Traffic is bad around exit 17 off Interstate 89, and it's only going to get worse. That is one conclusion of a year-long scoping study facilitated by the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission.
Stakeholders including state, regional and local transportation officials began meeting last August to brainstorm options to address traffic, both at the interstate ramps and the nearby intersection of Route 7 and Route 2 in Colchester, known as Chimney Corners. The new study built upon a similar study that was conducted in 2007.
The Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission recently presented the study's findings to the Colchester Select Board, which subsequently endorsed one of the plan's two options. The presentation to the select board described the reason for the study:
The purpose of the Exit 17 Scoping Study is to develop alternatives that enhance the operation of the Exit 17 interchange by reducing traffic congestion at the ramps and the adjacent US 2/US 7 intersection, provide infrastructure for safe and efficient travel by all users, and improve connectivity and access between the Interstate and nearby communities in Chittenden, Grand Isle and Franklin Counties under current and projected future conditions.
The presentation outlined two alternatives to address traffic and safety issues in the study area. One option is to construct a six-lane bridge on Route 2 over Route 89. New road construction would extend from the intersection of Route 7 to new ramps on the far side of Interstate 89. The proposed bridge would also include a bike lane. That project is estimated to cost $22.6 million.
However, the Colchester Select Board ultimately endorsed a less expensive loop onramp alternative. The presentation estimated that option would cost about $17 million. The loop ramp proposal would also redesign a portion of Route 2 and include a bike lane. And it involves constructing a new loop-style on and off ramps to access I-89 South, mirroring the design of the I-89 North ramps.
In last week's Town of Colchester newsletter, Public Works Director Bryan Osborne wrote:
Working with the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission, the department recently completed a comprehensive planning study for future traffic improvements at Exit 17. The planned improvements include the construction of a new southbound on-ramp, the reconstruction and expansion of the US Routes 2 & 7 intersection, and improvements for pedestrians and bicyclists. At its last meeting, the selectboard unanimously approved the recommend plans, which are estimated at approximately $17 million. The project will be completed and funded by the Vermont Agency of Transportation and is expected to take several years to complete.
Now that the town of Colchester has made its wishes known, a final scoping report is expected soon.