Select Board to Consider Ambitious Pedestrian Safety Proposal

by Doug McClure
A sketch of what the village center would look like with the Cabot Bypass in place. The proposal calls for a greenspace, outdoor community and dining areas, a bike-and-pedestrian-only village center.

WOODBURY/HARDWICK – Thanks to the potential availability of significant federal funding, a nearly-century-old regional roads project is being resurrected by the state.

The Cabot Bypass, first envisioned in the 1930s, is under discussion once again. The highway was originally seen as linking up with state senior civil engineer Col. William Wilgus’ proposed Green Mountain Parkway across the peaks of the Green Mountains.

The Woodbury Select Board of the 1930s granted permission for “any project furthering the Cabot Bypass, in perpetuity.” In the 1970s, the plan was briefly revived, and the board re-affirmed the validity of the permit issued some 40 years before. However, funding for the project fell through. 

The Cabot Bypass of 2024 would route traffic around Hardwick. In Woodbury there is no restriction on widening and elevating Route 14, allowing engineers to make the grade manageable for an elevated section that will form an exit off Route 14 onto Cabot Road, connecting Woodbury to Cabot via Cabot Road, Bothfeld Hill Road and Elm Street. The bypass would connect to Route 2 via a widened Danville Hill Road. An alternate route via Whittier Hill Road and Thistle Hill Road was rejected as the grade is too steep for large trucks in winter.

This design re-imagines the Route 15 west entrance to Hardwick, based on a proposed new pedestrian safety plan. A press release from the Boston-based engineering firm highlights the efforts made to include flood prevention features in the design.

The bypass would allow tractor-trailers not making deliveries in Hardwick to navigate around Hardwick. The proposal’s authors note that routing the heavy traffic through the middle of Cabot village is “a challenge for another day, as the available funding is not unlimited.”

A spokesperson for the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) said the plan would “deal with every single issue around pedestrian and traffic safety in [Hardwick] village for good.”

Beyond making part of South Main Street a pedestrian and bicycle zone, the new Hardwick plan would see a new multi-level parking structure on Wolcott Street, below the Village Restaurant and across from the former Flood Zone site.

The plan calls for the parking structure to be limited to Hardwick residents only. Residents would be able to buy an annual parking pass for a fee of $120, which would help defray the cost of the matching grant the town would be responsible for. The parking garage would access South Main Street through ADA-accessible elevators that open onto the municipal parking lot next to the Village Restaurant. The blinking yellow light at the intersection of Routes 14 and 15 would be replaced by a regular streetlight.

An optional feature of the plan calls for a “Green Gondola,” connecting the upper level of the garage to the Hazen Union campus. The proposal document states that the electricity to power the gondola would be provided by a “small, commercial-grade” wind turbine to be installed on top of Buffalo Mountain.

The proposal states that the gondola would “enhance pedestrian safety by eliminating the need for Hazen students and staff to walk the heavily-trafficked stretch of North Main Street between the campus and the village center. It [the gondola] would also build on Hardwick’s ongoing efforts to establish itself as a destination town.”

The report defines a destination town as one “which is marketed or markets itself as a place for tourists to visit.” Funding for the gondola is a separate line item in the proposal.VTrans will hold a public hearing on the proposal tomorrow, April 1, from 8:00 to 8:30 a.m. at the State Transportation Agency office at 158 Derrywoods Road in Londonderry. Seating is limited. Attendees are encouraged to call ahead to see if there is still room in the room