From the re-development of Church Street to plans for a thirty million dollar, two and a half mile Champlain Parkway, Burlington is re-inventing itself.
But current plans call for the Parkway to dump all "incoming" traffic at the Lake Street junction, most likely creating massive gridlock on Pine Street. So as long as we’re all sharing visions of the future in the Queen City, I’d like to propose one of my own.
A `Light Rail’ system that followed the same route as the proposed Parkway, could take cars off the road and cut carbon pollution. The rail route could easily cut over to Union Station on the waterfront without creating more congestion.
Initially, I’d have it run from where Route 7 – or Shelburne Road - meets Interstate 189. The former K-Mart property could accommodate plenty of parking as well as bus service to and from Church Street, UVM, Champlain College and the hospital. Every ten minutes there would be service from Route 7 down to the Burlington waterfront and back. And with Light Rail there’d be enough space along the line for small commercial shops and housing units.
In my vision, I’d connect with trains from St. Albans, Montpelier and Middlebury and rail service to Boston, New York, and Montreal. For that matter, I don’t see why a light rail system couldn’t take the place of the now abandoned Circ Highway - a 16 mile stretch of road originally conceived as an interstate loop around Burlington.
And there’s more. In 1996, I proposed an idea that has fresh merit today.
A twenty five thousand square foot, year-round, enclosed Waterfront Market close to Union Station could provide a unique commercial venue for local producers. As a new shopping focal point, it would complement the Church Street Marketplace and the Pine Street art and food scene. It would be close to the new and improved Burlington Bike Path, which runs along the waterfront. With the addition of a new light rail system, people could walk, bus, bike and ride the train to visit and shop at the Waterfront Market. Products could also bebrought to market by rail.
At one time in Vermont, trains were the dominant means of moving people and goods about. In my vision of the future, Burlington would lead the way toward a more sustainable future by cutting down on the number of horseless carriages in the Queen City.