Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Champlain Parkway Comments Responding to City/VT/Federal Highway Administration Environmental Justice Outreach

  Some Individual Comments Submitted to the City of Burlington/Vermont 
             Agency  of Transportation/Federal Highway Administration 
                   in  Response to the Champlain Parkway    
         Environmental Justice “Outreach Meeting” on September 26, 2019  

1.  Carolyn Bates
2.  James Lockridge
3.  Diane Eliott Gayer
  4.  Mark Hughes
5.  Michael Long
6.  Jack Daggitt
7.  Charles Simpson
8.  Tony Redington
9.  Marcy Kass

1.  Carolyn Bates, Carolyn Street, Burlington

My name is Carolyn L. Bates and I use to live and work directly in the King and Maple St. neighborhood. Now I live and work: (my business, Carolyn L. Bates Photography) on Caroline Street, just around the corner. I have continued to work with clients in the King and Maple St Neighborhood, and spend pleasurable time at Perkins Pier. I have always been a low income, woman owned business.  I am now a senior, too.

I am writing you to share my great distress with the present design of the Champlain Parkway Project that is proposed for our neighborhoods and with an urgent need to move this project along. Now this project must undergo an environmental justice review. This means the project planners must show that the project will not have a disproportionate impact on low income and minority neighborhoods like mine.

I think it does have a horrifically huge discrepancy and impact. This project must be stopped NOW, and never go forward.  Look at your own projected chart on the volume of traffic in the multi page handout you gave to us.  It is on Pg  27.  Wealthy neighborhoods have a reduction of 72% and 56% in traffic.  Lakeside, with some low income people, has an increase in 9%.

Our neighborhood of King and Maple, has 37% increase at Maple St and Pine and another 22% on King and Pine. It is the second poorest neighborhood in Burlington, with 200 section 8 people, and at least 21
housing projects. It also has a huge population of non-English speaking African Americans.  

DPW of Burlington held one, poorly announced meeting, where we could make comments but not ask questions about the large confusing displays of the parkway design.  And then you are not allowing other meeting though many of us asked for one. It was held outside of the neighborhood at dinner time.  Only two families from the African American group were able to come.  You are allowing less than two weeks to reach out to those people who would have liked to come to a neighborhood meeting, and tell them what we can and get them to make comments.   This is the first time since the early 2006-2010 we have been able to comment.    

As the enclosed chart on page 27  shows, the King (22%) and Maple St (37%) neighborhood will see way over a one third increase in traffic while other neighborhoods will see their traffic drop by more than half (ie 72% and 56%).  To me, this clearly shows the incredibly huge violation of      the principles of environmental justice.

This increased traffic will cause an enormous increase in heavy pollution and noise  (people today can’t open their windows in the summer because of the existing pollution nor enjoy sitting outside and playing with their children).  Today traveling up and down Pine St is impossible much of the time.  Buses are stuck in the same traffic as cars.  The safety and health is already eroding.  And YOU want to build a highway exit here?  And make it totally impossible for anyone to live here safely.  There are HUGE apartments here, too.
My summary, very similar to others, so we stay within the boundaries of this review:
With regards to the environmental justice review by the Federal Justice Department of the Champlain Parkway as it is designed today. I believe that it is totally unfair to decrease the traffic in other neighborhoods while greatly increasing it in ours (ie King and Maple St Neighborhood) with this project. We do not need more traffic. The impact will be intolerable. We already are impacted too much with the traffic we have. We are low income, section 8, seniors, disabled, minority people generally living in small spaces with lots of other people.  We need our outside air CLEAN, noise levels REDUCED, and travel IMPROVED and SAFER.  We need A SAFE separate bike and pedestrian pathway so we can travel easily in our wheelchairs to buy groceries, bike quickly to work, and visit friends. We want to improve our lives, and health.  And the present parkway as designed will only destroy what little we have left now.  The injustice is beyond unfair.  The impact overwhelming for the King and Maple St Neighborhood.

I am aghast that you all have needed the Pine St Coalition to challenge you on the fairness of this, in order to get you to STOP and hopefully LISTEN to us and STOP THE PARKWAY from being built as designed.

It is so blatantly unfair and unjust to put this HUGE UNJUST IMPACT into my friends and clients and all the new non-English speaking families lives and everyone else’s in this neighborhood.  Especially to all of the CHILDREN.  

What we really need is a road far safer than you have designed, with roundabouts, reduction in noise, cleaner, safer, faster, easier with very safe and separate walk and bike paths from the southern end of Burlington into downtown. Having Electric small buses that run every 15 minutes so we can all leave our cars behind would be wonderful.  Please do it this way instead.  This way we can regain the 6 acres of land we gave up a long time ago and rebuild the houses and businesses we had before, and make Englesby Brook clean, and into a park to enjoy by all instead of sticking it into a 200 ft enclosure, and move  Burlington into the Future instead of sending it back to the 1960’s

2.  James Lockridge, Maple Street, Burlington 

I’d like to offer a public comment to the Champlain Parkway project in Burlington as a resident of lower King Street. 

I’m disappointed that the protected bike/pedestrian path ends at Kilburn Street and does not extend into the King/Maple neighborhood. I was told at the public meeting that this design decision was made to preserve on-street parking. I feel that this prioritizes a taxpayer-funded entitlement of free parking for people who can afford cars over the basic safety of all neighborhood children on bicycles. I perceive this as a shallow politically motivated decision rather than one built on values of improving the safety of transportation for all. 

I also wish there were roundabout-style intersections at King and Maple Streets, which keep polluting vehicles moving past homes rather than idling in front of them, and are known to be safer than traffic lights for pedestrians. If any kind of roundabout fit into those intersections, it would be closer to best practices for transportation safety and neighborhood wellbeing than old fashioned traffic lights would be.

Thank you for accepting these comments into the record.

3.  Diane Eliott Gayer

I am responding to a request for comments on the Parkway that are due by today.

