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Burlington, Vermont @ AARoads

Early settling of Burlington orientated the village toward the lake as a commercial and transportation center. With the lake representing a primary transportation conduit, a small grid of streets developed between present day Battery and Prospect Streets. By the mid-19th century, railroads built to Burlington ended at terminals along Lake Champlain with exportation representing the main industry. In 1840 lumber importation from Canada overtook exportation with the depletion of area tree stands and lumber finishing mills developed along the lake front areas.

Burlington view of Lake Champlain

Looking west out over Lake Champlain from downtown Burlington, Vermont. Photo taken August 3, 2007.

Population growth occurred from the 1800s onward, gradually expanding the original street grid outward where topography allowed. Construction of a street car line in the 1890s aided the outward push of Burlington and the town remained an industrial center throughout the first half of the 20th century.

The transition from an industrial based city occurred from the 1950s onward in Burlington. Being the home to three colleges with an ideal setting along scenic Lake Champlain, Burlington transitioned from a mill and factory hub into that of a culture and tourist-based destination. With an ever increasing influx of tourists seeking cooler Mountain air or a lakeside weekend, Burlington, with almost 39,000 residents, finds itself as the regional hub in northwest New England. Redevelopment of the town focuses on losing its industrial path with construction of new homes, condos, and retail development.

Interstate Highways

Interstate 89 represents the only Interstate highway of western Vermont, traveling northwest from White River Junction and Hew Hampshire to Burlington and the Canadian border near Swanton. The freeway enters South Burlington from Richmond to the west, curving north at the junction with Interstate 189 and Kennedy Drive through Burlington, Winooski, and Colchester to the Lake Champlain Islands area. Interstate 89 doubles as both a commuter route and through route for tourists and commercial traffic between the Boston area and Montreal, Quebec.

Carrying just four overall lanes, Interstate 89 sees three full and one partial interchanges within the Burlington area. A full-cloverleaf interchange with busy U.S. 2 lies at the heart of Burlington's suburban style retail hub. A six-lane bridge, four general purpose and two auxiliary lanes, crosses the Winooski River near Exit 15.

Interstate 89 opened between South Burlington and Winooski on November 29, 1962, between Winooski and Colchester on November 1, 1963, and Richmond and South Burlington on November 6, 1963.

Interstate 89 Guide

Interstate 189 represents a short section of freeway (1.37 miles) linking Interstate 89 and Kennedy Drive to the east with U.S. 7 (Shelburne Road) and the town of Shelburne to the west. It has one interchange at each end and provides a direct link between U.S. 7 and the south suburbs to Interstate 89 and part of a through route for long distance travelers between southern and northern Vermont.

Two plans for western extensions of Interstate 189 existed since the highway opened on November 29, 1962. The first extension was short in nature, taking Interstate 189 west to a trumpet interchange with the unconstructed Burlington Belt Line freeway. In 1979, Interstate 189 was planned to turn northwest along the Southern Connector, a freeway between U.S. 7 and the intersection of Battery and Maple Streets southwest of downtown. Neither extension was completed, but the 1979-plan did result in the building of an unopened four-lane parkway northwest to Home Avenue two blocks west of Pine Street.

Interstate 189 Guide

Unconstructed Interstate 189 / Southern Connector

In 1981, the state spent $24 million on the right-of-way land needed to build the Southern Connector, uprooting 21 families in the process. The project even resulted in the construction of 0.7-miles of roadway leading west from Interstate 189's interchange with U.S. 7 to Home Avenue. However further north along the projected path lies 60-acres of contaminated wetlands designated the Pine Street Barge Canal Superfund Site by the EPA. For decades, the land was contaminated with coal tar deposits emanating from a coal gasification plant. VTrans and other officials thought that clean-up efforts would prevail, either by the state or by the EPA. Neither have and the roadway remains abandoned to this day.

