Greg Dennis

A chronicle of life in Vermont and the issues and foibles of its people.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Between the Lines

[This is a regular column of musings on Vermont life. Here's the latest]:

I’ve spent most of the past 30 years driving in Southern California, where the traffic is thick as a Vermont icicle in January. But because most of San Diego County was built for automobiles rather than people, the traffic flow there does have a certain pleasing logic, when it isn’t undergoing outright atherosclerosis.

So let’s get this out of the way: My qualifications for expounding on Middlebury’s traffic woes are negligible. I've been back often on vacation, but I haven’t spent the past 30 years waiting to turn left across Route 7 traffic outside the Middlebury Inn, as I’m sure some Midd residents must feel they have. My hearing hasn’t dimmed over time as my ears take in the echoing roar of bulk-milk trucks thundering through downtown, their diesel drone echoing off the brick walls of the visually pleasing but traffic-challenged Main Street.

Yet it must be said: While Addison County has become an even finer place to live in the 28 years I was lost in the SoCal wilderness, the one thing that has quite obviously grown worse is the traffic.

It’s especially striking that in a town where civic involvement is regarded as a birthright – and is blessed with an informed and lively body politic –no one even seems to be talking about the traffic these days. There’s virtually no recognition, or at least no current discussion, about how the infrastructure to deal with the seemingly endless parade of vehicles is crumbling right before our eyes, and beneath our tires.

It’s as if the traffic was even more intractable than the weather. At least people still talk about the weather.

A bit of perspective: It’s still, usually, possible to make your way through town in predictable fashion. A stop here to let a parked car out into the flow; easing back on the throttle there to wave another care car out into what would otherwise be an impenetrable intersection for a driver who could wait for 10 minutes before she could turn left. We generally struggle through.

By comparison, a friend of mine who lives north of San Diego reports that it recently took him more than 4 hours to make the trip north to Los Angeles – a journey that’s under 2 hours without traffic -- for a Bob Dylan concert. (Worst of all, they missed Merle Haggard’s opening set).

But I have to say that I’m scratching my head over the fact that the only apparent traffic improvement since 1976 is the addition of a single stoplight on Route 7. and the light wasn't even added where it was obviously needed, in front of the Congo Church where drivers risk dismemberment when they turn from Main Street north onto Route 7.

Instead, the light is north of the Green near the Swift House. Its presence doesn’t do anything to ease the glacier that is Route 7. But it has the signal advantage of making it easier to get back out onto 7 -- after you’ve completely circumvented downtown from the college side (Weybridge Street to Pulp Mill Bridge Road, across the shaky wooden bridge, past Greg’s Market – no relation – and back onto 7 courtesy of the “new” light.

Other than that, it’s the same old tangle. Court Square poses a particularly galling mess as cars and an interminable parade of big trucks (the price of country living) wend slowly around the square, past the inn, splitting and merging around the Green. On busy days for the College, this tangle mixes with the slow-and-go along Main Street across the Battell Bridge and up toward campus. It often takes 10 minutes to cover a stretch you could easily walk in 5.

So what? Everybody’s got traffic problems, right?

True enough. But it is Middlebury’s mark, even more than big-city Burlington’s and certainly more than most other Vermont towns’, that the traffic detracts significantly from what is otherwise an utterly beautiful village.

It’s not just the long trek to cross town. It’s not just the noise or the visual blight of cars backed up halfway to East Middlebury. It’s the sense of humans overwhelming their natural surroundings in a way that separates and alienates us from that environment. That’s a blessedly rare phenomenon here, and therefore all the more ugly when it’s a frequent feature of local life.

It will come as no surprise to anyone who lives here that the real mess is south of Court Square. When the elementary and high schools let out, the mistimed lights, school kids, trucks, shoppers headed for the supermarket, and all manner of other human intercourse combine in one giant, inert worm of vehicles.

The folks who plan local highway “improvements” have also been doing their fair share to worsen the Midd version of Nightmare on Court Street. This spring the highway crews have been repaving Route 7 toward the south. And in their wisdom – recognizing the highway is already too narrow to handle the load to which it is regularly subjected – they’ve gone about *further narrowing* the highway so the traffic will back up even farther.

Are there any solutions out there?

To her credit, Select Board member Peg Martin (who ought to get a crown for all the work she’s done on Middlebury’s behalf over the years) had the guts to say at Town Meeting this year that it really was past time to plan and build another bridge over Otter Creek. Without some serious spending that the town isn’t prepared to undertake, the wooden Pulp Mill Bridge will one day soon be a charming and unusable relic. And the Battell Bridge, the magnificent falls beneath, is
for miles to the north and south the only other way across Vermont’s longest river. Another bridge is an obvious necessity but it’s years away. Necessary but distant.

