Why is the Route 22A corridor being studied?

The Vergennes PEL Study is evaluating transportation solutions that reduce the impact of large truck traffic on Route 22A in Downtown Vergennes, while seeking ways to enhance the quality of life and economic vitality for residents in the City and surrounding towns.

Why is another study being done for the Route 22A corridor?

Over the last 20 years, the Route 22A corridor has had several studies looking at alternatives that reduce large truck traffic and their associated impacts in Downtown Vergennes.  Several of the alternatives being discussed are large enough that they will need federal funds for implementation.  In order to pursue federal funding, we need to complete more in-depth analysis of all alternative options and actively engage a wider range of organizations and people in the area while evaluating options.  

Key findings from the following previous study efforts will be incorporated to the Vergennes PEL Study: 

What is a PEL study?

Created by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), a Planning and Environment Linkages (PEL) study is a high-level, planning study process. PEL studies identify transportation issues, priorities, environmental concerns, and economic goals to inform the environmental review process, including the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), project development, design, and construction.

For more information, please see the Planning and Environmental Linkages section of this site.

What is NEPA?

NEPA stands for the National Environmental Policy Act, which became law in 1970. NEPA requires federal agencies to assess the environmental effects of their proposed actions prior to making decisions. Using the NEPA process, agencies evaluate the environmental and related social and economic effects of their proposed actions. Agencies also provide opportunities for public review and comment on those evaluations.

What is a Purpose and Need Statement?

A Purpose and Need Statement provides clear supporting facts or data that explain the need for the project and outlines unsatisfactory conditions that the project would address. It is a statement that outlines a transportation problem, not a specific solution, and is supported by robust public outreach. The Purpose and Need Statement developed for the Vergennes PEL Study can be found here.

Vergennes PEL Study Purpose and Need Summary (1 page)

When during the PEL process is a single alternative identified?

A PEL study is not required to screen alternatives down to a single recommended alternative and most PEL studies result in multiple recommended alternatives. However, it is possible that one alternative may rise to the top during the screening process.

Will the PEL process select a “preferred alternative”?

The term “preferred alternative” is used during the NEPA process when a single preferred option is selected. The PEL process occurs before NEPA and a “preferred alternative” cannot be selected through this process. Instead during a PEL study, proposed transportation solutions (concepts/alternatives/modes) are screened with a series of criteria to evaluate if it meets the project specific Purpose and Need Statement. The screening process helps to identify recommended and feasible options to move forward for consideration. If an alternative is dismissed for not meeting the Purpose and Need, the reasons for the eliminating that alternative are documented in order to limit the need for consideration during NEPA.

When will the Vergennes PEL Study be complete?

The project kick-off meetings for the Vergennes PEL Study took place in Spring 2021. A final report and recommendation is anticipated for mid-2025.

Why will the Vergennes PEL Study take so long to complete?

The Vergennes PEL Study involves various tasks to identify transportation solutions for the Route 22A corridor that consider efficiency, safety, quality of life, and economic vitality. For that to happen, many stakeholders are involved. The public is involved in a collaborative process that includes focus group meetings, workshops, land use visioning, newsletters, a website and public meetings. From this process, input is gathered about how the project will impact the social, cultural and community resources in the area. Taking the time to build regional consensus will result in a decision-making process that encourages working relationships between local government, agencies and transportation departments to get a future project done more efficiently.

At the end of the Vergennes PEL Study, will there be only one option remaining to move forward?

The PEL process allows for more flexibility than the subsequent NEPA process. A PEL study is not required to screen alternatives down to a single recommended alternative (or concept) and most PEL studies result in multiple recommended alternatives. However, it is possible that one alternative may rise to the top during the screening process. If VTrans decides to move forward with a project, all concepts that were not dismissed will be evaluated during the NEPA process. The final selection of one “preferred alternative” can only occur during the NEPA process, and preference identified in the PEL study is not binding.

Who makes the final decision on the result of the Vergennes PEL Study?

The Vergennes PEL Study Policy Committee will recommend one or more alternatives for further study based on how well each meets the Purpose and Need Statement that guides the work of the Study. The Policy Committee represents the stakeholders impacted by the project, including the individual communities. Based on the Policy Committee’s recommendations, the Vermont Agency of Transportation will make a final decision on which alternatives, if any, should be advanced for further consideration.

Will the Vergennes PEL Study result in a recommendation for construction?

The Vergennes PEL study includes evaluation of whether no changes are the preferred outcome. This “no build” option is not just on the table because it is required. The Vermont Agency of Transportation is unsure whether to build or not build a solution related to reducing the impact of truck traffic on downtown Vergennes. The PEL study is intended to dig deeper into the details and reach a wider audience so there is enough information to decide whether to build or not build.

Once the Vergennes PEL Study is complete, what’s next?

If a decision is made to advance one or more of the proposed solutions for further study, the Vermont Agency of Transportation would first need to secure funding for design and construction of a roadway project. If that funding is secured, the project would be subject to a federal environmental review, known as a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) determines the extent to which the work and results of the Vergennes PEL Study would be carried into the NEPA review. The recommendations of the PEL study are not binding, and the final selection of a “preferred alternative” can only occur during the NEPA process. If a decision is made that “no build” is the preferred option, there will be no additional activity after the PEL study.

What input will local communities have after the PEL Study is complete?

The extent of public involvement required under NEPA is dependent on the potential impacts of the federal action. For example, if the future project has the potential for significant impacts, it will require an Environmental Impact Statement or EIS. A formal public involvement process is required for EISs, including scoping, public review and comment on the Draft EIS, and a public hearing. If partial or full property acquisitions are needed, there will be additional meetings and potentially affected landowners will be contacted by a VTrans right-of-way agent.

What is happening with the Otter Creek Bridge on Main Street?

The Otter Creek Bridge, Bridge 27, on Main Street in Vergennes is a City owned and maintained bridge.  It is on the Class 1 Town Highway section of Route 22A in downtown Vergennes.  VTrans assists all municipalities with inspections of large bridges and the last published bridge inspection report is dated August 2023.  VTrans discussed their 2022 and 2023 inspection findings with the City of Vergennes and made suggestions for temporary fixes until larger scale repairs, rehabilitation or replacement occurs.  The next bridge inspection will occur in July 2024.

VTrans has allocated federal and state funds to assist the City with evaluating and constructing longer term improvements for the bridge through the Town Highway Bridge Program.  Scoping for the bridge project started in summer 2023 and there will be a public meeting to discuss the project in late Spring/ early Summer 2024.  For further information about the bridge, contact Ron Redmond (Vergennes City Manager, manager@vergennes.org 802-238-5598).