Nov. 17, 2011
By Luke Baynes
A discussion about transportation impact fees evolved into a debate about the future of the Industrial Avenue corridor when the Williston Planning Commission met Tuesday evening.
Specifically, the Planning Commission met to discuss what projects to include on an amended list of town improvements eligible for transportation impact fee funding that will be submitted to the Williston Selectboard for approval.
Also on the agenda was developing an alternative methodology to calculate impact fees, which are currently assessed based on a business’ peak afternoon traffic volumes. The current methodology doesn’t carve out an exception for an establishment that gets the majority of its traffic in the morning, such as a church.
But the conversation soon shifted to whether to include improvements at the intersection of Industrial Avenue and Williston Road (U.S. 2) on the list of impact fee-eligible projects.
The intersection currently forms somewhere between a “T” and a “Y” shape, and the traffic signal is often sardonically referred to by locals as a “straight on red,” due to the fact that eastbound Williston Rd. traffic is allowed to continue driving east after stopping at a red light.
“Aesthetically it looks terrible,” said Planning Commission member Michael Alvanos. “I don’t like entering into our city and seeing that intersection have flaws to it.”
Planning Commission member Kevin Batson countered that the proposed intersection improvements — which include adding an additional left-hand turn lane on Williston Rd. — wouldn’t fix the greater traffic problems of the area.
“I’m not inclined to see money go to that … It’s kind of like — you can get more cars onto Industrial Avenue, but you can’t get them off, so what’s the point?” Batson said. “Without fixing the bigger picture — getting (traffic) off Industrial Avenue — I don’t see the improvement that this is going to buy.”
Ultimately, what tipped the scales against including the Industrial Avenue corridor on the list of improvements eligible for transportation impact fee funding was the fact that the town’s main water line — located under Industrial Avenue — would have to be moved to allow for construction improvements. It is unlikely that water line modifications would be eligible for federal funding assistance, making for a potentially costly bill for town taxpayers.
Other projects that were added to the list of impact fee-eligible town improvements (subject to Selectboard approval) include: a proposed connector road that would link Talcott Road with the Zephyr Road extension, to be built as part of the Finney Crossing mixed-use development; and a series of grid streets that would extend from the Hannaford supermarket on Marshall Avenue to the intersection of Helena Drive and Williston Road.
Also included on a separate list of impact fee eligible improvements, subject to potential state and/or federal funding assistance, was the installation of a traffic signal at the intersection of Vermont 2A and James Brown Drive.
On Nov. 9, the Circ Highway Alternatives Task Force agreed to add the Vermont 2A/James Brown Drive intersection to the list of projects that will be submitted to the Vermont Agency of Transportation in the hope of receiving federal funding under the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program.