Burlington, Vermont Map - AARoads

Non-Interstate Freeways

Chittenden County Circumferential Highway

Vermont 289, the Essex Junction bypass, exists as a short super-two freeway between Vermont 117 (River Road) and Vermont 2A (Colchester Road) at Essex Junction. With origins dating back to 1965, the limited access highway allows through traffic to bypass the congested five point intersection in downtown Essex Junction between Vermont 2A, 15, and 117. Exit numbers along the route are mileage-based and begin at 7 and end at 13.

Congress devoted $50 million to the Chittenden County Circumferential Highway project in 1982 as part of the Surface Transportation Act. Planned as a 15.8-mile long route, an EIS and Record of Decision (ROD) followed in 1986, with responsibility of the project shifting to VTrans. That same year land acquisition began on the entire route. Vermont 289 was divided into ten segments labeled A through J and construction of Segments C, D, E, and F commenced soon thereafter.

Burlington, Vermont Map - AARoads

Proposals for the Circumferential Highway.

A controversial road due to environmental opposition, Vermont 289 opened to traffic in October 1993 at a cost of $34.4 million around the town of Essex Junction. Current studies focus on review of the 1986 EIS begun in 2003. An ongoing Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) readdresses the planned segments leading west through Colchester and south through Williston. Growing traffic concerns, especially along U.S. 2 and in Essex Junction mandate a need for an improved transportation system, and local town leaders have expressed support initially for the highway's completion. The DEIS is expected to be finalized in Winter 2008.

Essex Junction Belt Line

An early proposal for what is now Vermont 289 was the Essex Junction Belt Line. Planned as a 3.92-mile limited access route, the belt line would bypass the village from Vermont 15 (Pearl Street) north and east from its intersection with Suzie Wilson Road to Maple Street (Vermont 117) near Maplewood Lane and southwest to Vermont 2A (Park Street) near Mill Street. The routing is complimented by a proposed Vermont 15 relocation onto an expressway alignment stemming north from the belt line 2.03 miles toward Butler Corners.

Design elements included four overall lanes with 12 foot lanes, a 16 foot median, and 10 foot outside shoulders. Relocated Vermont 15 included just two 12 foot lanes with 10 foot outside shoulders due to 1985 traffic projections. Total cost of both the belt line and Vermont 15 expressway tallied $5.43 million. Interchange and intersections included on the expressways are as follows:

  • Lincoln Street (Vermont 2A) - folded diamond
  • Grandview Avenue extension - at-grade intersection
  • Suzie Wilson Road - half diamond with direct westbound ramp onto Vermont 15 west
  • Main Street - at-grade intersection
  • Mansfield AVenue extension - at-grade intersection
  • Relocated Vermont 15 expressway - trumpet interchange
  • Maple Street - at-grade intersection
  • River Street connector - at-grade intersection
  • Park Street (Vermont 2A) - at grade intersection [highway end]

Neither the original Essex Junction Belt Line or the Relocated Vermont 15 expressway were built as envisioned. Present-day Vermont 289 travels a path much further out from the Essex Junction Town Center. Vermont 15 remains on its original Main Street alignment leading north and east to Essex Center.

Unconstructed Freeways

1965 Greater Burlington Urban Area Highway Plan - AARoads

The 1965 Greater Burlington Urban Area Highway Plan included a number of freeway and expressway projects planned. Of those, none were built as originally envisioned, though certain elements were constructed. Pink lines along the map represent highway projects planned for the metropolitan area; insets reveal interchange detail. Map created by Kelly Krapp. [click for larger]

Burlington Belt Line

As envisioned in the 1965 Greater Burlington Urban Area Highway Plan, the Burlington Belt Line was designed to provide an alternate route to North Avenue in north Burlington and to alleviate anticipated traffic congested on the Burlington arterial streets. Planned to travel north a limited-access state highway parallel to U.S. 7, the Belt Line freeway would enter the south urban boundary and would cross U.S. 7 north of Bartletts Bay Road, parallel the Vermont Railway to the east toward Battery Park, cross North Avenue and North Street and depart the city street grid at Manhattan Avenue into the Intervale. Continuing north, the Belt Line would skim the eastern reaches of Ethan Allen Park on a northeastern trajectory to Colchester near the Heineburg Bridge, ultimately ending at Interstate 89 within the town.

