Jun 27, 2023

Letter to the editor: Light rail ‘Capital Corridor’ was proposed in 2017

Letters to the editor are brief reader responses to stories and opinion pieces published by VTDigger. Letters give voice to community members and do not represent VTDigger’s views. To submit a letter, follow the instructions here.

Robert Spotswood’s letter of Aug. 24 draws attention to inter-city and intra-city light rail as transportation modes even more environmentally beneficial than personal electric vehicles.

In January 2017, Net Zero Vermont and the Gund Institute for Environment at UVM held a competition to design Montpelier 2030, a sustainable future for the capital city. Team Bridges, consisting of 11 individuals (including my wife, Janet Van Fleet, the artist and co-founder of Studio Place Arts in Barre) and led by then-Cabot resident Michael Rushman, won the competition and the $10,000 prize.

“Rethinking Montpelier and Beyond” featured a light rail system that would thread five communities — Barre, Berlin, Montpelier, Middlesex and Waterbury — along a “Capital Corridor,” encouraging population and commercial concentration, reducing fossil fuel usage, and relieving development pressure on the countryside.

You can find records of Team Bridges’ work online if you look very hard, but the plan vanished from public discourse like mist in the morning.

In 2017, the year 2030 seemed remote, but the future is upon us. Implementation of Team Bridges’ vision — or, for that matter, of any of the designs submitted by the other competitors — would certainly have brought Montpelier, and the state as a whole, face to face with the challenges of flood resiliency and mitigation. Instead, Montpelier wasted years wrangling over a misbegotten parking garage.

As part of its recovery and reconstruction, Montpelier, along with the other four communities in the Capital Corridor, should revive the Team Bridges design, perhaps even extending the light rail system all the way to Burlington. Such an investment in a sustainable future will entail of necessity a strategy for effective flood prevention.

R.D. Eno


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