The Burlington City Council had transportation issues on the agenda this week as it reviewed upcoming construction projects planned for the summer — and how the COVID-19 pandemic may affect them.
Burlington officials are in the midst of a long-term plan to upgrade city infrastructure including streets, water, sidewalks, wastewater and stormwater. Department of Public Works Director Chapin Spencer says a number of projects including sidewalk reconstruction but others will be delayed due to the pandemic. “The paving bids were not as competitive as past years and COVID requirements likely led to a higher unit price than in past years. We also have had to adjust streets based on a delay of water projects. Both of those activities in this era of this pandemic have put these projects on hold and we are evaluating the situation week by week. But our hope is still to get some water main work done this calendar year.”
A pending project called the Champlain Parkway would connect Interstate-189 to the downtown, traversing a number of residential areas in the southwest portion of the city. Spencer provided an update on the decades-long project. “In the last year we have gotten utility agreements finalized; right-of-way clearance has been obtained and we’ve made good progress with soil management. These are milestones that have put the project in a position where we could be out to bid in seven or eight months. This projected is funded at 95-percent federal, 3-percent state and two-percent local.”
During public comments several city business owners spoke about the challenges they are facing because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Bluebird Barbecue owner Sue Bette told councilors it has been difficult to access components of the federal relief program. "Many of us are in pretty complex economic positions. And as we look to plan reopening and move forward into kind of some uncertain periods up ahead we just wanted to alert City Council to let you all know that our businesses are in a crisis state or certainly a distressed state.”
Restaurateur Jed Davis said many small businesses in the city will not reopen and those that do will face a depressed economy. “We do not know the full tool box that the city has available to help our small businesses bounce back. We just wish to convey that cash is tight or nonexistent for many small businesses in our community. We ask that you consider whatever you can to provide assistance as we attempt to eventually reopen and moreso I think recover.”
City councilors are expected to take action on the Champlain Parkway project at their next meeting.