Planning for the road design includes four general purposes lanes, each 12 feet in width, with 10 foot outside shoulders and a 16 foot median. Interchanges planned includes those with U.S. 7 (Shelburne Road) near Bartletts Bay Road [six-ramp partial cloverleaf], an extended Interstate 189 [trumpet], Flynn and Lakeside Avenues [split diamond], Main Street [directional 'x'], Ward Street [modified diamond], a connector road to North Avenue near its intersection with Saratoga Avenue [trumpet], and a collector street from Ethan Allen Parkway to North Avenue opposite of its intersection with Loaldo Drive [diamond]. Totaling 8.07 miles, it was estimated to cost $26.2 million to construct.

The 1966 Legislature funded a portion of the Belt Line Project that opened in 1971 in the form of a two-lane roadway [Vermont 127] from Manhattan Drive north to North Avenue. Remainders of the project were deemed unfeasible by officials due to the extent of the right-of-way acquisition on the lakefront, residential displacement, and lack of funding. However the City of Burlington did not object to the Belt Line project from Main Street south to Interstate 189 as a way to improve access to the CBD.

Southern Connector

In 1975 a consulting engineer hired by the City in 1974 proposed the construction of a new four-lane undivided arterial with at-grade intersections. The road would connect Interstate 189 with Pine Street north of Flynn Avenue along a new roadway following the old Belt Line pathway and upgrade Pine Street northward to Pine Place, where a second new segment would be built connecting the roadway with the south end of Battery Street. This project was dubbed the Southern Connector and funding was sought for its constructing in September 1975 from the federal government.

A Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) was prepared by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) in consultation with Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) in 1977. As part of the DEIS process, borings taken in the wetlands area along the project path of the Southern Connector revealed traces of oil-contamination. Comments from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggested to determine the extent of the contamination and the need to excavate and dispose of contaminated material.

Public review and a Corridor Hearing on the 1977 DEIS led to VTrans to recommend a New Location Alternative as the Selected Alternative. The new alternative included a controlled-access route independent of Pine Street, an alignment that would reduce the socio-economic disruption to adjacent neighborhoods. The Alternative was selected in the July 1979 Final EIS (FEIS) that was approved by FHWA.

Project development followed in 1981 that discovered the presence of coal gasification waste within the corridor right of way, an area known as the Pine Street Barge Canal. Officials with the EPA included the site on the National Priorities List (NPL) of Superfund Sites in 1983. This site remains on the list as the Pine Street Barge Canal Superfund Site.

During the spring of 1983, the Burlington Urban Design Study (BUDS) formed to deal with design aspects of the waterfront area. Their scope grew to encompass design elements of citywide growth and development, that included the Southern Connector in 1985. Design modifications involving the Connector included the reduction of the roadway from four to two lanes, landscaping including a median divider, pedestrian and bicycle accommodations, and the use of colored crosswalks and decorative lighting.

A DSEIS was issued in 1984 on the Southern Connector involving the hazardous waste assessment at the Pine Street Barge Canal Superfund Site. Remediation investigations conducted by VTrans however did not meet with the EPA's approval and therefore the EPA overtook the responsibility for further remedial investigating at the superfund site. The 1984 DSEIS was subsequently withdrawn and attempts by the EPA to remedy the site in 1992-93 were met with public resistance.

Meanwhile in the late 1980s, construction did commence on the "C-1 Section" of the Southern Connector approved in the 1979 FEIS. A four-lane parkway extending west from the Interstate 189 and U.S. 7 interchange to Home Avenue two blocks west of Pine Street was built with the exception of the final pavement overlay, signs, pavement markings, a bike path, and landscaping. Due to the Pine Street Barge Canal Superfund Site, construction on the "C-2" and "C-8" sections were delayed and the "C-1" section never opened to traffic.

