Richard Watts

March TAC Notes

Richard Watts
March TAC Notes
TAC news header.001.jpeg

It was a clear but cold as the TAC gathered the day after town meeting in the large well-lit planning room of the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission’s offices housed in a refurbished mill building on a bank of the Winooski river.

First up was a proposal to amend the TIP – to allow for construction of Burlington’s “Champlain Parkway” slated to start construction in the fall of 2019. Senior DPW engineer Susan Molzon presented the latest design. The city street --speed limit 25 MPH -- has integrated bike lanes, buffer zones to car parking, sidewalks and landscaping. When built it will be the first ground up complete street of its kind in Vermont. And it is stunning. (From the perspective of a cyclist and pedestrian).

BTV Bike/pedestrian planner Nicole Losch also walked the committee through some of BTV’s other “Great Streets” initiatives – also stunning with their integration of bump outs, cycle lanes, rain gardens, benches, sidewalks and trees. With the election of two progressive city councilors Tuesday, BTV’s adoption of bike-and pedestrian infrastructure will only speed up. Among other things planned this summer are pocket parks in parking spaces outside restaurants and the creation of the state’s first car/pedestrian shared street on Bank Street – no curbs all one level.

The TAC approved $37 million towards the project (part of the $46 overall cost), and amended the TIP to allow for the construction over the next few years.

CCRPC Planner Chris Dubin then updated the group on programs to properly map and collect info on the watershed water quality/stormwater issues – see details about CCRPC’s work in water quality here. There was some discussion of when state money will be available for towns to complete data collection.

CCRPC Planner Christine Forde updated the committee on how transportation projects get funded. The so-called “project prioritization” process is complicated, but includes input from the CCRPC to VTrans before projects get the green light. A sheet of FY2020 in Chittenden County listed about $26 million in paving projects, $12 million in interstate bridge projects, $18 million in roadway, $4 Milion in safety and traffic operations, $2.5 million in bike/ped and $1.6 million in “alternatives” – which included sidewalks, and $1.4 million in rail projects.

Note, the TAC is comprised of representatives appointed by towns, mostly town highway officials or Selectboard members. In attendance are usually 8 to ten RPC staff and Amy Bell and Matt Langham for VTRANS and Chris Jolly from the FHWA – which is the primary funder of most of this work ultimately. Local Motion, GMT and CATMA also often attend. The CCRPC also functions as an MPO – the state’s only MPO and for that reason is well-funded.

For example, each year the group programs about $1.5 million of planning money to local and regional projects. Those planning projects are approved through the UPWP (Unified Planning Work Program) – a federally mandated planning process. Those who care about transportation planning in Chittenden County, should consider joining the UPWP, which can influence which projects are chosen—from transit planning money to the study of adding road capacity.

Present UPWP committee members include:

Michael O’Brien, Winooski (Chair), John Zicconi, Shelburne, Mike Bissonette, Hinesburg, Jeff Bartley, Colchester, Sharon Murray, Bolton

TAC Representation (2 members):

Justin Rabidoux, South Burlington, Barbara Elliott, Huntington

PAC Representation (2 members):

Jessica Draper, Richmond, Dean Pierce, Shelburne

Vermont Agency of Transportation:

Amy Bell

Federal Highway Administration (ex-officio, non-voting):

Chris Jolly

Green Mountain Transit (ex-officio, non-voting):

Rachel Kennedy

Richard Watts teaches policy and media studies at the University of Vermont and is a regular bike commuter, transit rider and pedestrian from his home in Hinesburg.