By Jason Starr
For a brief stint earlier this year, the traffic pattern just north of the Interstate 89 Exit 12 interchange seemed to suddenly make sense.
That’s because, according to Vermont Agency of Transportation officials, the subcontractor they hired to stripe Route 2A between the interstate off-ramps and Taft Corners unintentionally changed the lane configuration.
“It was striped erroneously,” Vtrans engineer Josh Hulett said. “The contractor made a mistake.”
Hulett, the lead engineer on the Route 2 and Route 2A repaving project that started in May and is nearly complete, and the project’s public outreach coordinator Stephanie Barrett said they heard from commuters who drive that stretch of road daily that the incorrect configuration actually improved traffic flow.
In its intended state, the two northbound lanes of Route 2A just north of the interstate are striped and signed so that traffic turning left at Marshall Avenue shares the left lane with traffic going straight. Traffic turning right into Maple Tree Place is given its own lane. This causes left-lane backups that can stretch from the interstate to Marshall Avenue.
During construction, the right lane was striped so that traffic going straight could use the less-crowded right lane. This eased backups in the left lane and prevented people who are heading straight from jumping into the right lane to get around traffic before getting back into the left lane to continue straight.
The alternate striping lasted about three weeks, and it contradicted roadside signs.
“It is back to the original configuration,” Barrett said. “That’s the way it’s designed, and that’s the way it’s going to stay.”
Hulett and Barrett said they are unsure of the original thinking behind the configuration.
Meanwhile, the paving project has given way to a traffic light rebuilding project upgrading every intersection along Route 2A through Williston and continuing onto Route 15 through Essex Junction and into Essex Town. Three intersections along Route 2 in Williston are also involved.
Crews are tackling 14 intersections in the two towns, one at a time, in a project expected to last through January. Some of the lights need upgrades and some will be replaced, according to Vtrans Project Designer Kelsi Record.
This week, crews are working on the intersection of Talcott Road and Route 2. The project will also cover the lights at the Exit 12 interchange, Connor Way, Zephyr Road, Boxwood Street, Marshall Avenue, North and South Brownell roads, and Harvest Lane.
Record said there will be police presence at the intersections being worked on to help guide traffic.
The new lights will be able to “talk” to each other to better coordinate the timing of stops, she said. They will also be remotely monitored by managers at Vtrans headquarters in Montpelier.
According to Vtrans traffic signal engineer Derek Lyman, there are 15 other traffic lights in the state that can be monitored remotely, and the agency hopes to eventually get all lights connected to headquarters.
The new lights log traffic data every tenth of a second, he said, allowing Vtrans managers to “use analytics to see trends and improve the performance of the lights.”
The connectivity also allows Vtrans to better respond to malfunctions.
“If there is an issue, we can diagnose the issue and make sure we have the right parts before we send a crew out,” Lyman said.