Rutland Daily Herald. Wednesday, July 23, 1997
Joan Tabachnick (left) and Stacy Edmunds dine on the deck at Sully's Place in Brandon as a Carter 18-wheeler laden with OMYA crushed marble rolls by, bound for Florence. The OMYA traffic is a controversial issue in Brandon.
Brandon Assails OMYA Truck Traffic
By ED BARNA
MIDDLEBURY - Doubling the number of OMYA marble-carrying trucks would seriously affect a downtown already plagued by truck r-elated noise, vibrations, congestion and safety problems, Brandon residents and their traffic consultant testified at an Act 250 hearing Tuesday. At issue is the Florence company's application o increase the size of its Middlebury quarry by 25 percent and boost production 100 percent.
Brandon, which already sees 85 round trips by OMYA trucks going to and from Middlebury
"It's not truck traffic any more. It's become a train through town."
Melanie Shane and another 20 related to the Smoke Rise quarry north of Brandon, want to see the crushed rock travel to the grinding plant in Florence by rail.
There was testimony as well from Pittsford' officials, who were sympathetic with Brandon's
concerns about Route 7's inadequacy but do not want to see one of tbe state's engines of prosperity held back from expansion.
They were unexpectedly seconded by a repre-sentative of the Agency of Commerce and Community Affairs, industrial development recruiter James Stead, who said that agency wanted to claim its right to automatic party status.
'We would like to see the best interests of all the local people served," Stead said. But "we do not have a lot of well-managed, well-funded -(See Page 15: OMYA)
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companies in Vermont with a long-term plan and 100 years of reserves in the ground to support that plan."
Pittsford town manager Melvin Adams said OMYA pays 28 percent of the town's taxes - roughly $1.5 mil-lion - and has quietly contributed to many town infrastructure projects.
Margaret Flory, who chairs Pittsford's Select Board, said: "We feel it's unreasonable for OMYA to have to be the bad guy in something (the condition of Route 7) the state refuses to address."
Dean Pierce, a transportation plan-ner with the Rutland Regional Planning Commission, suggested that with OMYA's production doubling, the company might be able to afford a large part of the cost of a rail spur to the quarry, an alternative hereto-fore thought to be too expensive com-pared with trucking.
A 1996 study showed that after weighing the fees paid by the L.F. Carter trucking company and the impact costs of the trucks using the highway, the company is in effect receiving an annual subsidy in the range of $200,000 to more than $1 million, he said.
OMYA would be spreading its share of the cost of a rail spur over more than 13 million ton-miles, Pierce said. The Rutland Region Transportation Council is officially encouraging the pursuit of the rail option, he said.
Impact costs were the subject of most of the day's testimony OMYA attorney Edward Schwiebert again and again made sure that those tes-tifying agreed more trucks than OMYA's were involved.
But for the Brandon residents, that was all the more reason for state action to upgrade what they said was a neglected and substandard section of the U.S. highway system.
"It's not truck traffic any more, said Melanie Shane, co-owner of the Lilac Inn. "It's become a train through town. You pretty much take your chances how you're going to get out
of your parking space."
With all the trucks, "Brandon is a quaint little town that is becoming anything but," Shane said. "We can-not ignore the human element. These trucks are anything but human scale."
Like Shane, Brandon Inn owner Louis Pattis testified that guests were canceling reservations after one day, complaining about truck noise - and vibrations, in the case of his 1880, four-story brick structure.
Computer drives malfunction, bricks and marble are cracked, two back corners had to be repaired, and at one point a section of the facade fell off - onto the porch roof, luckily, rather than onto a passer-by.
Pattis said he and his wife Sarah had put all their money into restor-ing what may be Vermont's oldest continuing hospitality business - the first tavern on the site began in 1786
- but the escalating truck traffic is threatening their ability to some day sell the inn and retire.
'We think it's a serious threat to us and the village itself," he said.
Rosebelle's Victorian Inn co~owner Norman Milot had similar concerns.
Ray Sabb, who is planning to locate a computer business in downtown Brandon, said he has been able to bud-get enough vibration-related down time and dust-related repairs for six $40,000 computers to cope with exist-ing truck traffic, but doubling OMYA's trucks to 340 oneway trips a day would be too much for his business plan.
Thomas Schmelzenbach, a Walling-ford traffic consultant testifying for the Brandon business owners, said additional marble trucks would neg-atively affect the massive 1830 bridge carrying Route 7 over the Neshobe River in downtown Brandon.
A sufficiency rating of 70, on a 100 point scale, indicates a bridge needs repairs, and two years ago a state in-spection put the bridge at 70.9, he said.
A Route 7 study for the state by Wilbur Smith Associates a few years ago said Brandon had downtown
intersections at congestion levels E and F; well below the C rating the state puts as its goal for heavily trav-eled areas, Schmelzenbach said..
Schwiebert submitted a 1987 state-ment by an Agency of Transportation official that in view of increasing traf-fic, levels D and E might have to be considered acceptable in some cases.
Pierce said motor vehicles aren't the only measure of a highway's suf-ficiency.
An informal survey of about 200 people in Brandon found 33 percent said their bicycling was limited by concerns about traffic danger, and 9.5 percent said their walking was simi-larly affected.
Schmelzenbach said Agency of Transportation data from 1991-95 showed seven high accident locations along Route 7 in Brandon, with the right-angle bend in the downtown area
having the worst record in the state.
Schwiebert referred to an OMYA- sponsored study saying driver error and negligence have caused most of the accidents, but Schmelzenbach said a more reasonable interpretation of the facts is that drivers used to dri-ving along a U.S. highway couldn't adjust quickly enough to Brandon's narrow and congested streets.
Melanie Shane, an architect by profession, steered District Environmen-tal Commission 9 through a techni-cal explanation of why Route 7's nar-rowness in Brandon means vibrations will always go into the buildings, whether the bumps in the road are paved or not.
-Though designated as part of the
US. highway system, Franklin Street, I Park Street, Center Street, Conant
Square, and Grove Street never were and never will be capable of meeting that system's standards, she said.
Commission chairwoman Susan Eaton recessed the meeting until August 27, when additional testimony on highway impacts and the projects', relation to town plans will be con-sidered.