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Orange barrels sit next to the bus shelter at the Putney park-and-ride. Town and AOT officials hope it will be ready to use later this fall.

Town and Village

Putney park-and-ride nears completion

PUTNEY—Wayne Davis, project manager with the Vermont Agency of Transportation (AOT), said he has his “fingers crossed” for the Putney park-and-ride to open this fall.

It has been a long time coming.

For about a year, the area behind the Putney fire station has been under some form of construction to build the park-and-ride, but the AOT’s plans for it go back much further.

“In the late 1990s, [the AOT] started thinking about a park-and-ride” for the area, Davis told The Commons. The agency’s goal, he said, was to create a park-and-ride for almost every entrance to the state’s major highways.

The one in Putney, which straddles the town line with Dummerston, is the southernmost park-and-ride the AOT plans to install — Davis said the agency was unable to find a suitable location in Brattleboro. (The Brattleboro Development Credit Corp. owns the park-and-ride located on Browne Court, in front of the old Book Press.)

The park-and-ride sits just off Route 5, and occupies land that was formerly the site of an AOT maintenance facility.

Right now, next to the entrance, a wooden bus shelter sits alone among orange-and-white road barrels preventing cars from coming into the lot. Its partner, a covered bicycle rack, is nowhere to be found.

“Yes, it will be there,” Davis said. He explained the delay in installation: a fire at the company making the wooden structures.

“The park-and-ride is not completed. The bike shelter is coming,” he said.

Another delay is the discovery that a power transmission pole lies seven feet into the driveway leading to the park-and-ride. “We can’t move the driveway,” Davis said, because that would “impact operations of the fire station."

“I don’t know exactly how it happened” that plans came this far with nobody noticing the large pole in the way, Davis said.

“We knew high-tension lines were there. National Grid [the utility that owns the poles] upgraded and moved some poles. We were coordinating with them. We thought we were squared away,” Davis added. He suggested personnel changes at the AOT and National Grid, plus “maybe field miscalculations,” contributed to the mishap.

The AOT “is currently in negotiations with National Grid” to move the pole, Davis said.

Some locals have expressed concern with the size and certain aspects of the project.

“When we build them too small, we have problems,” Davis said, in response to the suggestion to shrink the park-and-ride.

Davis said the AOT “tries for a 20-year span” when planning park-and-ride facilities. He mentioned civil engineering formulas from AASHTO (American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials) call for Putney’s park-and-ride to allow for “80 to 90 cars."

The “demonstrated need” bears out the AOT’s plans, he added. “Most park-and-rides are almost full to capacity.” Once winter comes and plowing starts, there will be fewer spots to park, Davis noted.

Putney’s 82 spots are for parking, but the size of the lot must also accommodate the “riding” part. In addition to carpooling, Davis said people use park-and-rides for catching the commuter bus, and the buses need room to turn around safely.

“We now design for the largest buses,” because the AOT noticed tour bus drivers also use the park-and-rides as places to collect passengers going to places like the Boston Flower Show, Davis noted.

He mentioned the Weathersfield park-and-ride, with 68 spaces, “is having troubles with buses."

“The problem with a lot of our park-and-rides is there’s not enough space to expand them” after the initial build, Davis said. “It’s cheaper to build 82 spaces now than come back in five years to build again,” he added.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #319 (Wednesday, August 19, 2015). This story appeared on page C1.

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