Champlain Parkway

Burlington City Council began referring to the Southern Connector as the Champlain Parkway during the 1990s. Officials in 1994 hired a consulting firm to conduct a transportation modeling and traffic operations study on an interim "C-2" section that would bypass the Pine Street Barge Canal Superfund Site. The study concluded that "C-6" was the optimal solution. VTrans followed with their own traffic analysis in 1995 and 1996 and issued a Supplemental EIS (SEIS) in January 1995 on impacts with a routing that bypassed the superfund site and allowed the completion of the 1979-approved Southern Connector alternative.

The 1996 Burlington Municipal Development Plan addressed the Champlain Parkway as a designated truck route designed to remove trucks from residential streets and as a alternate route into the city designed to remove through traffic from adjacent residential streets. Discussion on a March 7, 1996 Public Information Meeting debated the need of four versus two lanes and the need to blend roadway into the existing residential neighborhoods with its design. In 1997, Vtrans prepared at FSEIS on a preferred interim alternative around the Pine Street Barge Canal Superfund Site, which was approved by the FHWA in August of 1997.

On October 21, 1998, VTrans and the City of Burlington agreed to share responsibilities of the Champlain Parkway project. Design engineering services followed on the interim alternative selected in 1997 in 1999. Public feedback continued through 2000 and the 2001 Burlington Municipal Development Plan carried forward the same objectives addressed in the 1996 plan involving the road as a truck and alternate route into downtown, but as a two lane roadway instead of a four lane one. In March 2002, the City of Burlington modified the 1979 Selective Alternative and the 1997 Interim Alternative with the public feedback obtained, officially downsizing the road from a four to two lane facility. This development officially removed the "C-8" section through the superfund site from the project and endorsed the "C-1", "C-2" and "C-6" alternatives as the permanent alignment.

Descriptions of the Sections:

  • "C-1" - reconstruction of the Interstate 189 interchange with U.S. 7 (Shelburne Road) and the building of 0.6-miles of roadway from the interchange to Home Avenue. This was built in the late 1980s as a four-lane roadway.
  • "C-2" - extends the Champlain Parkway northward from "C-1" at Home Avenue 0.7 miles to Lakeside Avenue. Right-of-way wa already acquired for "C-2" as a four-lane highway.
  • "C-8" - alignment north through the Pine Street Barge Canal Superfund Site between Lakeside Avenue and Main Street. A remediation plan was begun by the EPA at the superfund site.
  • "C-6" - the interim alternative approved in the 1997 FSEIS, utilizes the existing street network via Lakeside Avenue to Pine Street and Pine Street north to the proposed Battery Street Extension at Pine Place. "C-6" continues along the Battery Street Extension northwest to Battery Street and along Battery Street to Main Street, the same end of the "C-8" alternative.

The 2006 Burlington Municipal Development Plan copies the same objectives sought in the 2001 Plan for the Champlain Parkway. Redesign of the parkway in 2001 downsized it from a limited access highway into a city street with bike lanes, sidewalks and trees. The objectives remain the same: designate the parkway as a truck route, as an alternate through route into downtown, and blend the road into existing neighborhoods by constructing a two lane highway with narrow lanes, low design speeds, and safe pedestrian crossings.

A letter issued by Burlington Mayor Bob Kiss on August 4, 2006 endorses construction of the Champlain Parkway and mentions a new roadway from Interstate 189 to the intersection of Pine Street and Lakeside Avenue. It goes on to reference improvements to existing Pine Street, east of the Pine Street Barge Canal Superfund Site {section "C-6") and north to Maple Street, including sidewalk, streetscaping, road improvements, and new traffic lights at Maple and King Streets. Mayor Kiss indicates that work might begin as early as spring 2007, but work was not present as of August 2007.

Other Routes

Providing the main east-west commercial arterial for Burlington, U.S. 2 joins downtown with South Burlington and the shopping mall areas near Interstate 89. Additionally U.S. 2 joins the University of Vermont campus with Interstate 89 via the full-cloverleaf interchange at Exit 14.

