ST. ALBANS CITY — Local businessman Tom Hungerford is seeking to revive discussion of extending Federal Street north. However, plans by the city to utilize a key property may pose an obstacle.
Hungerford approached the St. Albans City Council on Monday night to ask that the council consider setting aside land at the former Fonda paper products plant for a possible future extension of Federal Street.
“I think it’s time we put something like this on the drawing board,” said Hungerford, who came to the council with an engineer’s drawings for his proposal.
“There’s a lot going on Federal Street that affects us on North Main Street,” said Hungerford, who owns Hungerford Plaza, which falls just outside the city limits on North Main. With increased development on Federal Street, a bottleneck is being created on Main, Lower Newton, and Federal streets especially between 3:30 and 5 p.m., Hungerford said.
His proposal is to extend Federal Street to the intersection of Route 7 at Seymour Road. That intersection this summer received a new set of traffic lights in advance of the opening of Walmart.
A 2007 study of the Route 7 corridor recommended the construction of a parallel route from Federal Street to Jewett Avenue, which is north of the new Walmart.
The proposal included an extension of Route 207 to link with the bypass. The St. Albans Town Planning Commission organized joint meetings with the Swanton and St. Albans City commissions to plan such a project. One of the challenges in building such a road is the presence of wetlands.
Ruggiano Engineering was hired to lay out a possible road extending from Federal Street to Jewett Avenue. In May 2009 the town selectboard agreed to add the route to the official town map as a proposed road.
However, the project stopped there.
Ruggiano proposed that Lowe’s, which was then planning a store near Price Chopper on Route 7-South, be asked to work with Walmart to build a connection between the two sites as the first phase of the road construction. Lowe’s, however, withdrew their permit application.
The second phase, under Ruggiano’s proposal, was to connect Federal Street to Rewes Drive, the road, south of Seymour Road that connects Route 7-South to the city’s wastewater treatment plant. The 2007 traffic study had recommended that Route 105 and Rewes Drive be re-aligned into a full four-way intersection.
The third section was to connect the first two, and is also where the bulk of the wetlands are located. The fourth section was to have connect Walmart to Jewett Avenue.
The city is currently in the midst of acquiring rights of way and permits for improvements to Federal Street from the I-89 Access Road north to Lower Newton Street.
The issue for the city in extending Federal Street is how such an extension might impact the future use of the Fonda site located at the terminus of Federal Street at Lower Newton Street, said city manager Dominic Cloud. The site is owned by the city, which seeks to redevelop it. Any extension of Federal Street north would go through that property.
Ruggiano’s plan included paving over the railroad spur at the Fonda site, and a plan drawn up by Peter Cross, of Cross Engineering, for Hungerford also involves pavement in the same area.
Ward 4 Alderman Jeff Young pointed out that when permission is granted to use former rail beds for other uses, it is an easement, not a sale of the land. The federal government retains the right to convert the land back to rail lines.