By Lisa Loomis
It took over a decade, an enormous amount of political pressure, closing private lands to public use, serious lobbying and inter-legislative committee wrangling and, ultimately, a little over a month of construction, but the Turner dairy farm cow underpass has been completed.
Starting last week, the cows began their twice daily journey under Route 100 rather than over the top, with cars. Traffic on Route 100 was one lane only while the project was constructed.
In December 2005, Waitsfield dairy farmers Doug and Sharon Turner, along with their son Joe, took the drastic step of closing their lands to public and to recreational uses as a means of sending a message to the Vermont Agency of Transportation.
For more than 10 years, the Turners were in negotiations with the Vermont Agency of Transportation to have a cow underpass installed under Route 100 as it passes by their farm just south of the Moretown town line on Route 100.
After more than a decade of apparently futile negotiations, the Turners closed their lands to the public and asked for the public's help in lobbying the AOT to install the underpass. Their lands are widely used by snowmobilers, cross country skiers and dog sled racers and they also host the canoe pullout and bike start portion of the annual Sugarbush Triathlon. Their lands are open for hunting and fishing as well.
TWICE A DAY
Citing safety concerns, Turner argued that twice a day, during peak drive times, he and his son were stopping traffic on Route 100 to move 50 cows from one side of the road to the other. When he got nowhere with the Agency of Transportation, he turned to Washington County Senator Phil Scott who began to move the behemoth wheels at the state level to free up funding for the project in 2006.
It took another year to secure funding and negotiate an easement with an adjoining landowner and a second year to engineer the project. The cow underpass is a square, concrete culvert that was installed under Route 100 from a site near Turner's driveway on the east side of Route 100, at a diagonal to the west side. Route 100 was dug up, one lane at a time, and the underpass installed with Route 100 repaving taking place last week.
Doug and Sharon Turner, whose land was donated to the Vermont Land Trust some years back, are the third generation to farm the land. Their son Joe, 27, is following in their footsteps.
The project cost between $200,000 and $300,000 to complete. Senator Scott, in 2006, secured $100,000 from Agency of Transportation funds and $100,000 from the Vermont Department of Agriculture to be used towards the project.