October 22, 2014

Roads, bike path concepts keep meeting humming

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By Mal Boright

Observer correspondent

November 7th, 2013

The Williston Selectboard Monday night gave its blessing to some concepts for road and sidewalk improvements, but will take more time to adopt a position on the contentious bike path and road widening proposal for Mountain View Road.

The board listened to consultant presentations of five potential road and sidewalk projects, but it was the Mountain View Road and shared use path study that once again brought out concerned residents and bikers. The issue had been discussed at an Oct. 17 hearing.

ROUTE 2A

The Board, by a 3-2 vote, chose the “all lanes addition” option for the busy intersection of Route 2A, Mountain View Road and Industrial Avenue, rejecting other options which included a roundabout.

Christine Forde, senior traffic planner for the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission, said the chosen option includes two left turn lanes from Industrial Avenue onto Route 2A north and an additional left turn lane from Mountain View Road onto southbound 2A.

The reduction in traffic gaps it would likely cause was enough for the all-lanes option to rise to the top, if narrowly, though the roundabout proposal found favor among some board members.

Selectboard member Jeff Fehrs said he had been contacted by a Route 2A resident about the problems people have getting out of their driveways or side streets into the heavy traffic on 2A.

“It is a concern how people get out of their driveways with fewer gaps in traffic,” said Fehrs.

“That is a valid concern,” said Forde, who presented the Route 2A study.

Board Chairman Terry Macaig noted that it recently took him 15 minutes to get from Taft Corners to a left turn onto Industrial Avenue.

“We have a road that can’t carry the traffic that we need it to carry,” said Fehrs. “How do we relieve the congestion?”

“This is like putting 100 pounds of manure into a 50-pound bag,” said Selectboard member Christopher Roy.

Selectboard member Jay Michaud also said he was concerned about having fewer traffic gaps with the roundabout and did not like the property-taking aspect of other options.

Fehrs, Roy and Michaud voted for the all-lanes option while Debbie Ingram and Macaig were opposed.

EXIT 12 AND TAFT CORNERS

Looking at short-term and long-term options for traffic and safety concerns at Exit 12 off Interstate 89, the board gave its support to a shared use path from Hurricane Lane, under the Interstate bridges to the Vermont State Police barracks on Route 2A.

It also selected an option for a new street with traffic signals just north of the exit. To the west, the street would connect with Trader Lane and to the east with Maple Tree Place.

The board then supported a long-term plan to rebuild the interchange with a “diverging diamond” concept for cars combined with new Interstate bridges. Included is a boulevard type four-lane roadway from the new street to Taft Corners.

Filling sidewalk gaps around Taft Corners also got an okay.

An audience member shouted, “This needs to get done.”

“I agree,” Ingram responded. “It’s a disgrace.”

MOUNTAIN VIEW ROAD

Greg Edwards of the Stantec consulting firm presented the Mountain View Road studies, which called for a 4-foot widening of the road and the addition of a 10-foot shared-use path on either the north or south side of the road.

He said the south side has more utility poles but less impact on wetlands. Some south-side homes are “relatively close to the roadway,” he added.

On the other hand, Edwards continued, the north side would require a drainage way at additional cost.

He said 15 properties would be affected, but few trees impacted.

Fehrs asked how much drainage from the road would impact a south-side path.

“Not much at all,” replied Edwards.

“A shared shoulder and path,” Fehrs said, “I support.”

Resident Diana Miranowicz said she does not like the bike path idea, adding “I am open to widening the road for bikes and pedestrians.”

Kevin Batson, an IBM employee, said he rarely rides his bike to work because, “Mountain View is too dangerous.”

He added that he has put more than 3,000 miles on his bike this year, but cannot ride in his own neighborhood to get to work.

Most concerns from the dozen residents in attendance seemed directed at the pathway, with some modest agreement with the proposed road widening.

When the question of right-of-way purchasing and its cost to the town came up, Michelle Boomhower, assistant metropolitan planning director, said “evaluations would have to take place from property to property.”

Sean Folley, a biker, said he has seen a recent increase in biking on Mountain View, “but the risks outweigh the health benefits.”

“I don’t want to wind up as a speed bump,” added another biker. “It is a very urgent matter.”

Boomhower said this and the other proposals could be up to 10 years in the pipeline, “depending on how they are prioritized.”

The proposals are all part of the possible package of improvements considered as alternatives to the cancelled Circ highway. Final funding approval must come from the Vermont legislature.

“We will take this under advisement,” said Macaig. “There will be a decision in two weeks of what we recommend to the task force.”

The board did offer support to a LINK express service commuter program connecting Essex, Williston and other nearby towns with Waterbury and Montpelier. Should the multi-trip service start rolling, there would be funds sought from participating communities.

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