BARRE — Fueled by funding from the state Agency of Transportation, a new commuter bus could soon roll between Barre and Burlington on weekdays.
It’s all part of AOT’s looming move to Barre City Place, where some of its offices are now located, but many more are on the way.
Before it’s over, Mayor Lucas Herring said, AOT plans to have 385 employees working out of the four-story brick building that overlooks Depot Square.
Herring said AOT will fill the space currently occupied by the state Agency of Education, as well as the first-floor storefront recently vacated by Positive Pie.
“They’re taking more of the building,” he said of the state. “That’s a good thing.”
City Manager Steve Mackenzie agreed, noting that according to AOT’s projections, there will be net increase of 97 state jobs at Barre City Place as a result of the reshuffling. Some of those employees are already working out of the building, and Mackenzie said the bulk are expected to arrive in phases over the next 6 months.
Mackenzie said parking was a key hurdle, but the city has identified spaces to accommodate the influx of AOT employees.
Herring described it as a “tight fit” from a parking perspective, but it’s one he said likely would have been impossible without a proposal that is expected to provide some AOT employees with a convenient ride to and from work.
Enter Green Mountain Transit, which, thanks to funding from AOT, is poised to launch one new service and modify another in order to accommodate employees interested in commuting to work.
Jon Moore, GMT’s director of transportation, hosted a public hearing this week on the contemplated changes — including the proposed launch of the Barre LINK Express — at National Life in Montpelier.
Moore said the LINK bus would travel from Burlington to Barre and back twice a day on weekdays. Along the way it would stop in Richmond and Waterbury, he said.
Moore said demand for expanded commuter service to Barre is reflected in GMT’s Nextgen Study, and is consistent with earlier planning initiatives.
Though it will be paid for by AOT as part of a 3-year pilot project, Moore said the proposed service expansion comes at an awkward time for the GMT board, which is actively looking at cost-cutting measures due to budget constraints that will affect some existing services.
Still, Moore said he expects the GMT board will approve the Barre LINK and a Barre-related adjustment to the Route 2 commuter that currently runs from St. Johnsbury to Montpelier, with stops in West Danville, Marshfield, Plainfield and East Montpelier.
“I don’t anticipate a problem,” he said of a vote that will occur during the board’s Tuesday morning meeting.
Assuming the board approves the proposal, the new service would start March 25.
The timing of the state Agency of Education’s move from Barre City Place and AOT’s arrival are less clear.
Though education agency officials know they will be moving to the National Life complex in Montpelier, they don’t yet know precisely when. It won’t be earlier than March 1, which means the third and fourth floors at Barre City Place will be occupied until then.
AOT already occupies the second floor of the Barre building and it is unclear how swiftly it would move into offices on the third and fourth floors, or the first floor space previously occupied by Positive Pie.
Mackenzie said it wouldn’t happen overnight, and his understanding was it would be a months-long transition that should be largely completed by the end of the summer.