U.S. 2 carries four lanes from the UVM campus east to Kennedy and Airport Drives near Burlington International Airport. The route, known as Williston Road, is very congested during afternoon and evening hours with commuters, college traffic, and airport travelers.

Continuing east, U.S. 2 reduces to two lanes but remains a busy route between South Burlington and the Taft Corners of Williston. The highway parallels Interstate 89 closely from Williston east to Richmond and Montpelier.

Northward, U.S. 2 merges with U.S. 7 at the intersection of Main and Willard Streets. U.S. 2 west & 7 north follow Willard and Hyde Streets between Main Street and Riverside Avenues. U.S. 2 east & 7 south use Winooski Avenue southbound between Riverside Avenue and Main Street.

Riverside Avenue, reconstructed between 2005-07, skims the Winooski River eastward from Willard and Winooski Avenues to the Winooski River Bridge at Colchester Avenue. Built in 1926, the Winooski River Bridge carries four overall lanes between the city of Burlington and downtown Winooski. The western end of Vermont 15 (Allen Street) lies just north of the bridge at a recently built roundabout. New development along the north banks of the river lies at the southeast corner of U.S. 2 & 7 and Vermont 15 in the form of new condos and shops, a testament to the redevelopment of the town.

U.S. 2 & 7 remain overlapped northward along Main Street in Winooski to junction Interstate 89 (Exit 16). U.S. 2 & 7 continue along the two-laned Roosevelt Highway through Colchester to Chimney Corner. There U.S. 2 turns west toward the 1906-10 constructed Sandbar bridge and road across Lake Champlain and Grand Isle County as U.S. 7 maintains a northward drive into Milton.

U.S. 2 Vermont Guide

Complimenting U.S. 2 from the south in commuter and through traffic interests is U.S. 7. Following Shelburne Road, U.S. 7 travels an increasingly congested route from the Chittenden County line northward through Shelburne and South Burlington. The highway increases from a two-lane rural route into a five-lane commercialized arterial in the process. Growth along the corridor continues as Burlington expands outward and tourist traffic increases.

Congestion peaks near the partial-cloverleaf interchange with Interstate 189 near the Burlington and South Burlington city lines. The unconstructed Southern Connector was to alleviate traffic along U.S. 7 leading northward into the Burlington central business district. However that project remains on hold pending approval. In the meantime, U.S. 7 follows four-lane Shelburne Street northward from Interstate 189 to a north-south split at Main Street. U.S. 7 north follows Willard and Hyde Streets to the east of southbound U.S. 7 along South Winooski Avenue and Main Street east. The partitioned U.S. 7 merges with U.S. 2 along the same street couplet northward to Riverside Avenue. U.S. 2 & 7 share pavement through Winooski and Colchester and before splitting at Chimney Corner south of Milton. U.S. 7 continues in the shadow of Interstate 89 northward through St. Albans, Swanton, and Highgate Springs.

In an effort to remove traffic from city streets, the city of Burlington signs St. Paul Street leading south from downtown as U.S. 7 Alternate. St. Paul Street consists of a two-lane roadway from downtown to South Winooski Street one block north of its merge with Willard Street. U.S. 7 Alternate is an attempt to address the congestion issues caused by U.S. 7 on adjacent residential streets in the wake of the unconstructed Southern Connector and pending upgrade to Pine Street.

U.S. 7 Vermont Guide

The addition of the Federal Aid Secondary System created Vermont 127 along Pearl Street and North Avenue from downtown Burlington northwest through north Burlington. In the early 1960s, Vermont was relocated from Pearl Street onto an alignment utilizing Main, Battery, Park, and Sherman Streets leading to North Avenue in anticipation of future improvements. Furthermore, completion of the Burlington Belt Line north from Main Street was slated to be designated Vermont 127 if completed.

