Bennington Banner
June 4, 1999

Dean: ‘Put up or shut up’ on pipeline, Rt. 7

Sabina Haskell Latour
Staff Writer

Bennington – Gov. Howard Dean says business leaders must back the natural gas pipeline and Route 7 improvements if they want to create good new jobs in southwestern Vermont.

“For 14 years, I’ve come down and met with business people who want more jobs in Bennington,” said Dean in a feisty interview Thursday. “Now is the time to put up or shut up.”

The two projects are part of the same economic development effort, said Dean. “We have to have a better infrastructure. If you don’t want a better infrastructure, fine. We’ll skip the jobs.”

Natural gas will offer manufacturers a “cheaper” energy source to keep high quality jobs here, he said. Likewise, a passing lane project slated between East Dorset and Mt. Tabor will provide a “high speed corridor” along the only north-south highway on this side of the state.

“Do you really want manufacturing? There’s a price to be had. The price is Route 7 and the gas pipeline,” Dean said.

“I think this is a direct challenge to the business community in Bennington. If the businesses want this, they better speak up,” he added.

And, if they don’t, Dean said he’s done listening.

“Don’t let me come down here next year and hear you don’t get any help getting jobs down here,” he added.

On Route 7, Dean said he is being “very, very aggressive” to move the entire project from East Dorset to Burlington out of the Agency of Transportation’s bureaucracy. The AOT has spent seven years in the planning stages and that is too long, he said.

“I’m done with stopping and planning. I don’t know what philosophy they were using. But it wasn’t getting this stuff built. I’m going on the road selling this,” Dean said.

That’s why he told the agency to push up a passing lane project for seven miles between Dorset and Mt. Tabor. “I said ‘move up whatever you can move up.’”

Route 7 is the main link between Bennington and Burlington, said Dean, and that stretch of road “is the only reasonable, logical place to have a high speed corridor.

“You can’t have better jobs in Vermont without a high speed corridor. We want decent transportation. This road is going to be a road like ‘Super 7,’ without the limited access.”

Dean has been criticized by local officials and lawmakers alike for the $1 million project, which was never noticed for a public hearing, and caught local officials by surprise.

“Certainly if there was a screw up in notification, I apologize for the agency,” said Dean, adding that AOT Acting Secretary Micque Glitman will soon meet with the Dorset Select Board to discuss the project.

Dean said he also supports plans for 65-mile natural gas pipeline to Bennington and Rutland counties as an economic tool for existing industries.

“The more hospitable we are to their cost structures, the better chance we have to keep them here,” he added.

Two power plants that would anchor the pipeline will “allow businesses to tap into very inexpensive electricity.”

While he conceded there were environmental concerns, Dean said he had “the big picture in mind.”

“The state is encouraging this in terms of a concept, not the sites or the route. You have to make a choice,” he said. “If you want better job opportunities, you can’t have them without the infrastructure. For the greater good of Vermont and southwestern Vermont, we have to follow through.”