05 Jun Valley News – New park-and-rides planned for the Thetford, …
ROYALTON — The Vermont Agency of Transportation hopes to build two new park-and-ride lots in the Upper Valley as part of its efforts to encourage carpooling and public transit along the interstate.
VTrans plans to first build 91 spaces at Interstate 89’s Exit 3 interchange in Royalton next summer, followed by construction of a 40-space facility in Thetford in 2021.
The projects are meant to accommodate an increasing demand for park-and-ride spaces. Royalton’s only park-and-ride is miles from the interstate, near the intersection of routes 110 and 14 in South Royalton, while residents have long complained that Thetford’s existing lot along Route 113 is too small and underdeveloped.
“Thetford was just a gravel mess that kind of transformed over the years,” Wayne Davis, who manages Vermont’s park-and-ride program, said on Tuesday. “It was time to upgrade it with better lighting (to become) a more secure place.”
Thetford’s new park-and-ride will be located on what is now green space between the Exit 14 north ramp and Interstate 91, Davis said. It will provide several accommodations the community has long asked for, including a bus shelter and nearby utility pole to power lights.
The facility will replace the nearby 23-space lot, which will be closed, graded and seeded, Davis said. He estimated the project will cost about $900,000.
Meanwhile, Royalton’s new park-and-ride will cost the state about $950,000, Davis said. That lot will be built inside the northbound Exit 3 ramps off I-89.
Davis said the current Royalton park-and-ride in the village, which can hold 21 vehicles, will remain open after construction is complete.
Exit 3, which is near the town line with Bethel, was identified by the Two Rivers-Ottauquechee Regional Planning Commission as a “black hole” that wasn’t being served well by any other park-and-ride, said Rita Seto, a senior planner at the commission.
Seto said both proposed park-and-rides will better serve buses, which require more space to safely turn through parking areas. She also praised VTrans for its efforts to install electric vehicle charging stations at new park-and-rides, which likely will be carried through in the new facilities.
The two projects are part of Vermont’s plans to design and construct 554 new park-and-ride spaces over the next two years. Once construction is complete, the new spaces will increase the number of state-owned parking spots by roughly a third.
The $2.6 million needed to accomplish that goal is tied to Vermont’s 2020 transportation budget, which hasn’t yet been signed by Gov. Phil Scott, though he is expected to do so.
While news of the two new Upper Valley park-and-rides likely will be welcomed by commuters in Royalton and Thetford, those in nearby Sharon will have to wait another five years before upgrades are planned for its 23-space park-and-ride near I-89’s Exit 2.
VTrans held a public forum in 2016 to discuss plans for the facility, one of the most heavily used in the region. The park-and-ride is usually between 76% and 88% full on weekdays, according to counts compiled by the TRORC in 2015.
Its small size also has proved difficult for Stagecoach Transportation Services buses to navigate. The nonprofit transportation group makes stops in Sharon as part of its “89er” route.
VTrans hopes to expand the park-and-ride within existing state property, Davis said.
“They’re just starting the design process, so it’s probably five or six years out before construction,” Davis said.
Tim Camerato can be reached at [email protected] or 603-727-3223.