I have been involved in the community conversations, as well as studied and reviewed the engineered designs as they’ve come out of the decades and current years.  I have led community-wide charrettes for the neighborhoods surrounding the Pine Street area (both 3-years ago and twenty-years ago) as an architect and regional planner.

So here are my comments: There needs to be a new EIS study.  The conditions that the engineering and landscape design are based on have dramatically changed.  There are any traffic and environmental conditions that will be worse with this current plan.

1. Do NOT dead-end Pine Street at South Burlington.  Make the connection to 189 a roundabout facility.

2. Continue the street network in the south end especially at Batchelder.  A grid of street is much friendlier on a neighborhood than thoroughfares. 

3. Do NOT design the Parkway for high-speed clearances and then post it for low-speed travel.  This does not work and is not proper engineering standards.

4. End the Parkway at Flynn Avenue.  Do not extend it across Englesby Brook, just to dead-end it at Lakeside instead… forcing a right-turn and difficulty for Lakeside Resident access.

5. Develop a coherent plan for King and Maple Streets before shoving more traffic through the intersections. Publicly proposed (and used elsewhere in Burlington as traffic-calming measures) is a one-way loop from Pine to Main and back again on South Champlain…. creating half the traffic in each direction as it flows thru.

6. Impact of stormwater flow and sewer line connectivity are still troublesome in this area and these are not being addressed by the City as part of this project, to my knowledge.  Which means that the project does not meet Livable City standards (which Burlington claims) or Stormwater Management Permit conditions.  This is a failure of the current plan and could be mitigated with a proper EIS.  No doing so is legally actionable.

7. Thinking to the future, the pattern of residential and industrial/business uses in the South End has changed over the last 20 years. The Parkway was not designed to address the new uses and street functionality needs that are building up within the area.  The old concept was to  get trucks and cars speedily into Burlington’s center… now it's a layering of increasing local traffic (including festivals), many fewer trucks headed for Burlington (down to 4%), and commuter traffic (both bike and car).

Please take into account these and many other comments you receive.  It is our money after all that you are spending.

Thank you for your time,
Diane Elliott Gayer, Burlington , VT

4.  Mark Hughes, ED, Justice For All Coordinator, Vermont Racial Justice Alliance

This memo is in directed to you out of serious concern surrounding the community engagement process and and the fatally flawed environmental justice review of Champlain Parkway Project. We find it difficult to believe that this $47M highway construction project is moving towards implementation, given this new plan to route traffic across Pine Street, directly through the Maple/King Street neighborhood, the most racially diverse community in Burlington, save the Old North End! We feel that communities of color should have been afforded sufficient opportunity to be a part of discussions on this matter. 
Further, it is unacceptable that draconian environmental justice processes are being used as a part of the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement on a project with such far-reaching implications.  It is our hope that this project is brought an immediate and indefinite halt that serious consideration may be given to the vast racial demographic and socioeconomic changes happening in Burlington since these plans began and the adverse and disproportionate impact that this project has on one of the most diverse and socioeconomically disadvantaged communities in Burlington. 
Most disturbing is that this project blatantly protects white affluent communities at the expense of the health and prosperity of black and brown and poor communities (traffic, pollution and property values).  It ignores the fact that the superfund site exists because of the white capitalist greed and is complicit at best in the unwillingness to do what so clearly best for all in addressing the mitigation of the superfund site in conjunction with (or as a condition for) this project. Instead of cleaning the site, the decision has been made instead to run a highway through the middle of the second most diverse community in Burlington? This is wrong. 
As the racial demographics of our State continue to change, we owe it to ourselves both morally and economically to create and maintain an environment where the black, brown people and poor are safe and made to be able to prosper. We can do better and we must do it now. Stop the project and include the impacted community in planning.
Mark Hughes, ED, Justice For All, Coordinator, Vermont Racial Justice Alliance 

5.  Michael Long, Brookes Avenue, Burlington 
With regard to the Champlain Parkway design as proposed, the projected one third increase in traffic through the King Street/Maple Street neighborhood  is incongruous and unacceptable for a project that is ostensibly intended to alleviate traffic congestion, particularly through residential neighborhoods.  That this new road will degrade the status quo instead of improve upon it in this economically challenged neighborhood is especially onerous and embarrassing even.  It’s reminiscent of the common practice of bisecting city neighborhoods on the “wrong-side-of-the-tracks” when the intestate system was routed through urban areas years ago. 
We should know and care more about environmental justice by now.  Do we?
Additionally this project is outdated as designed.  State of the art from decades gone by will not serve the future well.  Continuous protected and dedicated bike lanes should be a given as should safe roundabouts instead of obsolete signaled intersections.  
A 20th century road is senseless when we’re nearly two decades into the 21st century already.  
6.  Jack Daggitt, St. Paul St., Burlington
October 1, 2019

This letter is in response to the Champlain Parkway Outreach Meeting held September 28 at Burlington City Hall.  This meeting was the first chance for public comment since 2006 and may be the last so it's important that aspects of the project be thoroughly considered now. 

If a street connecting Shelburne Road and Lakeside Avenue is opened up it is foolish to think motorists will observe a 25 MPH speed limit on a smooth freshly paved surface.  Without roundabouts at critical intersections we can only expect increased speed, air pollution and danger to both bicycles and pedestrians. 

Shared use facilities for both bicycles and pedestrians serve the needs of neither.  Bicycle need protected bike lanes not just a white stripe on a road heavily traveled by motor vehicles. 

Pedestrians ned a safe walkway separate from bicycles especially now tha E-bikes capable of 20 MPH will be coming into increased use. 

At one point Briggs Street, Champlain Parkway and Pine Street all run parallel north and south within a few hundred feet of each other.  This is an unnecessary and wasteful duplication.

