Study Finds More Effective, Less Expensive Alternatives to the Circ

Circ Open House Meetings Public Comments Posted >

The Vermont Smart Growth Collaborative retained traffic consultants Smart Mobility and Oman Analytics to develop solutions to the traffic woes of Williston and Essex in the Rt. 2A corridor. The consultants were directed to find alternatives to the Chittenden County Circumferential Highway Segments A & B within the following parameters:

Alternatives must meet the following requirements:

  • Alternatives must perform as well as, or better than, the proposed Circ Highway in the area that would be served by segments A and B;
  • Alternatives must be less likely to result in "sprawl" development;
  • Alternatives must provide improved access to critical economic activity centers, including IBM;
  • Alternatives must cost less to construct than the Circ Highway segments A & B.

For years, members of the Vermont Smart Growth Collaborative have sought to have alternatives to the Circumferential Highway reviewed by VTrans and the Federal Highway Administration. Defenders of the Circumferential Highway responded that the Circumferential Highway has been studied to death and no new studies were necessary. On May 10, 2004, U.S. District Court Judge William Session, III resolved the debate when he issued a order enjoining construction of the Circumferential Highway, a day before construction of Segments A & B were about to begin. Judge Sessions' order states:

In a case such as this one, where consideration of alternatives was last documented eighteen years ago, where conflict over the use of resources is unresolved and substantial, and where the agency itself was unsure of the significance of new impacts, NEPA required that the Federal Highway Administration consider alternatives to its selected alternative in the environmental document it prepared.

Read more about Judge Session's ruling here.

On November 26, 2004, VTrans and the Federal Highway Administration announced the agencies' intent to prepare a new Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). (Click here to read the Notice of Intent). The purpose of the EIS is to

"improve the transportation system from Interstate Route I-89 to the Towns of Williston and Essex and the Village of Essex Junction. The project study area is approximately 4 miles in length, and includes the corridor that would have been served by the previously proposed Chittenden County Circumferential Highway Project Construction Segments A and B.

The EIS will identify transportation needs and deficiencies in the project study area, including mobility, access, system continuity, and safety. The range of transportation alternatives to be evaluated in the EIS will not be restricted to previously considered alternatives or the conclusions of previous studies. In addition, the EIS will specifically address the relationship between transportation and land use in and around the project study area.

The EIS will evaluate potential alternative transportation improvements to meet the existing and future demands on the transportation system serving the aforementioned communities. Potential alternatives and combinations thereof will include but are not limited to (1) taking no action, i.e., the No-Build Alternative; (2) strategies to better manage transportation demand; (3) improving public transportation facilities and services: (4) improving existing roadways, pedestrian walkways, and bikeways; and (5) constructing a new roadway connection between Route I-89 and Vermont Route 289 and other roadways. Design variations of potential alternatives will also be studied, as appropriate."

More Effective, Cheaper Alternatives Identified

Read the full report here (PDF) >

Alternative 1 - 2A Efficiency Improvements

This alternative focuses on increasing the efficiency and capacity of the Route 2A corridor. This is accomplished primarily by increasing the capacity at intersections, which will reduce delays and allow traffic to maintain moderate speeds along the corridor. Increasing travel speeds beyond the posted speed limits is not a design goal, although travel times will be reduced due to lower delays at intersections. Please refer to the full report.

Alternative 2 - "Circ Street" & 2A Efficiency Improvements

In addition to the improvements comprising Alternative 1, additional investments, described here as Alternative 2, have been examined that are intended to address secondary objectives beyond congestion relief. The basis of the Alternative 2 improvements is: To create opportunities for compact neighborhood development through transportation investment and local land use planning. Please refer to the full report.

To make use of the State's investment in right-of-way for the Proposed I-289 corridor and to improve access for IBM and the CSWD operations.

To enhance the road hierarchy and street network in the area by providing additional through connecting streets.

It is intended that the investments comprising Alternative 2 be implemented in addition to, rather than instead of, those of Alternative 1.

Background Information on Roundabouts

Vermont law actually directs VTrans to explore the potential use of roundabouts.

The 2002 Transportation Capital Bill, Section 37, states: "The general assembly finds that the installation of roundabouts at dangerous intersections in the state has been cost-efficient, and has enhanced the safe operation of vehicles at these locations. The agency of transportation is directed to carefully examine and pursue the opportunities for construction of roundabouts at intersections determined to pose safety hazards for motorists." Click here to read Vermont Legislation that support Roundabouts.

Other information about Roundabouts

The Federal Highway Administration guide to roundabouts.

What is a Roundabout?
A publication of the Federal Highway Administration answering some basic questions about roundabouts.

Center for Transportation Research and Training
A website published by Kansas State University, including research, photos and links.

Modern Roundabouts
New York State Department of Transportation's website dedicated to modern roundabouts. It covers topics such as what are roundabouts, how to properly use a roundabout and the many benefits that roundabouts provide.

Alaska Roundabouts
An education website from Alaska, including the history of roundabouts, myths and facts and links to other roundabout sites.

Assessing the Clearwater Beach Entryway Roundabouts
A paper discussing the roundabout at the Clearwater, FL, beach entryway.

Modern Roundabouts, Global Warming and Emissions Reduction: Status of Research and Opportunities for North America
Examples of where the use of roundabouts has been successful.