told the Planning Commission at its meeting on Tuesday that the infrastructure damage from Tropical Storm Irene has necessitated a re-prioritization of traffic improvement projects and goals. Belliveau said that while progress had been made at three meetings of the Circ Highway Alternatives Task Force during the previous months, the storm’s toll has caused a necessary shift in focus away from improvements.

“Barring some big pot of money raining down from the sky … we’re probably not going to see a lot of other transportation money for projects in Vermont,” Belliveau said. “All these roads and bridges taken out by the storm will rise to the top of (Vermont’s) priority.”

Belliveau said that conversations with Michelle Boomhower — executive director of the Metropolitan Planning Organization and chair of the Task Force — and other officials have indicated that even the most basic time frames for improvements will now have to be reexamined.

“(The Task Force) started out categorizing projects according to a three-tiered system: short, medium and long-term,” Belliveau said. “Short term was originally described as shovel-ready by spring of 2012; that is probably not going to be the case now.”

Prior to the storm hitting Vermont, the Task Force had reportedly begun targeting potential short-term projects to improve traffic flow around Williston, including alterations to existing infrastructure along Vermont 2A in the vicinity of its intersections with James Brown Dr. and Industrial Ave. Representatives from other towns were also weighing in with their short lists of desired improvements.

“With each successive meeting, knives were getting a little sharper and people were digging into their respective positions a little deeper,” Belliveau said.

Belliveau said that he had also raised the question to Boomhower about exploring the construction of the “B” boulevard – from the existing section of Vermont 289 south, across the Winooski River to Mountain View Rd. — before building the “A” section directly to the south. That question was originally raised at a planning commission meeting by member Mike Alvanos.

The Task Force postponed its next meeting, scheduled for Sept. 15, for two weeks. With the issue of traffic improvements on pause, the Planning Commission spent some time reworking language in the town’s comprehensive plan that pertains to the relationship between the Circ alternatives and a potential regional landfill on Redmond Rd.

The Selectboard sent a revision back to the Commission, after Chris Roy recommended that two instances of the word “should” be replaced with “shall,” in order to strengthen the town’s stance that it would only support the regional landfill project if “there are transportation facilities necessary to support the levels of truck traffic generated” by it.

Acting Planning commission chairman Jake Mathon proposed further language changes to reinforce that stance, resulting in the omission of the word “anticipate” from a section of the plan addressing Circ alternatives acceptable to the town.

“Anticipating a problem is not the same thing as addressing it,” Mathon said.

Alvanos raised the question about whether Williston’s interests are further protected by language in the Plan pertaining to its Host Town Agreement with Chittenden Solid Waste District in regard to the construction of a regional landfill. Belliveau pointed out that Section 7.7.2 of the Plan requires the CSWD to “enter into a Host Town Agreement prior to locating or operating any new or expanded solid waste facilities in Williston.”

“If they have to engage in a new Host Town Agreement and we strengthen this language, I feel pretty good,” Alvanos said.

Belliveau later reviewed a schedule of upcoming meetings, and highlighted a Circ alternatives public information meeting scheduled for Oct. 4 at Williston Central School. He said that meeting was moved to Williston to accommodate the Planning Commission’s regularly scheduled meeting on the same night, with the fortuitous result being that townspeople could have more of a voice in the examination of potential future improvements.

“It will give us an opportunity to hear what folks are thinking about,” Belliveau said.