My wife and I live in the King Street/Maple Street neighborhood and the latest iteration of the Champlain Parkway will have a negative impact on our health and safety.  This also applies to the low income neighborhood families that are served by the King Street Center directly across from our home and the laundromat down the street.  

The present version of the Champlain Parkway and its 2009 EIS is outdated and obsolete.  It ignores environmental concerns and the impact on low income families.  It should be abandoned or redesigned and an antirely new EIS developed to reflect the needs and laws now prevailing.  The cost of this project is great enough that we should take the time to get it right.

Jack Daggitt, 161 St. Paul Street #103, Burlington, VT  05401  802-540-0760

7.  Charles Simpson, 83 Summit St., Burlington


I hope you are carefully considering the analysis made by the Pine Street Coalition titled Champlain Parkway Change Analysis, dated 3/30/18. It is trenchant. Let me add my own thoughts.

Considering major changes have occurred to the South End since 2009, a new EIS is required before any construction of the Parkway is contemplated. Why?

1) New USDOT requirements include consideration of disproportionate impact on low-income and racial minority populations. The planned route will dump considerably more vehicles than at present into the Pine/Maple/King area which is well above city averages for those over 65, for racial minorities, and for low-to-moderate income residents. Because Decker Towers houses a large concentration of low income and physically challenged residents, this is of special concern. We know that in the last 8 years, pedestrian use of Pine Street has doubled as it has evolved into an arts, restaurant, and enterprise zone. Because the profile of nearby residents includes lower income and physically handicapped people, this means that the old, those on electric wheel chairs, young families with toddlers, and cyclists would be competing for the use of the same shared-use paths for much on Pine, clearly a dangerous design in violation of USDOT regulations.

2) As we face torrential rain episodes that stress the capacity of our rivers and wetlands to absorb and redirect surface water, the current plan would squander the ability of Englesby Brook to mitigate flooding by channeling 200 ft. of it into a culvert under the planned expressway, accelerating its flow and associated erosion and lake contamination. Rather than exploit the potential of this riparian channel as a safe pathway to Champlain Elementary School, as a natural area, and as a rain garden slowing and absorbing surface water, the Parkway paves much of it over with an impermeable surface. In an era of climate emergency, this is unconscionable.

3) Our Municipal Plan calls for complete streets, which include not only separate and distinct bike and pedestrian paths, but street connectivity. The current plan for the parkway adds zero separate paths and creates dead ends on numerous streets that are now connected. The most significant of these truncated streets is the main commercial thoroughfare of the South End itself, Pine Street. This will deprive residents of essential access to the adjacent commercial district in South Burlington, including low income residents in South Meadow and will further congest Shelburne Road, making it the sole route out of the South End. Buses and emergency vehicles will be greatly limited in their routes as well as walkers, bikers, and drivers. Commercial routes from Pine Street will be cut off. This makes no sense and is retrogressive from a traffic planning perspective.

4) Recent history tells us that Briggs street and the surrounding area floods with heavy rain. This area is also the site of significant commercial investment, with City Market and Petra Cliffs. Rather than solve the flooding problem, the City has continued with their "wait and see" approach, neither upgrading the road or even paving it. Other than in parkland, Briggs may be the only dirt road left in the city, even as a large retail food store was construct on it at Flynn Ave. Why? The City is replicating the approach it used 30 year ago in refusing to complete the C1 section at Home Ave in order to blackmail the public into approving a more comprehensive road plan. Only when the Parkway is in does the City plan to rebuild Briggs. And yes, to create yet another dead end on a vital commercial and residential street. And what will Briggs St. be at that point? A service road parallel to the Parkway and mere feet away, adding useless additional paved surface to a flood-prone area. How thoughtless! How expensive!

5) The purpose and need for this traffic conduit from I-89 to downtown has been obviated by changes to the downtown and South End over the last decade. As an Enterprise Zone, the South End is not a traffic corridor as envisioned by the earlier plan but a vibrant commercial and cultural area. It is also the site of university operations. And the downtown is no longer the destination of those seeking access to department stores. The downtown mall is gone, Macy's is gone, while nearby malls in South Burlington and Williston provide the big box shopping area consumers seek. Downtown has become much more residential and boutique oriented around restaurants and small shops and offices. Transient parking is sharply reduced. While it remains a recreational and tourist destination, downtown is no longer the focal point for mass shopping. What's needed is not a $45 million limited access roadway but frequent electric buses on Pine and nearby streets to accommodate the new reality. At the same time, we need to preserve the job-growing potential of the South End's Enterprise District, not pave much of it over with a limited access highway. This is wrong-headed. 

What to do?
Open the C1 section with a roundabout at Pine and the terminus at Home. Cancel the C2 from Flynn to Lakeside completely. Improve Pine with separate bike/walk corridors; and rebuild Briggs Street from Home to Flynn as a complete, neighborhood Street. Finally, add mini-roundabouts at Maple and King. This is cheaper by many millions and saves the South End from useless destruction. 

Thanks, Charles Simpson, 83 Summit Ridge, Burlington, VT.    

8.  Tony Redington, 20 North Winooski Ave. Apt 2., Burlington
   Comments Regarding the Environmental Justice Impacts of the 
  Champlain Parkway on the King/Maple Low Income/Minority   
Tony Redington 

My name is Tony Redington and I reside at 20 North Winooski Avenue, Apt. 2, Burlington, VT  05401.  I am a walk safety advocate, a published transportation researcher, and a policy development specialist by profession—now retired.  A graduate in Chemistry from Norwich University, I received a Masters in Public Administration (1977) degree from University of Maine Orono.

My public administration experience included statewide housing planning and state agency housing director followed by 20 years in policy and planning at the New Hampshire Department of Transportation and Vermont Agency of Transportation.   As a walk safety advocate by default became a policy expert in roundabouts, the safest pedestrian infrastructure in the world and now the acknowledged intersection standard.  In 1992-1995 led a Montpelier community, then City Committee which developed the first roundabout east of Vail and north of Maryland, Keck Circle (1995).  I am the author of several research papers and presentations on the subjects of roundabouts, pedestrian safety, and commuter rail development. 