It used to be that the easiest way to start a fistfight here was to campaign for a Route 7 bypass around Middlebury. Its attraction in terms of (at least short-term) traffic relief is obvious, as Manchester, Vt. residents will tell you. But the options are limited and the political will just isn’t there. Everyone seems to have given up on such a Big Fix.

The College still holds enormous sway here, and to preserve the stunning views from campus, it has bought up much of the land to the west of the campus – geographically the easiest route for a new highway around town. The College won't sell that land for a bypass, and no local Slect Board would condemn it for a highway. To the east, Route 116 is slowly filling in with new homes as the farmland goes fallow and is sold to out-of-staters such as myself. (For the record, we bought a home just west of Route 7, an empty in-fill lot for which no farmland was tortured killed.)

And so we sit here stewing in our own fumes, and the fumes produced by visitors who have come here to get away all the traffic.

[Any thoughts on all this? Please post yours to the blog by clicking the link.]


Blogger Greg said...


6:15 PM  
Blogger tandytheo0912 said...

i thought your blog was cool and i think you may like this cool Website. now just Click Here

6:11 AM  
Blogger markfisher4812 said...

I really enjoyed your blog. This is a cool Website Check it out now by Clicking Here . I know that you will find this WebSite Very Interesting Every one wants a Free LapTop Computer!

12:14 AM  
Blogger markgreene0750 said...

Make no mistake: Our mission at Tip Top Equities is to sift through the thousands of underperforming companies out there to find the golden needle in the haystack. A stock worthy of your investment. A stock with the potential for big returns. More often than not, the stocks we profile show a significant increase in stock price, sometimes in days, not months or years. We have come across what we feel is one of those rare deals that the public has not heard about yet. Read on to find out more.

Nano Superlattice Technology Inc. (OTCBB Symbol: NSLT) is a nanotechnology company engaged in the coating of tools and components with nano structured PVD coatings for high-tech industries.

Nano utilizes Arc Bond Sputtering and Superlattice technology to apply multi-layers of super-hard elemental coatings on an array of precision products to achieve a variety of physical properties. The application of the coating on industrial products is designed to change their physical properties, improving a product's durability, resistance, chemical and physical characteristics as well as performance. Nano's super-hard alloy coating materials were especially developed for printed circuit board drills in response to special market requirements

The cutting of circuit boards causes severe wear on the cutting edge of drills and routers. With the increased miniaturization of personal electronics devices the dimensions of holes and cut aways are currently less than 0.2 mm. Nano coats tools with an ultra thin coating (only a few nanometers in thickness) of nitrides which can have a hardness of up to half that of diamond. This has proven to increase tool life by almost ten times. Nano plans to continue research and development into these techniques due to the vast application range for this type of nanotechnology

We believe that Nano is a company on the move. With today�s steady move towards miniaturization we feel that Nano is a company with the right product at the right time. It is our opinion that an investment in Nano will produce great returns for our readers.

Online Stock trading, in the New York Stock Exchange, and Toronto Stock Exchange, or any other stock market requires many hours of stock research. Always consult a stock broker for stock prices of penny stocks, and always seek proper free stock advice, as well as read a stock chart. This is not encouragement to buy stock, but merely a possible hot stock pick. Get a live stock market quote, before making a stock investment or participating in the stock market game or buying or selling a stock option.

3:28 AM  
Blogger lucyericks8106 said...

I read over your blog, and i found it inquisitive, you may find My Blog interesting. My blog is just about my day to day life, as a park ranger. So please Click Here To Read My Blog

4:14 AM  
Blogger matthewdean40412946 said...

While you read this, YOU start to BECOME aware of your surroundings, CERTIAN things that you were not aware of such as the temperature of the room, and sounds may make YOU realize you WANT a real college degree.

Call this number now, (413) 208-3069

Get an unexplained feeling of joy, Make it last longer by getting your COLLEGE DEGREE. Just as sure as the sun is coming up tomorrow, these College Degree's come complete with transcripts, and are VERIFIABLE.

You know THAT Corporate America takes advantage of loopholes in the system. ITS now YOUR turn to take advantage of this specific opportunity, Take a second, Get a BETTER FEELING of joy and a better future BY CALLING this number 24 hours a day.
(413) 208-3069

7:22 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home