Vermont 127 today represents a portion of the original Burlington Belt Line project. Segments constructed as part of the Belt Line include Vermont 127 (Ethan Allen Parkway) south from Plattsburg Avenue (original Vermont 127) in north Burlington to Manhattan Drive, the trumpet interchange with the North Avenue and connector near Saratoga Avenue, and a new Heineburg Bridge over the Winnooski River that replaced the original Vermont 127 span to the west. North Avenue, the original Vermont 127 alignment, remains an unsigned route through it would be well suited as Vermont 127 Business.

Vermont 127 follows Battery and Park Streets north from Main Street to the Ethan Allen Parkway beginning at Manhattan Avenue. The parkway consists of a two-lane expressway to the east of North Avenue through an area called the Intervale. A trumpet interchange and two pedestrian overpasses lie along the controlled-access route.

Plattsburgh Avenue meets the north end of the expressway near the Winooski River bridge. Vermont 127 downgrades into a residential route with slow speed limits and numerous driveways and at-grade intersections. Once at Malletts Bay, Vermont 127 turns east along Lakeshore Drive through Bayside Park and a marina district. The state road follows Blakely Road over Interstate 89 with no access and ends at U.S. 2 & 7 opposite Severance Road in Colchester.

Future plans may bring the Chittenden Circumferential Highway westward to the Vermont 127 expressway. A DEIS is under review (2007) on the Burlington bypass route, so any construction is years, if not decades away.

The 1965 Greater Burlington Urban Area Highway Plan outlines a proposal for a short Vermont 2A expressway leading southwest from near the Winooski River to a reconstructed Industrial Avenue at Brownell Road and southeast from there to Vermont 2A north of junction U.S. 2 at Tafts Corner. Four lanes of travel were planned for the 1.26-mile section between Industrial Avenue and Vermont 2A near the south end of the unconstructed Essex Belt Line. Only two lanes were planned for the 0.78-mile section leading south but with provisions made for potential four-laning when traffic counts warranted it. Future extension of the highway southward to the Williston interchange of Interstate 89 was also considered. No elements of the $1.52-million Williston Expressway were ever built however.

A Vermont 15 expressway was planned in 1965 as part of the original Essex Junction Belt Line proposal. Planned as a two-lane controlled access route, Relocated-Vermont 15 would have traveled from a trumpet interchange with the belt line east of downtown north to a point one half mile east of Butler Corners. The northernmost segment of the expressway would tie into Vermont 15 (Center Road) where it presently intersects Essex Way.

Vermont 116 travels south from U.S. 2 (Williston Road) along Hinesburg Road through South Burlington. The highway primarily serves older residential areas north of Interstate 89 and new suburban growth south of the freeway.

Vermont 117 follows Maple Street and River Road east from downtown Essex Junction parallel to the Winooski River. The highway provides a direct route between Essex Junction and Interstate 89 independent of Williston. Presently Vermont 289 ends at Vermont 117 east of Essex Junction at a half-diamond interchange.

Kennedy Drive

Kennedy Drive represents a four-lane arterial leading east from the Interstate 189 ramps at Dorsett Street to junction U.S. 2 (Williston Road) at Airport Drive. Airport Drive connects U.S. 2 and Kennedy Drive with the terminal of Burlington International Airport. Kennedy Drive was built in conjunction with Interstate 189. Westbound defaults onto Interstate 189 west to U.S. 7 (Shelburne Road) after the signalized intersection with Dorsett Street.

Sources:

  1. "Superfund, The Road to Nowhere, Day 2." The Burlington Free Press, February 8, 1993.
  2. VTrans Project Page: Chittenden County Circumferential Highway (CCCH)
  3. 1965 Greater Burlington Urban Area Highway Plan
  4. "Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement - Southern Connector/Champlain Parkway." VTrans, October 2006.
  5. 2001 Burlington Municipal Development Plan
  6. 2006 Burlington Municipal Development Plan
  7. "From the Desk Mayor Bob Kiss, Number 1." The City of Burlington, Vermont, August 4, 2006.

Page Updated November 10, 2007.