The Bennington Bypass, also known as VT 279, provides an alternative route around the center of Bennington, Vermont which saves time primarily for winter ski tourists.
Project Type:Bypass Project Mode:Highway Average Annual Daily Traffic:3,700 Length (mi):4.20
Economic Distress:0.80 Population Density (ppl/sq mi):54 Population Growth Rate (%):-0.18
Employment Growth Rate (%):0.97 Market Size:18,050 Airport Travel Distance:85 Topography:16
Region:New England/Mid-Atlantic State:VT County:Neighborhood
City:Bennington Urban/Class Level:Metro Local Area:N/A
Impact Area:County Transportation System:N/A GIS Lat/Long:42.905151 / -73.229246
Initial Study Date:1998 Post Constr. Study Date:2008
Constr. Start Date:1999 Constr. End Date:2004
Project Year of Expenditure (YOE): 2000 Planned Cost (YOE $):N/A
Actual Cost (YOE $):26,000,000 Actual Cost (curr $):31,116,609
NOTE: All pre/post dollar values are in 2013$
Select a region to display the conditions for that region:
NOTE: All impact dollar values are in 2013$
|Income (in $M's)||1.27||0.89||2.16|
|Output (in $M's)||3.69||2.59||6.28|
The Bennington Bypass, also known as VT 279, provides an alternative route around the center of Bennington, Vermont for travelers from the west and north of the town. Construction of the 4.2 mile-long bypass began in 1999 and Phase I, the Western Segment, was completed in 2004 for $26 million. While there is very little truck traffic diverted by the new route, the area's tourists (such as skiers at Mount Snow and Stratton Mountain) save time by not having to go through town. In order to discourage sprawl and support city center businesses, no infrastructure, zoning, or sites were made available to induce development along the bypass route. Since the bypass has opened little to no business has been lost in the downtown while several businesses have located just north of the route in order to attract pass-by traffic?including a large hotel and restaurant. The project has generated 30 to 35 jobs at these new businesses.
2.1 Location & Transportation Connections
Bennington is in Vermont's southwestern corner which borders New York. The closest city is Albany, NY 40 miles to the west (via NY 7). Interstate 87 (known as the Northway) in New York provides access to New York City, four hours south of Bennington, and to Montreal, four hours drive north. Bennington has a small airport but the residents primarily use Albany International Airport for air travel.
Route 7 connects Bennington with Burlington, Vermont's largest city, 130 miles (2.5 hours) to the north. Route 7 extends south to Stamford, CT. on I-95, just 40 miles north of New York City. Route 9 connects with Brattleboro in southeast Vermont, one hour's drive east of Bennington.
2.2 Community Character & Project Context
Bennington is surrounded by the Green Mountain National Forest which offers many outdoor activities including major ski resorts like Mount Snow and Stratton Mountain. The Battle of Bennington (a Revolutionary War battle) is commemorated with an obelisk monument. This landmark and the surrounding historic district draws tourists and history-enthusiasts to the town. Bennington is close to Manchester, VT and the Berkshire Mountains in Massachusetts, two popular tourist destinations.
There are three colleges in Bennington: Southern Vermont College, Bennington College and a branch of the Community College of Vermont (CCVT). The town has three covered bridges, an annual car show, and Bennington Potters, who produce American-made stoneware. Major employers in the area include an automobile parts manufacturer and several carbon composite manufacturers. The town is also the primary shopping center for Bennington County, VT and the adjacent Rennselaer County, NY, which boasts the renowned Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute.
The idea for a bypass of Bennington originated in 1950's and was studied for several decades as part of a larger project linking VT 7 from Manchester to Bennington. A Final Environmental Impact Statement was finally done in 1989 (and later approved by FHWA in 1991). The 4.2 mile Western Segment, stretching from Hoosick, NY westward to Route 7, was opened to traffic in October 2004. The next segment to be constructed will be the Northern Segment, which will provide a northeast bypass for downtown. Construction began in July 2007 and is projected to continue until 2012. The third and final segment is the Southern Segment will extend in an arc from Route 9 southwest to Route 2.
