Over the last two weeks, the Village of Essex Junction has received a pair of updates regarding the Crescent Connector Road project which have given green lights for construction.
On March 17, a warranty deed of easements was signed by the landowners and notarized – concluding negotiations between the village and William Kalanges. That allowed the village to possess the final piece property needed for the road and sign a right-of-way certificate application.
Then on March 29, the village received a signed copy of a Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) right of way certificate which acknowledges that all the acquisitions of land and rights for the project were completed – giving way to full funding for all work needed to be done.
With that certification being finalized, Phase 1 can get started: the rail work. Village staff is hoping that part of the project can be bid out to contractors soon and finished this year. That would allow for bidding of Phase 2 – the road portion – to take place in the fall so that construction could start next spring. If the work is able to follow that timeline, it would all be completed mid-to-late summer of 2022.
Richard Hamlin, village engineer and project manager, stated at a March 25 Senate Transportation Committee meeting that the entire project was originally going to be funded by VTrans but that now Amtrak may be earmarking some funding to be used as well. According to VTrans representative for the project Ande Deforge, the current cost is estimated at $10 million.
“It is with great excitement that the village has received all necessary easements to be able to begin construction on the Crescent Connector,” said Village Trustees President Andrew Brown. “The Crescent Connector is a new road which will allow for traffic coming from Main Street – VT Route 15 – and Maple Street – VT Route 117 – heading towards Williston on Park Street – VT Route 2A – to avoid 5 Corners and avoid one railroad crossing. By diverting this traffic, all other vehicles within the 5 Corners will experience nearly 30 fewer seconds of stagnation.
“This reduction in travel time will not only make our commutes easier but will also reduce the amount of pollution our vehicles emit into the atmosphere,” Brown continued. “The Crescent Connector will not only help to improve the flow of traffic but will also allow for all railroad crossings to be replaced with the same type of railroad crossing which exists at North Street near the intersection with Old Colchester Road and Grove Street. Going beyond these improvements, the Crescent Connector will also open up underdeveloped land for additional economic development activities, create additional public parking and bury utilities.
As part of the project, Railroad Street will get a new subsurface, and the existing rail crossings in the village will get new gates which are expected to increase safety. Additionally, all the roadway crossings will get new concrete inserts to make it smoother for vehicles crossing railroad tracks, and the Crescent Connector will allow a large portion of vehicular traffic to cross the tracks only once rather than twice.
While it was a concept at one point in the planning, the current design does not close off Main Street from the railroad tracks to the 5 Corners to vehicles. Village Community Development Director Robin Pierce said it could be studied how the new road will affect traffic in that area as, “It could take several years for people to change their driving habits.” He added that a trial closure could be considered some summer when school traffic is absent to see if that would be viable.
During the Senate Transportation Committee meeting, Sen. Tom Chittenden touched upon that concept, saying, “I love the Crescent Connector, and I love what this is going to do to this new pedestrian attraction of just a great place to bring your kids other than Church Street. And I just hope that there’s a lot of public transportation considerations for how to get people into buses or the trains as we expand the train network.”
Hamlin explained to the committee that the Crescent Connector will provide the following safety improvements in the downtown area:
- Reduced train-traffic conflicts
- Improved pedestrian and bicycle accommodations
- Improved rail-highway crossings
- Improved street lighting
During that March 25 meeting, Trustees Vice President George Tyler also explained that the connector project will create additional opportunities for commercial and residential development in the village center – allowing vehicles to access property that Hamlin described as currently being “landlocked.”