Have participated in and/or been an advisory committee member in City studies including North Avenue Corridor Plan as a representative of Neighborhood Planning Assembly Ward 3, the PlanBTV Walk Bike (2017) as the AARP Vermont delegate, the Colchester/Barrett/Riverside intersection, the Cambrian Rise multi-faceted development as part of the Cambrian Rise group, and the current Winooski road corridor study.

Like several who are commenting in this Outreach Meeting and after, I am a member of the grassroots democracy experiment initiated by Mayor Bernie Sanders 37 years ago—I am a member of the Steering Committee of Neighborhood Planning Assembly Wards 2 and 3. 

 The King/Main Street part of Pine Street section of the Champlain Parkway is part of our two wards.  So in the “NPAs” we learn about our neighbors and issues and try to do so in a neutral and fair manner.  And in the process we learn, hopefully, what it is to be a good citizen and how to participate in our areas seeking a better future.

In Burlington have been a leader of the Pine Street Coalition seeking a re-design of the Champlain Parkway for manifold reasons centering around safety and modern “best practices.”  The grassroots group of over 200, the Coalition’s single mission is ending the current project through invalidating the Federal Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (FSEIS) dating from 2009 so that a new EIS process for a project can take place by this generation using “best practice” and safe designs of today.  My involvement with the Parkway dates from the roughly 1998-2008 period when two of my sons lived across from Champlain School on Pine Street and the Parkway plan at that point did not include safe intersection control—i.e., traffic signals instead of roundabouts which clearly signaled unsafe conditions for my family living in Burlington’s South End. 

My concerns were expressed in a detailed letter outlining estimated differentials of injuries with four traffic signals instead of roundabouts containing an analysis of the roundabout versus signal option—the letter dated May 11, 2006 was send to political and administrative City, Region, State and Federal Highway officials (see Attachment 1).   The analysis was  based on a roundabout versus signal performance tied to a value engineering report in a City response January 17, 2005.   

There really is a two fold historical process in regard to these comments: (1) a downturn in US highway safety at the common federal/state/municipal levels in the United States which places the Champlain Parkway in stark relief as almost a perfect example of systemic safety design failure which grew over a three decade period; and (2) secondly, the particular subject of this set of comments directed at the intra project “disproportionate” impacts on the clearly low income/minority King/Maple Neighborhood (King/Maple).  

         Devolution of U.S. Highway Safety—the Nexus of Champlain    
         Parkway Design

From 1990 when the U.S. along with the U.K. were number one among modern nations in highway safety performance (deaths per vehicle mile) the U.S. steadily
dropped to 18th in the most recent OECD series on national highway safety performance.  Now the U.S. has more than twice the deaths per vehicle of the top our nations—U.K. (still at the head of the pack), Norway, Switzerland and Sweden.  Lack of systematic highway safety policies is a short explanation of our continuing failure leading to our current 23,000 excess deaths yearly versus the rates of the top four nations (plus hundreds of thousands excess injuries).  

But there is another factor at play very important when applied to King/Maple.  While leading nations in safety, mostly in Western Europe, retained transit and walking/bicycling in significant proportions, those nations from 1990 onwards placed particular emphasis on walking and bicycling safety infrastructure—something still absent in the U.S. at all levels even today when there are beginning signs this is changing.  

What is the relation between American safety policy over the last three decades and King/Maple?  First and foremost massive federal investments in the interstate highway system did so in almost the complete absence of any use of federal funds for walk and bicycle infrastructure.  At the time of the 1991 Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) only $20 million was allowed by States for separate walk/bike infrastructure with the State of Ohio having tapped the majority of these funds for some time!  At that time Vermont also began to use those funds when suddenly ISTEA literally opened the floodgates of both walk and bike eligible federal project funding.  

The need for safe walking and bicycling facilities is mainly an urban need and predominantly benefiting the U.S. urban population where low income and minorities are located.  The fact that Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) regulations—finally after the Parkway design was completed—set requirements to determine the presence of disproportionate and, if so, then minimize impacts of federal highway project on low-income/minority areas  truly created a head on crash with the reality that these community and neighborhoods had been—and are in the case of King/Maple—subjected to an incredible, in this case a surely high level of environmental injustice. 

Add to this fact that from 2010 pedestrian fatalities have grown 45% in this nation, another indicator of the critical need to bring federal and other investments to deal with, in our case, the “best practices,” “safest practices” to our urban areas. 

A closer look at King/Maple shows perfectly the direct connection between the past 30 years of highway investment and the disproportionate impacts on low income/minority populations.  Our two highest proportion of low/moderate  and diverse populations in the City of Burlington—the Old North End and King/Maple (both over 80% low-moderate income)—also are neighborhoods where about a third have no access to a car and therefore are dependent on walk, bicycle, and transit modes!  For 30 years minority and low income areas have been neglected at all governmental level either by design or neglect when it comes to transportation investments—the current Parkway design is the very embodiment of that practice.  Safety for those who walk and bike in Burlington are not isolated phenomena.  The Winooski corridor study collected five years of Citywide data and on average there are 150 injuries per year (one pedestrian fatality in the sample), 50 bike/ped and 100 car occupant.  The City Walk Bike Plan analysis found the “dirty 17” mostly signalized intersections with an average of one injury a year (about 75 signalized intersections in the City).  Our five downtown roundabouts average about one injury a decade wit 52 years tabulated on the books. 

