VTrans says I-89 Exit 16 project timeline is now unclear

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Following a ruling from the Vermont Supreme Court, a long-awaited construction project just off of Interstate 89 in Colchester could be on hold yet again.

VTrans isn’t sure yet how long the rebuild of the Exit 16 interchange might be pushed back. The high court has overturned one of the permits necessary to build it.

The new diverging diamond interchange wouldn’t only be the first one of its kind ever built in Vermont. VTrans says it would be the first one in all of New England.

Skip Vallee and Timberlake Associates are the owners of the Maplefields and Champlain Farms gas stations, respectively. They’ve been challenging the Exit 16 project’s Act 250 land use permit and its stormwater permit.

On Friday, the state Supreme Court denied their appeal of the stormwater permit. However, the justices ruled Vallee and Timberlake will have one of their concerns about the land use permit heard in environmental court.

“I don’t know the status of that hearing or what’s involved in that,” VTrans project manager Michael LaCroix said Tuesday evening during a Winooski City Council meeting. “We’re meeting with the Attorney General this week, so that’s to be determined. How that affects the overall project timeline is still up in the air as well.”

LaCroix told the council members that from 2012 through 2016, Route 7 near Exit 16 had the third-most crashes with injuries of any road in the state. He claims there’s simply too much traffic for the current interchange to handle…hence, the diverging diamond.

“Traffic entering and leaving the interstate will now only have to interface with one traffic signal instead of two,” he said.

LaCroix said that until the court’s Friday ruling, the goal was still to break ground late next spring or early next summer.

“The project is going to be about two, two and a half years of construction,” he said. “It’s going to be invasive and disruptive, to say the least, which is one of the reasons why we’re trying to get ahead of this now, trying to make as many people aware that this is happening.”

Part of that outreach, which should be extensive over the next six months to a year, involves letting the community know how different the traffic pattern will look and feel afterward.

“We are trying to alleviate some concerns or fears about people driving on the wrong side of the road for 400 feet,” LaCroix said. “It’s not very common in the United States.”

The Exit 16 project area’s southern boundary is the Winooski-Colchester line. LaCroix says that should allow the project to tie in nicely with Winooski’s upcoming Main Street revitalization, which ends right on that same line.

Federal money would cover the entire project cost of about $10 million. It’s also worth noting that the road work will take place at night. All traffic lanes will be required to stay open from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. each day.

If you want to stay up to date on future developments with the Exit 16 project, VTrans says you can visit the project’s website, you can email them about it or you can call the project’s hotline at 802-595-4399.

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