Intersection discussion draws crowd3/5/09

Changes mulled at U.S. 2 and Oak Hill Road

March 5, 2009

By Greg Elias

Observer staff

During a public hearing last week, residents urged the town to make changes at a troublesome intersection on U.S. 2 — but not the ones being studied.

The Selectboard hosted the Feb. 23 session to gather input on two problem-plagued corners: where U.S. 2 meets North Williston Road and Oak Hill Road, and Vermont 2A at James Brown Drive.

Roughly 25 people attended the meeting. Most were there to talk about the U.S. 2 intersection.

A study conducted by Burlington-based Resource Systems Group showed that there have been 25 crashes at the corner over a five-year period ending in 2006. That makes it among the most accident-prone intersections in the state.

The study found that a roundabout or a traffic signal would improve safety. Because of the number of accidents, either measure qualifies for 100 percent federal funding.

But those who spoke had other ideas ranging from stricter traffic enforcement to better crosswalks. Several thought the existing stop signs worked fine, according to a video recording of the session.

“My experience with a four-way stop has been positive, despite some (traffic) delays,” said North Williston Road resident Kerstin Hanson. “For me, it hasn’t been a real big issue.”

George Gerecke, Williston’s representative on the Chittenden County Metropolitan Planning Organization, said the accident data were out of date. He and others suggested problems with crashes and congestion have eased in recent years, making the proposed improvements unnecessary.

Traffic tie-ups became common after four-way stop signs were installed as a temporary measure in 2001. During the afternoon commute, eastbound traffic often backed up to Town Hall. But those problems seemed to have eased in recent years, possibly because of downsizing at IBM or changing commuting patterns.

Some residents said the flashing lights installed last year to warn motorists of the upcoming four-way stop have made the intersection safer. One person thought those signs should be made more visible.

Most of those present departed after the U.S. 2 intersection discussion, leaving only a handful of people to talk about the intersection of Vermont 2A and James Brown Drive. That corner is also plagued by safety problems, with motorists finding it difficult to enter and exit James Brown Drive.

Town Manager Rick McGuire said the options for that corner — which include a turn lane on 2A or a traffic light — each have a downside, so it is still unclear which will work best.

The state is scheduled to make a final decision this spring on what, if any, improvements to make at both intersections.