Disproportionate Impact

 On the first level regarding walk, bike and transit aspects of the current Parkway design clearly fails on all aspects of safety and service.   A $47 
million urban neighborhood investment without a single inch of sidewalk (some sidewalk actually removed) and not an inch of safe/separate bikeway/cycle track.  A project which shuts down the one alternative route for the regional local transit services.  A project that takes two intersections 
in the heart of King/Maple now the safest non-roundabout control, all way stops, and converts to higher pedestrian crash rate traffic signals along with inevitable longer crossing wait times.  (Ditto for the low income 28 unit apartment with about 20 children, Flynn Avenue Co-op at the corner of Flynn/Parkway.)   In the adjacent Shelburne Street corridor the first County busy street roundabout 100% federally funded is nearing construction while obsolete and admittedly high crash rate traffic signals are inflicted on King Maple!  (It was the late Senator Jim Jeffords who put the road “roundabout” in federal transportation statue for the first time about 2005, a word added to list of safety transportation measures eligible for 100% federal funding.)

So, first, it is clear that nothing in the project design provides current “best practice” safe infrastructure for any mode (we assume the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety 2001 landmark study showing about a 90% reduction in serious and fatal injures with roundabouts replacing signals and sign control, a study that included the Brattleboro Roundabout—also assumes the 52 year record of five downtown Vermont roundabouts with 0 bike injury, one pedestrian injury and four car occupant injuries, none serious).   Note that AARP, Geico, AAA all support roundabouts over signals and converting existing signals to roundabouts.  (Sweden has more roundabouts than signalized intersections.) 

Yes, we have Census evidence from 2010 (not available in the FSEIS) which reveals both a low income population and a growth of minority population 2000-2010.  (See the Pine Street Coalition documents from April 2018, Specifically pp. 4-44 submitted directly to the City, VAOT and FHWA Division office.)  In addition as per the Attachment 2 photo taken this past week on Pine by Carolyn Bates who lives it the neighborhood, we see in graphic form the high concentration of young minority residents, here embarking on the GMT morning school bus.  King/Maple is a low income and minority income neighborhood. 

While residents already complain about the traffic levels and associated noise, walking discomfort and pollution, King Maple very simply must face a 29-37% increase in daily traffic as outlined in FSEIS traffic analysis, shown in the the graphic presented by CHA consultants in the Outreach Meeting (Attachment 3 as annotated by Carolyn Bates).   At the same time, the graph shows sharp traffic declines on lower Pine—Home to Flynn down 72%, Flynn to Lakeside down 56%.  The bulk of traffic benefits occur south of Flynn, a predominately home owner neighborhood with very small numbers of renters, low income and minorities. Not only no benefit comes to King Maple but only markedly degraded conditions and safety. Simply the Parkway has a disproportionate amount of negative impacts to mostly renter, mostly low-income, high minority King/Maple—while markedly benefiting a primarily a homeowner, low low income and far smaller minority population area south of Flynn Avenue.

Finally officials have overstated community engagement.  Contacts for the Outreach Meeting were spotty at best, about a third of those attending were urged to do so by Pine Street Coalition.  At best by the presentation there has been not meaningful opportunity to speak publicly at a meeting on the Parkway in at least a decade—the so-called November 2015 meeting at Champlain School did not allow a single word to be uttered by the public (again Pine Street promoted attendance there) as speakers presented nd then answered only some questions posed which could only be submitted on index cards in writing. 

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the question of the Champlain Parkway design environmental justice impacts.      

9.  Marcy Kass, 202 Sunrise Drive, Williston
To Governor Scott, Federal Highway, Mayor Weinberger, I support Champlain Parkway re-design to make it a safer and more friendly thoroughfare for driving, biking and walking. The current antiquated design is wasteful and dangerous. I support building a roadway that makes sense and our City can love!

I live in Williston and sometimes put my bike on the bus and ride into Burlington. When I ride my bike onto Pine Street, there's something in the air. I don't know what it is.  A freshness. That says a lot for Burlington, I think currently still one of the most livable cities in America. Let's keep it that way. 

I spoke to many people about this project. Chapin Spencer is someone I hold in high regard. My sense is that he was trying to make the best of a not-great plan; that he's bound by his job as Director of Public Works to do that. The neighborhood and those of us who love Burlington are not similarly bound. Let's do the very best we can! Why not? 

I understand that there is possibly much money to lose, if the this project doesn't go ahead as planned. There's also the possibility that that will NOT happen. 
More importantly, if we are paying attention, especially to young people, we will get it that money is NOT the bottom line, truly. It is our lives and our futures!

Thank you for your consideration,

Marcy Kass 202 Sunrise Drive Williston, VT

Place to sign petition to support a new EIS/modern roadway design:


Note the complete statements of these commenters below can be viewed at

Pine Street Coalition October 17, 2019

Monday, September 9, 2019

Burlington Roundabout Cure for Signalized Intersection Highway Deaths

Burlington Intersection Death List...Our Recent History of Fatal and Serious Injuries...Now Modern Roundabouts Cut Fatal/Serious Injury by About 90 Percent 

The National Picture of Highway Safety

About 9,000 fatals--23% of the over 40,000 annual highway deaths--occur at or near intersections.  Half of all senior driver and pedestrian deaths involve intersections.  For every U.S. fatality there are about seven disabling injuries.  In 2003 U.S. pedestrian deaths and disabling injuries, included in the US highway totals, amount to 20,700 and bicyclists numbers were 6,600.  Unfortunately since 2010 US pedestrian deaths are up 45% nationally.  Once 1st in highway safety in 1990, the U.S. has fallen to 18th.  Based on highway miles driven we now have over 23,000 excess deaths compared to the performance of the top four nations—U.K. (co-leader with us in 1990), Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland.   In a recent year highway crashes were the highest cause of death for those aged 4 to 34.  

