Options include roundabout
Dec. 16, 2010By Tim Simard Observer staff
Changes may be on the table next year for a key Williston intersection. Town officials are looking at ways to modify the intersection at North Williston Road and Mountain View and Gov. Chittenden roads.
Proposals include a roundabout, an idea previously suggested for the U.S. 2, North Williston Road and Oak Hill Road intersection. The roundabout was meant to improve safety, but the suggestion prompted negative reactions from many residents who feared such a change would diminish the historic nature of the intersection. At Town Meeting in March, voters used an advisory motion to show their displeasure for the roundabout. Stop signs on both sides of the U.S. 2 portions of the intersection are now outfitted with flashing red lights.
Increased traffic along narrow North Williston, Mountain View and Gov. Chittenden roads compelled the town to take a closer look at ways to improve traffic flow and safety at the intersection, Town Manager Rick McGuire said. Wait times along Mountain View Road can be lengthy, especially during the evening commute, he added.
The town is accepting engineering proposals for the intersection project until Jan. 5. The Selectboard will then review the proposals and hold public hearings, possibly as soon as late February, McGuire said.
McGuire said improvements at the intersection have been in the Town Plan since a traffic study in 2005 found that an average of more than 4,000 vehicles travel through the area on any given day.
“Improvements at that intersection have been on the capital budget for years and years and years,” McGuire said.
There’s currently a $190,000 placeholder in next year’s capital budget for construction, although that number could drastically change depending on whether the town accepts any of the engineering proposals, McGuire said. He also said the intersection improvements are actually listed as a roundabout within the budget.
Federal funds could help pay for the majority of any project. Since the intersection involves only town roads, McGuire said officials haven’t worked with the Vermont Agency of Transportation.
The Town Plan identifies a roundabout as a top improvement for the intersection, though McGuire said engineering proposals may suggest a four-way stop or widening of the roads.
McGuire said recent reports that a roundabout would be the only way to improve the North Williston Road intersection aren’t quite accurate.
“I think it’s very unfortunate for it to be labeled as a roundabout,” he said. “The key point is we’d like to figure out a way to make that intersection safer.”
According to Williston Fire Department statistics, the North Williston-Mountain View Road intersection had 12 accidents over a five-year period. Some were fender benders, while others were more serious, according to firefighter Sean Soper.
“It’s about average with just about every intersection in town,” Soper said. “I’ve been on (the fire department) for almost five years now and I can remember only a few bad accidents there.”
Soper said the intersection sometimes poses a safety problem if emergency vehicles get stuck in traffic responding to an accident on narrow Mountain View Road. A roundabout might ease the traffic there, he said, although it might create new issues — especially if it’s built too small.
“We have some pretty large vehicles and if we can’t do a complete 180 around the roundabout, then we’d have some problems,” he said.
Easing vehicle backups at the intersection would also go a long way toward fixing traffic problems around Williston Village, McGuire said. While the Circumferential Highway remains in the permit phase, McGuire said North Williston Road improvements could in the meantime ease congestion.