Rutland Herald Editorial

Going nowhere?

December 10, 2000

Legislators who have floated the idea of a new east-west highway between Clarendon and Ascutney have stirred up opposition that is widespread, vocal, and determined. The grass-roots activism that has arisen in response to a proposed quarry in Danby is likely to pale beside the opposition to the highway as presently conceived.

For now, talk of a highway along a power line corridor north of Route 103 is just talk. People in Woodstock have an interest in getting truck traffic off of Route 4, and people in Rutland have an interest in facilitating truck traffic between the east and Rutland businesses. The bottleneck on Route 4 created by the village of Woodstock is a legitimate concern.

The east-west highway would seem to be a huge and excessive response to that problem. People in Mount Holly are wondering what benefit is achieved by running two parallel highways through their town. All along the route - in Shrewsbury, Mount Holly, Ludlow, Cavendish, and Weathersfield - people are wondering why their towns should be divided and the environment despoiled when there are already two highways - Routes 4 and 103 - to carry traffic east and west.

The state is early in the process of assessing its highway needs, and it is hard yet to weigh the possible benefits and problems of the east-west highway. But the reception the idea has encountered so far points to a variety of problems.

For one, the highway is seen by many as the creation of people with narrow interests. For the sake of quiet on the streets of Woodstock and a presumably quicker route to Rutland, people in a wide swath of towns would have to absorb a huge new public works project.

Second, the cost would be vast. The aim of a new highway would be economic development for Vermont. But if the state intends to spend $250 million for economic development, there are areas that could produce greater results than a redundant highway would. Think what higher education in Vermont could do with $250 million.

The east-west highway could become the Green Mountain Parkway of the '00s. The parkway was the Depression era highway proposed for the crest of the Green Mountains. It was conceived as a helpful public works project. Gov. George D. Aiken rejected it because of the devastation it would have caused to the Green Mountains. Vermont has been thankful ever since.