By JOHN FLOWERS
LEICESTER — Addison County Transit Resources (ACTR) will seek state funds to start a new Route 7 bus service that would operate between Middlebury and Rutland. Two communities that figure to be stops along the route — Leicester and Salisbury — are currently readying “park-and-ride” facilities for prospective users of the new service.
“It’s the only section of Route 7, between St. Albans and Bennington, that does not have public transportation service,” ACTR Executive Director James Moulton said of the proposed Middlebury-to-Rutland stretch. “It would make it possible for people to go from one end of Vermont to the other, using public transportation.”
The new service would be jointly operated by ACTR and Rutland-based Marble Valley Regional Transit District (MVRTD). Together, the organizations will apply for $200,000 of the approximately $500,000 the state of Vermont has reserved for public transportation start-ups in fiscal year 2007, according to Moulton.
He noted ACTR sought funding for the Middlebury-to-Rutland service last year, but the Legislature did not end up setting aside money for transportation start-ups during fiscal year 2006.
If the needed funding comes through this year, Moulton said the new service would involve two buses — one operated by ACTR, the other by the MVRTD — that would make round-trip runs between Middlebury and Rutland during the early morning, mid-day and late-afternoon hours. The buses would run six days per week, Monday through Saturday.
Moulton added the vehicles’ runs would be synchronized with other ACTR services — such as the Middlebury-to-Burlington route that has entered its second year. That Burlington bus has been averaging 55 riders per day so far this year, according to Moulton.
“It’s ultimately going to serve multiple markets,” Moulton said of the new run, which, if put in place, would allow customers to coordinate transportation from Burlington to Albany, N.Y.
He added the new service would make stops within individual communities along Route 7 to Rutland. Brandon, Pittsford, Leicester and Salisbury are just a sampling of towns that could be featured on the buses’ itinerary.
Leicester and Salisbury are already preparing park-and-ride amenities for local citizens who may want to take the service.
Salisbury and Leicester have received Vermont Agency of Transportation grants of $10,000 and $12,500, respectively, to create designated parking areas for bus users, or local folks who simply want to car-pool.
In Leicester, the park-and-ride will be located on the west side of the driveway leading to the town clerk’s office and Leicester Elementary School. In all, 10 spaces will be set aside for park-and-ride customers, according to Leicester Town Clerk Donna Pidgeon. Those reserved spaces will be paved and lined, probably late next month, she said.
Meanwhile, a Salisbury citizens’ group is designing a park-and-ride at the site of the former town shed located east of Route 7, at the intersection of Maple Street and West Salisbury Road. The new lot will contain around 10 spaces, according to Salisbury Selectman John Beattie.
“Our town plan supports the use of mass transit,” Beattie said.
He added a Middlebury-to-Rutland bus stop in Salisbury would “be a real asset for the community and would be in keeping with the vision for our town.”
Moulton said ACTR will submit its grant application by Aug. 8, and learn later this year whether its request has been honored.