During peak hours, I-89 can be difficult enough to get onto or off of in Chittenden County that one local agency is looking into what should be done about it.
The idea of a new exit in South Burlington, which would be Exit 12B, has actually been floating around for decades. The Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission has engineering studies of it that go back to at least 1996.
When Linda Morris and her family moved to South Burlington in 1995, they found it tougher to drive into or out of the city than they expected.
“We were just surprised that there wasn’t another exit to get off of 89, rather than kicking us off into Shelburne Road and having to come way back up to get into a residential area,” she said. “We thought, ‘within a couple of years, I’m sure that’ll get fixed’.”
It’s never happened, even though South Burlington is Vermont’s second-largest city.
On Friday, the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission just began studying the I-89 corridor county-wide. Norris and the other members of the South Burlington Economic Development Committee got a briefing about the study Monday evening.
Charlie Baker, executive director of the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission, said the study is asking, “What do we do about the congestion between 14 and 15 and the backups that occur there now, and should we be looking at a new interchange in Chittenden County, particularly the South Burlington area?”
That new potential interchange, Exit 12B, is still considered an option to ease traffic flow between Burlington and Winooski…but the latest cost estimate for it is $42.4 million.
If Exit 12B is ever built, it would connect the interstate with Hinesburg Road in South Burlington, near the existing highway overpass.
The project would likely be helpful at a regional level, but there would be some tradeoffs at the local level, especially on Hinesburg Road itself.
“Certainly if you relieve congestion at 14, maybe gets a little bit better, it gets worse where a new interchange would be, 12B,” Baker said. “We’re going to have to do a lot of work in the next year and a half to two years to see if that really makes sense.”
Norris wants something to be done, whether that something is Exit 12B or not.
“There’s a lot of good work that Charlie’s team is doing, and I’m hoping there’s momentum to make some change,” she said. “I think it’s been stalled a lot over the years that I’ve lived here. It’d be nice to make some progress on it if we could.”
A different member of the South Burlington Economic Development Committee asked Baker how much time it would take for Exit 12B to be built. Baker gave a simple, three-word answer: “a long time”.