January 22, 2019

Four-way stop planned for N. Williston Rd.

Observer photo by Jason Starr
Currently a two-way stop, the intersection of Mountain View Road and North Williston Road has been approved for a four-way stop.

Board approves host of measures to slow traffic

By Jason Starr

Observer staff

A variety of speeding deterrents will be installed in the coming months on North Williston Road, the most dramatic of which is a stop sign at the road’s intersection with Mountain View Road.

The intersection currently has a two-way stop sign affecting only eastbound and westbound traffic on Mountain View Road. The new signs will create a four-way stop affecting northbound and southbound traffic, too.

The Williston Selectboard approved the concept last week after a renewed intersection study in March by the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission and its contractor Resource Systems Group (RSG) of Burlington.

Planners last evaluated the need for a four-way stop sign in 2012. At that time, traffic volume on Mountain View Road was just shy of warranting a four-way stop, RSG engineer Corey Mack said.

This year’s study counted an average of 240 cars per hour on Mountain View Road and 520 cars per hour on North Williston Road at the intersection, Mack said. Those volumes clear the federally required threshold for a four-way stop.

“I think that is what we thought it should be,” board member Terri Zittritsch said. “I’m glad the numbers back it up now.”

Mack predicts the change will reduce traffic on North Williston Road.

“I think you will see North Williston Road become a less desirable route, but Mountain View will become more desirable,” he said. “You will just see a shift in how people use it.”

Installation is planned for the fall. The selectboard will first need to amend the ordinance that governs stop signs, which includes a public hearing process, Town Manager Rick McGuire said.

Public Works Director Bruce Hoar plans to install message boards near the intersection about two weeks prior to the stop signs going in to alert drivers to the upcoming change. RSG also recommends placing temporary flashing alerts after installation to grab the attention of North Williston Road drivers as they approach the new signs.

“Since it’s going to be new, we want everything to be nice and bright,” Hoar said.

Observer courtesy photo

The new stop signs are among about a half-dozen elements set to be installed in two phases starting this summer along North Williston Road from Route 2 to the town line with Essex at the Winooski River bridge.

Phase one includes about $50,000 of traffic calming elements, including a curve warning sign facing northbound traffic about to enter “the hollow” — a descending curve that begins at Unity Lane — that flashes when an approaching car is travelling faster than the posted 35 mph. Also included in phase one are static curve warning signs in the hollow and pedestrian activated crosswalk lights south of Mountain View Road.

Phase two improvements include four speed tables — a gentler version of a speed bump — two on either side of the hollow, a speed feedback sign at the southbound entrance to the hollow that alerts people to how fast they are driving, and about a quarter mile of “rumble strips” — grooved pavement along the center yellow lines — to keep people in their lane in the winding hollow.

Phase two improvements total about $30,000. The precise placement of some of the elements is yet to be determined, Hoar said.

The town can currently fund only part of the phase 1 elements, according to Hoar. He plans to lobby the Vermont Agency of Transportation for so-called “circ alternative” funds to complete the improvements.

North Williston Road enhancements were identified as a priority in 2013 by regional planners after the previously planned “circumferential highway” idea was abandoned by then-Gov. Peter Shumlin. As an identified “circ alternative,” improving the road was put in line for prioritized Vtrans funding.

Circ alternative funds paid for the regional planning commission’s study of the corridor that resulted in the recommendation of traffic calming measures.

“We should be getting (state) money for this,” Hoar told the selectboard last week. “We shouldn’t have to pay for this. We will make that argument and that case quite strongly.”

Hoar recommended against pursuing a third phase of improvements, that would include road widening and a roadside rec path at a cost of up to $6 million, at this time. Phase three would require taking private land to widen the public right-of-way.

“It’s so tight down through (the hollow), there is no easy way to do it,” Hoar said.

That leaves cyclists with perhaps a more dangerous course through the hollow as the rumble strips deter drivers from taking wider turns, board member Jeff Fehrs pointed out.

“There is no easy way to make a consistent (cycling) facility through there,” Mack said.

Residents of North Williston Road, who have described consistent speeding traffic and cars colliding with mailboxes and running off the road, are eager for the traffic calming elements to be installed.

“I am excited to see some of the things that are going to be implemented,” North Williston Road resident Sarah Burton said. “I look forward to slowing folks down so it is a safer place be.”

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