BURLINGTON, VT (AP) Construction on U.S. Route 7 was allowed to begin yesterday with a judge’s decision on Monday to lift an injunction against the work.
U.S. District Court Judge William Sessions ruled after hearing arguments about whether the reconstruction of the busy road would violate stormwater regulations.
On Aug. 15 lawyers for Friends of Route 7 won a temporary restraining order from Sessions that blocked construction crews from starting the work as they had intended on Monday.
Attorney Pamela Moreau, representing the construction opponents, said stormwater from the project, even the limited amount of work expected this fall, would worsen pollution in nearby Munroe and Bartlett brooks.
But after hearing an hour of arguments, Sessions reversed his decision of last week. "This court feels there has not been a showing that the plaintiffs will suffer irreparable injury,’ Sessions said.
Project opponents were disappointed with Sessions’ ruling Monday. ”During the last several rainstorms, the heavy-duty rain has been making the brook run a dark brown to blackish color,’ Patricia Ondovchik said.
Ondovchik said she owns a house that borders Munroe Brook and is a member of a limited partnership that owns commercial buildings on U.S. 7, including the Days Inn.
The U.S. 7 project would cover 3.1 mi. (5 km) between South Burlington and Shelburne. The work has been planned since the early 1980s, but design changes, appeals by opponents and other events have delayed the construction.
The rebuilt road would have two lanes in each direction. A grassy median would divide north and southbound lanes. It would have cuts to let motorists make left-hand turns.
Some business owners along the project’s route object to the median, saying it would limit access to their shops and offices.
In recent months, the opponents have added water quality concerns to their construction objections. Friends of Route 7 this year filed an appeal of the project’s stormwater permit to the Vermont Water Resources Board. The appeal is pending.
Dianna Olsen, Ondovchik’s sister and also a homeowner along Munroe Brook, said her objections aren’t a ploy to erase the proposed median but a real environmental fight.
"I don’t think this whole effort should be seen as a device to delay Route 7. This should be really looked at,’ Olsen said.
The construction at issue Monday in U.S. District Court was limited to a new ramp into IDX Corp., two new culverts and other minor work, rather than the entire project.
Sessions said that he saw no evidence that the culvert work and about 250 ft. (76.2 m) of new pavement near IDX would substantially worsen water quality in the brooks.