Vermont Public is independent, community-supported media, serving Vermont with trusted, relevant and essential information. We share stories that bring people together, from every corner of our region. New to Vermont Public? Start here.

© 2024 Vermont Public | 365 Troy Ave. Colchester, VT 05446

Public Files:

For assistance accessing our public files, please contact or call 802-655-9451.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Vergennes Lays Out Plan To Reduce Truck Traffic In Historic Downtown

Melody Bodette
Truck traffic through the town of Vergennes is a major problem for residents and travelers. The town is now considering a plan to help reroute traffic to better serve the community.

On Town Meeting Day voters in Vergennes will cast ballots on a plan to reroute some truck traffic around the Little City. The vote is an advisory for the city council to decide if they will pursue the bypass plan with the Agency of Transportation.

Route 22A is a designated truck route that runs through the historic city center of Vergennes. The constant rumble of 18-wheelers has led many residents and business owners to look for ways to reduce the truck traffic.

“Main Street gets 800 trucks a day going in both directions. Most of those trucks are from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. It’s almost a truck per minute,” said Vergennes Mayor Bill Benton.

He says constructing a truck bypass would require two miles of new road and a new bridge over Otter Creek, and is not financially feasible.

But the problems with truck traffic are too much to ignore: vibration, noise, sound. The angle parking spaces on Main Street mean cars have to back out in front of trucks. When headed north on route 22A, trucks have to navigate a 10 percent grade. That hill includes a four-way intersection, which can’t have a traffic light. In the winter, trucks often get stuck going up the hill and have to back down to a bridge over Otter Creek.

Credit Melody Bodette / VPR
A truck travels up the 10 percent incline on Route 22A in Vergennes. Winter weather makes the hill especially treacherous for 18-wheelers.

The city is working with consultants to help connect Main Street to the river basin, and after a walking tour this fall, an innovative idea was presented: If the city could change the truck route so that northbound trucks used nearby Route 17 through Addison, Waltham and New Haven to get to Route 7, south bound trucks could still come through the city, but the number of trucks would be cut in half.

“Main Street Vergennes has 10 times the amount of truck traffic that Route 17 does. To me that just supports our contention that we’re more than happy to have our fair share of trucks, but to have 10 times what another nearby route does, doesn’t seem that fair,” Benton said. “We’re willing to just reduce it by 50 percent, or 40 percent because some trucks would still come to Vergennes for delivery.”

Benton says he has 22 letters of support from residents and business owners in the city. But as the idea has gone public, some people who live on Route 17 have spoken out against the idea, saying the road isn’t built for trucks.

VTrans says they’ll look into the project if there is regional support for it. The issue will come before the Addison County Regional Planning Commission’s Transportation Committee in March.  The Commission’s Executive Director Adam Lougee says the town representatives and the city will discuss whether other communities will share the burden of truck traffic.

"Main Street, Vergennes, has 10 times the amount of truck traffic that Route 17 does. To me that just supports our contention that we're more than happy to have our fair share of trucks, but to have 10 times what another nearby route does, doesn't seem that fair." — Vergennes Mayor Bill Benton

But he says making the change is not as easy as just putting up signs.

“Vergennes has some problems for truck traffic, like the hill on Otter creek and the bridge over Otter creek,” he said. “Route 17 isn’t as big as 22A. It’s got a lot of curves and other angles, so it doesn’t accommodate large truck traffic as easily. The bridge over Otter Creek on Route 17 has some problems, where 17 comes into New Haven Junction near train tracks and then truck turning north would have to go on a steep hill.”

Benton says he’ll wait for the outcome of both votes, but says truck traffic has been an issue in the city for so long, re-routing one direction of the truck route is worth a try.

Melody is the Contributing Editor for But Why: A Podcast For Curious Kids and the co-author of two But Why books with Jane Lindholm.
Latest Stories