Since a 1.2 mile segment of the 4.2 mile long bypass west into New York State, Vermont worked with the New York Department of Transportation on the plan. Construction of the bypass started in November of 1999 and was completed in 2004 at a cost of for $26 million (2002$). The bypass is 4.2 miles long, stretching from Hoosick, New York eastward for 1.2 miles to the Vermont border, and then proceeding 3 miles northeast of Bennington to VT 7. The Highway 7 corridor, stretching from Bennington to Burlington is a major north-south corridor within Vermont, second only to the I-87 corridor.
4.1 Transportation Impacts
The bypass has decreased travel time for commuters and day-trippers to and from the Albany Capital District. There is still significant truck traffic in downtown Bennington since most of the truck traffic comes east-west instead of north-south. When the Northern Segment of the bypass is completed in 2012, more east-west trucks and other through traffic will bypass Bennington on the north.
The design of the bypass on the New York side has caused more travelers heading east on Route 7 from Troy to use the bypass because drivers proceeding straight ahead enter the bypass. Turning into Bennington requires a sharp right turn, which seems counter-intuitive.
4.2 Demographic, Economic & Land Use Impacts
No sites or infrastruction were provided along the Bennington Bypass. Rather than due to a lack of planning foresight, this was a policy to discourage sprawl along the path of the bypass that would draw business from the city center. Motives for the project were purely transportation and environmental improvement by relieving the city center of through traffic. However, just north of the bypass off North Bennington Road, , off The Hampton Inn and Chili's restaurant that located just north of the bypass would not have moved here if not for the bypass. . These businesses rely on travelers passing by for further destinations in Vermont (particularly ski resorts in the winter). The hotel and restaurant employ 30 to 35 people collectively.
The merchants in downtown lost approximately 30% of their business after the bypass was complete. This was mainly attributed to the economic downturn, however. Bennington is fortunate in its proximity to Albany metropolitan area and the Berkshire region of Massachusetts, drawing many visitors for daytrips. Restaurants were the most adversely affected due to their reliance on pass-by traffic.
Several other businesses on the western side of town also experienced a fall in business; these include a confectioner's shop, wine tasting room, and antique shop. However, those businesses that changed their marketing strategies weathered the storm?one example is Bennington Center for the Arts which erected a billboard over the New York border telling people to turn right (instead of proceeding straight, onto the bypass). The Chamber of Commerce also put up similar billboards over the New York and Massachusetts' border (billboards are illegal in Vermont) making traveler's aware of the necessary turn to get to downtown.
Activity in the downtown will likely undergo significant change once the northern leg of the bypass is built in the coming years. The original plan for the bypass in the 1970's was to encourage business in the heart of Bennington by diverting truck traffic. This goal has yet to materialize with the partial diversion but more likely to occur once the other segment is complete. The anticipated effect is an initial drop in business, followed by long term growth due to the transformation to a more pedestrian-friendly downtown; thus fulfilling the project's original intent.
The local area has not been immune to the economic crisis of 2008 and 2009. Speaking with local officials it is apparent that tourist business has been waning in recent years. Therefore, while the bypass has diverted existing tourist traffic, the amount of tourist activity in general has been decreasing. The combination of the bypass and recession has caused the local shopkeepers to adopt new methods for attracting customers. Businesses in downtown Bennington are increasingly trying to market themselves as ?destinations? rather than relying on pass-by traffic. The town has been more proactive in soliciting tourist trades and is now directing tourists to the historic downtown with well-designed signage.
Traffic Study and Analysis for Greater Bennington, Clough, Harbor and Associates, Vermont Agency of Transportation, January 1999.
Bennington Chamber of Commerce Bennington County Industrial Corporation Bennington County Regional Commission Better Bennington Corporation Town of Bennington
Case Study Developed by Economic Development Research Group, Inc.