The Vermont Highway, Gun, Opioid Deaths Data

Current U.S. longevity decline, the only one among advanced nations, coincides with the extremely high rates and numbers of highway, gun and opioid deaths:  over 40,000 highway deaths (2018), 39,800 gun deaths (2017), and 70,000 opioid deaths (2017-2018 average).  Vermont death numbers are 69 highway (2017-2018 average); gun 78 (2016); and opioid 109 (2018).  (Alcohol addiction remains far and above these three causes of death in U.S.)  For highway safety, returning Vermont and the nation to number one would halve Vermont highway fatalities, a reduction of about 35 a year.  Adopting neighbor Massachusetts gun regulation, lowest in nation in gun deaths, would reduce our gun deaths up to two-thirds, about 40 less deaths per year.  Certainly opioid reduction efforts can very likely attain a 50% reduction or 55 deaths a year.  Overall the estimated potential reduction in highway/gun/opioid deaths totals 130 a year.  All three areas require equal, aggressive governmental attention at the local, state and federal levels.  

First and foremost in regard to highway safety the United States and each state—Vermont can take this action now—must undertake a “systematic safety” plan and program, a comprehensive planning and implementation plan which led several advanced nations past the U.S. in highway safety performance and even in many cases continues to widen the gap with the United State.  The local equivalent of “systematic safety” can take the form of a strong “Vision Zero” initiative but to this time Vision Zero initiatives have been at most halfway measures. 

The Burlington Picture of Highway Safety

The Burlington roadway deaths and injuries show a need to address pedestrian and bicycle carnage because these latter two modes not only are more prevalent in urban areas but because there are strong currents to expand these “active transportation modes” for health and environmental reasons.  In addition to safety as the first and overriding concern, consideration of global warming, air quality, and resource constraints are now recognized as a given in transportation investments decision making. 

Burlington clearly is not immune to deaths and injuries at our intersections.  Burlington recently averaged 150 roadway injuries yearly including a pedestrian and car passenger fatality in the 2014-2018 period.  About a third of annual injuries, about 50, comprised those on foot or bicycle in roughly equal proportions.  Most pedestrian injuries occur at intersections.  Two of the three pedestrian fatalities in Burlington dating from 1998 were at a signalized intersection as was the one cyclist fatality.  A survey taken as part of the PlanBTV Walk Bike adopted in 2017 found (2011-2015) found 17 intersections (“the dirty 17”), mostly signalized, averaging one injury a year—again including a pedestrian fatality in the survey period.  Burlington has three of the highest current Vermont Agency of Transportation (VAOT) crash intersections in Vermont—Colchester/Barrett/Riverside US 7 (#1); Main/S. Prospect US 2 (#16); and Pearl/ N. Willard US 7 (#27).  The only reason the Burlington intersection Shelburne/Locust/S. Willard/St. Paul is no longer on the list is because it is set for construction as a roundabout.   

Burlington from 1998 through 2018 recorded seven road fatalities, about one every three years.   All but one of the seven occurred at a signalized intersection: three car occupants (two drivers and a passenger); three pedestrians; and one bicyclist.  With 150 injuries a year in a five year survey period, it fair to conclude that about one fatality occurs here for about every 450 injuries.  Again, six of seven fatalities occurred at one of the City's approximately 75 traffic signal intersections.  Finally, it is the pedestrian and bicyclist who suffers disproportionately when it comes to fatalities versus the car occupant who retains the protections of a motor vehicle—while pedestrian and cyclist injuries in Burlington are one third of all injuries, when it comes to fatalities they are the majority, four of seven.   

The Modern Roundabout Cure

The modern roundabout, the 53 year-old powerful technology composed of stone age materials, cuts about 90 percent of fatalities and serious injuries as well as injury severity  (Insurance Institute for High Safety [2000]).

Below find added information on Burlington fatal crashes at intersections, only some of the recent fatalities statewide and a small fraction of critical injuries at Vermont intersections.  The signalized intersections appear good candidates for roundabouts. Vermont passed the first US state legislation in 2002 calling for a transportation department to aggressively pursue installing roundabouts at dangerous intersections. 

Roundabouts in downtowns and village centers in Vermont are a proven safety treatment.  The five Vermont downtown roundabouts (Manchester Center, Middelbury and Montpelier) in their first 52 years of performance recorded zero bicycle injuries, one pedestrian suffering bumps and bruises and four minor car occupant injuries—one injury (none serious) a decade.
Several jurisdictions—states, Canadian provinces, counties and cities—have adopted “roundabouts first” policies.  NY State Department of Transportation is certainly the most prominent with its “roundabouts first policy” in place since 2005.  

In a 2011 report, AAA called for a White House Conference of all interests and adoption there of a “zero fatality rate” goal on the nation's highways.  That AAA study done by the reputable Cambridge Systematics found highway fatality and injury social costs twice the cost of congestion in all but the smallest metropolitan areas—and higher in all metro areas.  The Federal Highway Administration uses a highway fatality social cost as $6.1 million and an injury $126,000 (2009 dollars).  

Burlington Intersection Death List  1998-2018

Linda Ente, 48, Winooski (Home Avenue/Shelburne Road, signalized).  Pedestrian killed in car crash (1998).  Employed at adjacent supermarket. 

Charles Burch, 72, Burlington (Manhattan Drive/VT 127, signalized).  Bicyclist killed in car crash (2004).

Raymond Herbert, 23, Vergennes (Main Street/Spear Street, signalized).  Driver killed in two vehicle crash (2005).

Kaye Borneman, 43, Burlington (Main Street/St. Paul Street, signalized) Driver killed in two vehicle T-bone crash (2010). 

Bruce Lapointe, 63, Winooski (Colchester Avenue/Barrett Street/Riverside Avenue, signalized).  Pedestrian killed on motor vehicle crash on crosswalk (2012). 

Lul Ali Gure, 29, Burlington (Home Avenue/Shelburne Road, signalized).  Car occupant killed in two car crash (2018). 

Jonathan Jerome, 61, Winooski (North Avenue/Poirier Place, sign control).  Pedestrian killed crossing North Avenue in a car crash (2018).

