Isn't it nice that the state of Vermont has decided to subsidize Greyhound bus service to "Southern Vermont," meaning Southeastern Vermont, after the company announced it intends to end service to Brattleboro and other Vermont communities, not including Bennington.
In the years since it lost regular bus service to Massachusetts, New York and points north, Bennington has been without one of the key transportation segments necessary for quality of life in this area, not to mention economic development. Raise your hands: How many people would like to have -- as we once had -- bus service to Boston, New York City, Albany, Burlington, Montreal?
It is no secret that this area historically has gotten the shaft on highways: No I-91, no I-89, an unfinished, never-to-be finished, limited-access Route 7 to Burlington; a bypass that gets trucks out of the downtown but provides little else of undisputed value -- a road that isn't finished either, and may never be finished.
Then there is the dream of passenger rail service to Bennington, which never seems to make it to the top of federal or state funding priority lists. In fact, bus service -- especially a run or two subsidized by the state -- would be just the ticket to better connect Bennington County with the outside world.
We are glad to see that southeastern Vermont will retain its bus service for a while at least, but this is an old frustration for the Bennington area -- and getting older. When we see how quickly funding to subsidized bus service was offered to the other side of the state, should we think we're still the "Banana Belt" in the eyes of the rest of Vermont? Logically, we might.
Spending on the bypass road -- spectacularly over-engineered and of limited benefit and certainly not worth the gigantic cost -- has certainly come our way. But the most effective, least costly transportation assistance we could receive today is regular bus service to major population areas. Passenger rail would be great as well, but right now that is about as close to reality as the southern leg of the Bennington Bypass -- and at least as costly.
How about some real time, real assistance from the state of Vermont?