Selectboard considers three sites for a potential park and ride in West Charlotte
By Geeda Searfoorce | The Charlotte News
At the Selectboard meeting on Monday, June 27, community members gathered to hear a presentation about a proposed park and ride facility that could have a dramatic effect on the structure and growth of the town of Charlotte.
Lucy Gibson from DuBois and King, a firm that provides planning, engineering and construction consultation, laid out the rationale employed in the study, which was initiated at the behest of the state Agency of Transportation. The criteria for analysis of seven potential sites put equal weight on economic considerations like ease of acquisition and development costs; location concerns like proximity to the intersection of Route 7 and Ferry Road, safety and visibility; and site considerations like the impact on environmental resources.
Gibson reminded the crowd that this was a follow-up to a study done a year ago. Peter Keegan, from the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission chimed in to provide context. “The State requested a revised report reflective of the need for a park and ride closer to Route 7. This is a statewide priority—to reduce traffic, be more efficient and lessen congestion. The state is looking at approximately one facility per year to be identified and implemented.”
The report includes site plans for the three most advantageous locations, given the criteria used: the site of the former Steve’s Citgo at the intersection with Ferry Road (two iterations were proposed here), the site of the former Flea Market just south of it and a site behind Town Hall. The costs for each are, respectively, $1,458,000 (both plans would cost the same), $518,000, and $550,000. The costs associated with the former Citgo, which is privately owned, include a $700,000 purchase price. The other two potential locations are town owned.
Gibson displayed draft designs of a park and ride facility, which includes a paved lot of 60 spaces with room for expansion of up to approximately 148 and an entrance and egress that allows for buses to loop through the site. Other features include a small shelter, adequate solar-powered lighting, bicycle parking, an LED-display of real-time bus arrival and departure information and construction elements that mitigate storm runoff to meet environmental regulations.
Gibson and Keegan both stressed the need for lessening the inconvenience and delay for through travelers on Route 7 while also supporting town growth. “It’s important to the state that the facility be in keeping with the town’s plan and vision,” Keegan said.
But the reaction from the crowd was dubious. Community member Dave Marshall said, “One possibility with this is that Charlotte is being picked on to alleviate traffic congestion in Shelburne.” Others voiced substantial concerns over the sites’ proximity to wetlands and potential adverse effect on nearby trails. One Charlotter bemoaned the lack of a police force to adequately ensure security at a type of facility that, in other parts of the state, often sees cars parked for days on end. Another spoke to the potential of a park and ride to damage the commercial growth of the town rather than encourage it. “We don’t want that to be the entrance to our town,” she said. “No one will stop here.”
Selectboard member Jacob Spell was curious why the Charlotte train station off of Ferry Road didn’t make the final cut. “It’s ideally suited to transform into such a facility,” he said, “and it could become a part of enhanced commuter rail service in the future.”
Within the next two months, the Agency of Transportation will reach out to the Selectboard to get feedback about the analysis and move ahead with planning. Because the closest existing park and ride facility south of Burlington is just outside of Vergennes, a location near or in Charlotte is a high priority for the state as it attempts to solve transportation challenges and build for the future.
More information about the study, including images of the plans can be found at http://goo.gl/sGMRVL.