Windham County Economic Development--A Perspective
VT Digger today reported the Windham County Economic Development Program is up and running with funds available through a competitive application process. The program is part of the efforts at adjusting from the severe economic loss due to the closing of Vermont Yankee.
Windham County deserves an across the board economic development investments and initiatives--infrastructure, social services, education and training, urban development, etc. There are transportation investments which would make significant contributions. Perhaps first on the list is the reconstruction of Putney Road's commercial section on the drawing boards now for about a decade--replacing signals with roundabouts and providing separate walk and bike mode protected bike lanes/walkways throughout. This project, part of the Agency of Transportation supported potential projects, arose from a home grown process led by business interests in turn adopted by the Town as their own approach to strengthening retail competitiveness the nearest urban center, Keene, NH. Add the entire downtown circulation from the State's new "malfunction junction" at the base of Main Street as well as other key intersections which can be converted to mini- and regular roundabouts (Main Street's "malfunction junction" already was determined feasible and went away because of mostly political issues). Bellows Falls also deserves a serious look for renewal of its traffic circulation for upgrades. One only has to look thirty miles away in Manchester Center to see how half the 1995 plan for pedestrian circulation--in this case all of Main Street's commercial section--now is totally walkable with the State's first roundabout corridor including one which once was "malfunction junction" now proudly praised as "function junction." Yes, how one designs and improves existing commercial and retail streets can lead to an improved economy and vast improvement in the mobility of all modes! Perhaps Brattleboro and Bellows Falls could be the focus of initiating inter-city rail service extending from those two communities to Windsor/White River Jct. to the north and Ludlow/Rutland to the west utilizing self-propelled rail diesel equipment--and update the old RDC sitting in the Bellows Falls rail yard.
This is the kind of creative--not out of the box thinking--to take advantage of changing times and placing Windham County at the forefront of the new era of a sustainable and non-car-centric communities quickly emerging as the car age begins to fade from view.