October 24, 2014

New signal slated for Talcott Road

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Impatient motorists may find relief

By Greg Elias
Observer staff

The town of Williston will install a traffic signal on Talcott Road that could provide relief for frustrated motorists trying to access busy U.S. 2.

Engineers Construction of Williston submitted the winning bid of $222,237 for the work. The project involves installing signals for both vehicles and pedestrians at the west end of Talcott Road, where it connects with U.S. 2.

U-shaped Talcott Road intersects with U.S. 2 at both ends. Homes, stores and offices line the road, which is located less than a mile east of Taft Corners.

Williston Public Works Director Neil Boyden said he’s long heard complaints about the hazards of exiting and entering Talcott Road. The road is located just west of a long, downhill stretch of U.S. 2 and east of dense commercial development.
Motorists who try to turn left out of either end of Talcott Road often wait several minutes before a gap in the traffic materializes. Some grow impatient, gunning their engines and squealing their tires as they force their way onto U.S. 2.

“That’s a good place to have a signal right there,” said Marianne Allen, who lives in the Taft Farms Senior Living Community along Talcott Road. “We need it there, we desperately need it.”

Boyden said most of the complaints he’s heard about the road are school-related. Allen Brook School is located on the eastern end of Talcott Road. Like other vehicles, school buses have trouble entering and exiting the road.

But a traffic study commissioned by the town concluded that only the west end of Talcott Road met the criteria for installing a signal. The state of Vermont requires intersections along state and federal roads to meet criteria called warrants before new signals are allowed.

The study found that the east intersection met only one of the eight criteria, peak-hour traffic volume. The west intersection met three standards: eight-hour traffic volume, four-hour traffic volume and peak-hour traffic.

Allen Brook School Principal John Terko said he wished the light was going to be installed on the school end of Talcott Road. He said parents dropping their children off struggle with the intersection, not to mention school buses.

“To me, it makes more sense to put it on our side,” Terko said, noting that 13 school buses will travel to and from the school each day in the coming school year.

Though the signal on the other end of Talcott Road may create breaks in traffic, Terko worries that it may also cause backups that clog the east intersection.

Rerouting buses to use the new traffic signal would add 3-5 minutes to travel time, Terko said. He said it is too early to say whether bus routes will be changed to use the signal.

Boyden said schools and other public institutions should not be given special consideration when evaluating where to place a traffic signal. He noted that Williston Central School also has traffic problems with its access to U.S. 2.

“You have to be consistent in how you analyze these things,” he said.

Williston is funding the project through its municipal budget. Boyden said the project will use impact fees collected from developers to pay for the signal.

Preliminary work on the project began this week. Engineers Construction said it would complete the work in November, according to Boyden.

But he is skeptical that the project will be finished by then. Boyden said severe weather and delays in obtaining signal parts could delay the work, making it likely the signals will not be operating until next spring.

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