By Luke Baynes
Industrial Avenue is already part of two concurrent transportation studies from both the Vermont Agency of Transportation and the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission. On Nov. 20, a third study looking at the Industrial Avenue corridor was presented to the Williston public by CCRPC and Stantec Consulting Services Inc.—the firm behind a separate December 2011 study which looked specifically at sidewalk improvements in the area.
The VTrans study concentrates on the intersection of Industrial Avenue and Williston Road. It proposes adding a left-hand turn lane for eastbound Williston Road traffic and reconfiguring the layout of the intersection to resemble a more traditional “T” shape. The proposed improvements would require the relocation of a municipal water line—at an estimated $500,000 expense to Williston taxpayers.
CCRPC’s Williston-Essex Network Transportation Study (WENTS)—the results of which are scheduled to be unveiled to the public in early 2013—is concerned with potential alternatives to the discarded Chittenden County Circumferential Highway project. As a major Williston thoroughfare, Industrial Avenue is included in that study as a potential traffic collector of proposed Circ alternatives.
Unlike the regional focus of the WENTS and VTrans studies, the Stantec study presented at the Nov. 20 Williston Planning Commission meeting is town specific. Stantec Senior Project Manager Rick Bryant pointed out that having a local plan gives town officials leverage to request transportation or sidewalk improvements during the permitting process for commercial development.
“If you have a plan, then you have something to talk about with the developer when they come in,” Bryant said. “Having a plan helps guide future development and helps guide funding.”
Currently, Industrial Avenue has a sidewalk on its north side, beginning at the intersection of Vermont 2A and ending just beyond Avenue D, where a crosswalk connects to a path that winds through Rossignol Park to North Brownell Road.
As the Observer reported in December 2011, the Planning Commission was previously presented with a choice of a connecting sidewalk on either the north or south side of Industrial Avenue. The commission voted in favor of the southerly option, due to its superior pedestrian safety and public transportation connectivity, plus the fact that the other option would require the more costly relocation of 12 utility poles.
At the Nov. 20 meeting, additional options were presented which contemplate sidewalks on both sides of Industrial Avenue and the addition of traffic signals and left-hand turn lanes at congestion-prone intersections such as Avenues B and D. While the addition of one sidewalk could be accomplished within the town’s existing right-of-way, the latter options would require the purchase of land from abutting property owners.
Several area residents attended the corridor study meeting. None were enthusiastic about the prospect of adding traffic signals on Industrial Avenue.
“My feeling is if you put traffic lights up and down that road, you’d really block up traffic. You’d really back it up,” said Roadside Motorsports owner Don Brisson.
Yet Brisson, a Mountain View Road resident, acknowledged that current traffic congestion in the corridor makes it difficult for residents to leave their homes during rush hour.
“I also can understand that if you try to come out of your driveway and want to make a left-hand turn, most of the time that can’t happen,” Brisson said. “You’ve got to feel sorry for those people. They own homes they can’t even use at certain hours of the day.”
Industrial Avenue resident Larry Currier attested to Brisson’s observation.
“It’s a tough place to live,” Currier said. “Thank God I am retired, because there are times I cannot get out of my driveway. In the morning and in the night. Morning is just as bad as at night.”
Bryant ventured that lacking an unexpected about-face from the state on the Circ Highway, small traffic improvement measures will need to be taken to make the best of an imperfect situation.
“As you saw with the Circ, the solution is to build more roads, but there’s not a political climate to do that,” Bryant said. “So we’re in a situation of how do we make the roads we have work the best that we can?”
Bryant’s question went unanswered, with the Planning Commission agreeing to revisit the topic at its Dec. 4 meeting.
Williston Director of Planning and Zoning Ken Belliveau closed the discussion by reiterating the need for a formal plan for the corridor.
“The fact that we didn’t have some kind of a plan or goal for the road when the old Rossignol building was redeveloped (into the White Cap Business Park), that was kind of a lost opportunity,” Belliveau said. “Especially if you start to think about pedestrian facilities, we could have easily gotten several hundred feet of sidewalk dedicated and built.”