Town OK

State: no promises to build anything

By Greg Elias
Observer staff

The Selectboard on Monday voted to support construction of two park-and-ride facilities in hopes that at least one will be built.

The town will send a letter to the state Agency of Transportation expressing formal support for the proposed commuter parking lots on Vermont 2A. One would be located north of Interstate 89 behind Northfield Savings Bank across from Maple Tree Place. The other would be just south of I-89.

The Selectboard in August conducted a straw poll indicating support for the pair of park-and-rides despite the fact that it had in the past opposed the location south of the interstate. The state, however, wanted a formal vote on the issue.

Andy Mikell cast the lone dissenting vote. He said after Monday’s meeting that the facility south of I-89 is the better location. He predicted few motorists would use the other site because vehicles coming off the interstate would first have to pass through several traffic lights.

But other board members have in the past opposed a park-and-ride south of the interstate amid concerns that it would create a traffic hazard near the bottom of a long hill.

With little discussion before the vote on Monday, the board apparently agreed with Town Manager Rick McGuire, who previously said that if the state pursues two park-and-rides, it might ensure at least one will be built.

The town has long lobbied for a park-and-ride to replace the one that closed more than 10 years ago. Thousands of people commute daily to Williston, a regional retail center, and Census figures show that most people who live here work elsewhere.

A park-and-ride could reduce the ever-increasing congestion around Taft Corners by promoting ride sharing and public transportation. The lot behind Northfield Savings Bank would contain roughly 50 spaces; the lot south of I-89, on the west side of Vermont 2A, would have 120 to 150 spaces.

The idea behind studying two facilities is to leave open the option of building either one or both, said Richard Tetreault, director of program development for the Agency of Transportation, in a letter to the town.

“The two projects could be studied, designed and constructed simultaneously, but independent of each other,” he wrote. “This could allow one site to move through the project development phase quicker than the other.”

But the state is not making any promises about when or even if either park-and-ride will be constructed.

“There is no guarantee both sites will make it to construction,” Tetreault wrote. “The project’s development phase will determine if both or possibly only one park-and-ride would be built.”