A Burlington advocate best known for his work to create more equitable and safe transportation systems in Vermont died Thursday, leaving many wondering who will carry on his work.
Tony Redington, 83, died from cancer at the University of Vermont Medical Center, according to his son, JJ Redington.
Passionate about improving Burlington’s transportation system, Redington advocated for more pedestrian- and bike-friendly options. He also fought against the redevelopment of Burlington’s downtown mall — a long-stalled project that became known as the pit. Recently, he was leading a legal challenge to the city’s plan to construct the Champlain Parkway.
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“He wanted to make sure people were safe,” said his daughter-in-law, Joy Redington.
“I’ve never seen someone after they retire work harder than they did before they retired,” she said. “That shows just the passion and drive he had for what he did.”
Redington did not own a car and drew notice for biking around Burlington throughout winter, she said.
“Tony just really fundamentally wanted things to slow down a bit,” said Brian Pine, director of Burlington’s Community Economic Development Office.
“The car makes us all move too quickly, and if we ride our bike or we walk to where we need to go, we’re going to have a much stronger connection to each other and to the planet,” Pine said. “He lived that. He didn’t just espouse it.”
Pine said that Redington was a “force of nature” in his “zeal for righting society’s wrongs.”
“Most people you talk to who have worked either in city government or in advocacy work have a story about Tony’s steadfast commitment to making our streets safer,” said City Councilor Joe Magee, P-Ward 3. Redington’s role in those conversations “will be sorely missed in the city,” they said.
Prior to his advocacy work, Redington worked in transportation development and research at the Vermont Agency of Transportation for 17 years. Before that, he worked at the New Hampshire Department of Transportation and served as the executive director of the New Hampshire Housing Commission.
In Burlington, Redington was a member of the Coalition for a Livable City — a group of residents that advocates for public spaces and has opposed development projects on the grounds that they will exacerbate economic inequalities.
Redington also founded and led the Pine Street Coalition, a grassroots organization that filed a lawsuit against Burlington to stop the construction of the long-planned Champlain Parkway road project.
Brenda Siegel, the Democratic nominee for governor, said Redington supported her when she first ran for office in 2018, and they worked together at the Community of Vermont Elders, where she is a board member.
“I knew him to be someone that, despite my very strong advocacy, always pushed me to do better and to consider how my positions might impact people I wasn’t thinking of at that moment,” Siegel said.
Redington was known as a relentless advocate for roundabouts, helping pave the way for the creation of some in Vermont.
“Having the last name Redington goes with roundabouts because of him,” said JJ Redington. “My dad was a huge proponent of the first one that got implemented in northeastern Montpelier.”
Pine said that Redington saw roundabouts as a “multipurpose remedy for a lot of the ills of society” because of their ability to reduce car crashes and lower carbon emissions.
Redington was also active in the legal battle over the completion of the Champlain Parkway. In a lawsuit filed by the Pine Street Coalition, opponents argued the proposed route through Burlington’s South End would disproportionately impact people of color and low-income individuals.
Redington expressed concern that the parkway would make it more difficult for residents of the South Meadow neighborhood to reach businesses on Shelburne Road, including the Hannaford supermarket.
“Walking along busy streets makes one constantly aware of being a second class citizen when it comes to transportation,” he wrote in a commentary for VTDigger in 2020.
Redington also pushed for protected bike lanes and sidewalks along the parkway.
It is unclear whether Redington’s death will impact the future of the lawsuit.
“Right now we are all addressing our grief,” Cindy Ellen Hill, the lawyer for the Pine Street Coalition, wrote in an email. “The Pine Street Coalition will meet and discuss plans for the continuation of our case once we have had time to mourn the loss of our friend.”
Although Redington was known for his strong opinions and independence, colleagues described him as a leader who brought people together and listened.
“I never saw him tell anyone what to do,” said Steve Goodkind, Burlington’s longtime public works director who retired in 2013, before making a bid to be mayor. “He was just this person who would do the work and step up when things needed to be done.”
One of Redington’s most notable traits, according to many who worked with him, was his work ethic.
Goodkind described Redington as a “one man workhorse.” Redington was a prolific writer of emails, detailing different data driven problems in missives to policymakers, members of the media and others.
Even while undergoing chemotherapy, Redington would only take a day or two off from emailing, Goodkind said.
Goodkind said that he realized something was wrong with Redington’s health when he did not receive any emails for about three weeks. Deciding to drop by Redington’s apartment, Goodkind learned from one of his sons that he was in the hospital for what appeared to be a reaction to his chemotherapy treatment.
Goodkind tried to visit Redington in the hospital last week but learned he was in the intensive care unit and unable to receive visitors. Redington died the following day.
Joy said the family has received overwhelming community support in the days since Tony Redington’s death, with more people reaching out than they ever would have predicted.
“The replies that we’ve gotten just shows you who he was as a person, like how he just connected with the community quite a bit,” JJ said, pausing. “Boy, that’s an understatement.”
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Juliet Schulman-Hall recently graduated from Smith College, majoring in English, minoring in sociology and concentrating in poetry. Most recently, she has worked for MassLive covering abortion and the environment, among other topics. Prior to that, she worked for Ms. Magazine and has done freelance work for PBS’s Next Avenue and Arkansas Nonprofit News Network.
Email: [email protected]
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