Tony Redington
Safe Streets Burlington September 9, 2019

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Glitter in the Gutter--Plus Glutter in Available Burlington Rental Housing

Signs of a Burlington Housing Glut, Rapidly Rising 1-Bedroom Rents—A Snapshot Inventory of Rental Housing July-August 2019

A July “snapshot rental vacancy” for Burlington identified a record number, 257, of vacant and available rentals July to September 1. With new Burlington housing projects now coming on line with some frequency, the vacancy rate among privately owned rentals continues in the 5-8% range suggesting an unhealthy near glut status in vacant private sector rentals.

A comparison of a snapshot sample of 1 and 2 bedroom Plattsburgh available rentals done earlier this year shows Burlington median rents about 64% higher—over $6,000 more a year to rent a 1 or 2 bedroom median priced apartment in Burlington versus Plattsburgh.

Two newly completed complexes, South End Apartments on Pine Street and Bayberry Commons on Grove Street, advertised a month free rent with lease. The new Redstone complex overlooking Lake Champlain on North Avenue listed a 2 bedroom apartments for $3,000 and $2,700 monthly respectively. The survey involved tabulating both apartments and single family houses offered on various online sites, principally Craigslist.

The trend of Burlington rents in spite of substantial rental inventory increases in recent years still are on the increase 2016-2019 with median 1-bedroom apartment a most significant average yearly increase of 7.9% with a median rent of $1,300 monthly.

The median prices tabulated for rentals offered results and average annual percentage increase 2016-2019: O BR (bedroom) Studio $1,050 2.8%; 1 BR $1,300 7.9%; 2 BR $1,478 3.2%; 3 BR $2,012 3.4%; and 4-or-more BR $2,975 8.0%.

Burlington City officials continue without evidence a tight housing market with little available inventory. This was in fact true for decades leading to about 2010 when student populations growth (UVM and Champlain College primarily) not only cut vacancy rates to about 1% or sometimes less, but impacted rental markets throughout Chittenden County as well as adjacent counties. Three factors changed from 2010: (1) new housing developments spurred in great part by the leadership of Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger were developed and developments already in the books will result in added supply for the next few years at least; (2) college populations peaked and are slowly declining combined with UVM and Champlain College housing more of their student population; and (3) housing development outside Burlington in other Chittenden County towns also relieved pressures on the Burlington market.

Changed demographics also play a major role and will continue to for the next decade or two at least as most Vermont counties are losing population, Chittenden County under 65 population has flat lined, and seniors comprise almost all the Chittenden County population increase of about a thousand residents a year. Growing senior residents presents the one growth area in housing demand here and throughout Vermont. Outside of the northwest part of Vermont, seniors resident numbers grow rapidly and non-senior population markedly declines. Statewide population from 2010 to date has increased by less than 1,000.

There is little reason to consider certain segments of the Burlington housing market which mostly operate of waiting lists and where units are never offered to the public—student housing being the exception. The Burlington rental market is composed of segments: (1) “private market”; (2) public housing and housing occupied by those with federal “Housing Choice Vouchers” which total about 2,000 units; (3) non-profit housing including units owned and managed by Champlain Housing Trust (CHT) and Cathedral (mostly aged restricted housing) well over 1,000 housing units; (4) college student rented private apartment units which comprise a submarket of well over 1,000 housing units.

There are essentially no vacancies, only waiting lists for federally assisted housing and non-profit housing (about 2,000 on CHT and Cathedral wait lists). The same applies to student housing as this population does take a certain portion of housing out of the “private market.”

Friday, July 12, 2019

Burlington, VT Mayor Weinberger -- Glitter in the Gutter

Glitter in the Gutter

A guest commentary by Dr. Charles Simpson, retired SUNY Professor and Burlington, VT resident

Young, energetic, attractive in a riverboat gambler sort of way, holding developer credentials, our mayor is a man in a hurry. He promised to get things done. So what's not to like about Miro Weinberger? The persona worked once, then again. His problem now is that he didn't deliver. Not much, at least. 
We got an absurdly expensive remake of the bike/walk path, including a toxic soil fiasco that had the City storing it at a public park. He couldn't pull off a Moran Plant remake, flawed in concept to begin with: an ice climbing wall? Please. In 2006, the School District, intent in off-loading the Taft School--a structure built in 1939 by private philanthropy and $111,000 from the Works Progress Administration whose post-educational future was required to be housing for indigent men according to the Taft will, was off-loaded to UVM. Weinberger took that as a cue and tried the same trick with Memorial Auditorium, imagining it as just a fiscal liability rather than a vibrant civic arena. But the university opened the bag and found a cat instead of a pig, the cat being the absence of adequate parking. Desperate to get something done, he promised to revive the '80s circumferential highway through the South End, pretending that the public purpose of moving interstate highway traffic to the downtown core was still a viable goal. Not to worry that the highway was to end at Lake Street and the downtown has evolved away from mass shopping. Thanks to alert citizen activists, that plan is in the courts. 

Then, there's his efforts to prime the development pump with political favors. There was spot zoning to raise the height limits on three blocks of downtown as if the elaborate public process leading to Plan BTV had never happened. Add to that $22 million in forgiven future property taxes on the project. Before the project ground to a halt, leaving the present hole in the ground, Macy’s was rendered inoperable and we lost our only department store. Desperate for some achievement, he fixated on a $6 million-plus redesign of a completely serviceable public park. This grandiose "improvement" was overtly proposed as a solution to soil management issues but seems more likely to be a way to “cleans” downtown of panhandlers. This too has been stalled by civic activists, unconvinced that lighted and pulsating water jets are the attraction that tourists seek in New England. 
Then there's sins of omission. In control of the airport, our mayor could have scotched the Air Force plan to station 18 nuclear-capable fighter/bombers in the most densely settled area of the state. He “let it happen”, as he did with a financial deal with a private investor that guaranteed that our municipal telecom would pass out of public ownership.

