Burlington has debated for years how to move traffic swiftly through its south end into downtown.
It even began to build an extension of Interstate 189 to what was to become the Southern Connector.
But the stretch west of U.S. 7 has never carried traffic because political debates and a Superfund pollution site halted any progress.
The state and city eventually came up with an alternative dubbed the Champlain Parkway that would avoid the contaminated Pine Street Barge Canal along Lake Champlain.
But it’s drawn opposition because the new parkway would follow existing city streets into downtown, and neighbors say congestion would just be worse.
So Mayor Miro Weinberger decided to propose an alternative that has been discussed in one way or another in recent years. It envisions a series of intersecting streets adjacent to Lake Champlain, south of where the ferryboats dock. Weinberger has high hopes for his proposal.
"This is a project that in and of itself has substantial benefits," he said. "It increases access to the waterfront. It increases rail access for the railyards that will continue to remain there and be an important part of Burlington’s landscape and improve truck access to those railyards."
Almost as important, for many political leaders in Burlington, is the neighborhood’s potential for easing traffic congestion that the Champlain Parkway might cause. Weinberger says his new proposal would alleviate that and improve access to the southern end of the downtown waterfront and to the rail yard for cars, trucks, pedestrians and bicyclists.
And there would be as much as 40 acres of unused or little-used land that could be developed.
"There are transportation benefits of this plan," Weinberger said. "But there would also be some broader economic development opportunities that could flow from this. There is the possibility of creating new, urban blocks, if you will in this new street grid that could add to the dynamism of the south end of Burlington."
But all of that will have to wait. The proposal will need the support of the city council and the state legislature before the Weinberger administration could seek permits. The mayor hopes it doesn’t take the 50 years that the Champlain Parkway has taken.