Had Weinberger listened to authentic public input, each of these projects would have been greatly improved to public benefit. Citizens developed a much better plan for the remnant of the circumferential highway that would enhance rather than damage travel connectivity and neighborhood life. Had he listed to critics of downtown development, a reasonably-sized project would now be in the last stages of construction. Had he heard park enthusiasts, there would be a public bathroom in the downtown, maybe a shaded toddler  play area rather than another festival venue. 

There’s some changes the mayor does own. He blocked his own Parks and Recreation department's proposal to expand public moorings at the lake, refusing an associated federal grant in order to allow private investors to lease the public waterfront. Oh, and subsidizing them with $800,000 in TIF support. Yes, more than 700 units of new housing at Cambrian Rise are on the way, but that project was greased with $2 million in public funds spent to secure its lake view and front lawn. Citizen activists wanted more open land and space for wildlife. 
To a great degree, politics is a matter of projection. Voters endow candidates with their own hopes and dreams, creating an aura that reflects back on voters to make them feel good. In Burlington, we like to think our town is dynamic and innovative while delivering quality social services with the costs justly apportioned. This conviction is like a pat on the back we give ourselves. Didn’t we chose to live here? It takes a lot of government failure to chip away at this cultural capital. And for a long time we may be distracted by razzle-dazzle: "cool" electric scooters on our bike path; fireworks on July 4th; bouncing colored water jets in City Hall Park. But now its the morning after Mardi Gras. The only razzle-dazzle we can see is some glitter in the gutter.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

A, B and C of Safe Modern Busy Street Design

Note: The U.S. dropped from first to 20th in highway safety since 1990 with today about 22,000 excess fatalities and hundreds of thousands of serious injuries each year compared to the numbers generated per mile of travel by the average of the top four nations--the UK (we were tied with them in 1990 for #1), Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.  AAA studies point to desperate need for U.S. to address its shoddy highway safety status.  AAA, AARP, Federal Highway Administration and Geico all support roundabouts for safety and converting signals to roundabouts for reducing serious and fatal injuries. 

The A, B and C of Modern Busy Urban Street Design:
the Burlington, VT Example
--yes, there are D, E, F, etc. to be covered in future analyses

Since 2000 a revolution occurred in United States modern busy urban streets design. Today there are three generic elements necessary when choosing to serve safely those who walk, bicycle, and, yes, those who travel by car on a busy urban street.

The three core busy urban street design elements are:
  1. sidewalk
  2. roundabout
  3. cycle track (protected bike lane)
The basic design principle? Safety first!

If your busy urban street lacks one or more of these three central components—or their equivalent--by definition one or more ways of travel is unsafe, undeserviced and/or less than the desired, complete transportation street.

In many cases geographic (sharp grades like San Francisco hills), physical constraints (older narrow streets), etc., prevent fully achieving all three elements. The three elements remain the desired objective for safety! The 1000 Friends of Portland study found, essentially, the formula to walkable busy streets are a sidewalk network free of sharp grades plus ease of crossing intersections only the roundabout enables safely.

Almost by default by a neighborhood driven planning process, the Burlington, VT adopted its North Avenue Corridor Plan in 2014 where these three elements were enshrined to provide the highest level of safety for all modes: an existing sidewalk system, cycle track from end to end of the 2.6 mile corridor, and conversion of three of seven busy intersection traffic signals to roundabouts. Note the report two-page Chapter 1 vision and goals:

The roundabout, birthed in the U.K. in 1966, arrived in the U.S. in 1990. By 2005 NY State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) made the roundabout which cuts serious and fatal injuries about 90% its standard based on better safety for all modes. At U.S. and Canadian roundabouts, about 10,000 today, only one pedestrian and two cyclist fatalities occurred to date. NYSDOT's 2005 action instantly fossilized the traffic signal in America. (Consider the Assam, NL design preferred by many in the U.S. with a separate walk and bike lane: )

Historically cycle track is the newest and most rapidly adopted generic street element—the first cycle track network in North America being installed in Montreal in 2007.
Cycle track adoption here includes its appearance statewide bike plans like the first Illinois state bicycle plan in 2014 and by 2017 in the form of a cycle track network in
Burlington, VT's planBTV Walk Bike: The “old” bicycle provisions of paint on street may have been help to the then prevalent young adult male cyclists. But paint on streets excluded most less skilled, old and young, and women concerned with personal safety. Simply, paint on asphalt is not a safety device and offers minimal safety benefit compared to cycle track while leaving most of the potential bicycle riding community unwilling to ride two wheelers.

Yes, there are some additional wrinkles. Led by Vermont bikepath pioneer, now Dr. Anne Lusk, Harvard School of Public Health, the cycle track alternative location on sidewalk level where there are business or other mixed use areas emerged. Dr. Lusk led the first safety studies showing the superior safety performance of cycle track in Montreal early this decade. Here is the 2010 Lusk study report:

Japan cities feature widespread use of sidewalk level cycle track (though only now adopting roundabout technology). Bicycling is a natural part of Japanese urban neighborhood travel activity (and connecting to subways in major cities) with pedestrians and cyclists of all ages mixing in a low speed cycling context on sidewalk spaces and street crossings. (Up to 10% of Japanese bicycles are E-bikes.)

Among other features, sidewalk level cycle track favors adjacent businesses with easier access and added flexible space between the business and vehicle travelways. Cycle track not on vehicle travelway may be at sidewalk level or at a separate level between the sidewalk level and vehicle travelway. Sidewalk cycle track examples:

There are a few other variations in street design of note, particularly “shared space” where all modes mix, coexist in a low speed and safe context One reason busy street urban Japan cycle track works so well is the presence of shared space neighborhood “local” side streets as described in the Wikipedia entry.

These major changes in safe busy urban street design took place since 1990 when the U.S. began its drop from 1st to 20th in highway fatality rates, now 22,000 yearly excess highway deaths compared to the average of the top four, the U.K. (co-leader with U.S. in 1990), Norway, Sweden and Switzerland. Safety first!

Tony Redington  June 7, 2019 @TonyRVT60