July 18th, 2013
By Stephanie Choate
Issues that frustrate Williston travelers every day—maddening congestion and often unsafe gaps in pedestrian and bike access—are at the forefront of four transportation studies in town.
The Chittenden Country Regional Planning Commission is working on four scoping studies in Williston, looking for fixes to problems that were to be addressed by the now-dead Circ Highway.
The commission is seeking input from the residents who live, commute and travel on the roads before presenting possible solutions in the fall.
REWORKING EXIT 12
Each afternoon on her way home from work in Burlington, resident Kris Benevento gets off Interstate 89 in Williston at around 4 p.m.
On a recent rainy June afternoon, the intersection was as busy as usual, full of cars maneuvering for the best spot. As a car tried to cut into the lane in front of her, she watched it nearly hit two pedestrians walking under the bridge.
Benevento said she could see the look of terror on the first pedestrian’s face, while the person behind him tried to scramble over the barrier.
“I honest-to-God have no idea why he didn’t get hit,” Benevento said. “He was going to be a sandwich, there was no doubt in my mind.”
Pedestrians—some of whom walk to Hurricane Lane from a bus stop north of the interstate—must thread their way along a strip approximately one foot wide between the edge of busy Vt. Route 2A and concrete barriers.
“We have to do something now for these folks, they’re just taking their lives in their hands going through there,” Benevento said. “One more day like that could take a life.”
Safety is one of the primary considerations for a CCRPC study of a reconfiguration of Exit 12—along with congestion and travel in general at Exit 12 and 2A, said CCRPC Senior Transportation Planning Engineer Eleni Churchill, who is heading up the study.
The Exit 12 Advisory Committee, comprised of regional and town officials, met July 11 to consider alternatives for reconstructing the bridge—a project that, if it moved forward, would be years away. The group considered two preliminary options—a double crossover diamond and a more straightforward widening of 2A under I-89, both of which would require bridge reconstruction.
Churchill said CCRPC staff plan to conduct “detailed evaluation” of the alternatives, then present the results of the evaluations to the public in the fall.
The advisory committee also discussed more immediate solutions, looking to address capacity and safety concerns, and improve pedestrian and bike access.
“We know that we have problems now,” she said, adding that the committee discussed Benevento’s concerns at length.
“I totally agree that it is a safety concern of ours and the steering committee expressed concern about that and was supportive of the idea of looking at interim solutions for bike and pedestrian safety through the interchange,” Churchill said.
Planning and Zoning Director Ken Belliveau said the town has also identified safety concerns at the exit.
“It’s a real issue,” he said.
Churchill said one solution would be shared use paths behind the interstate bridge pillars.
The group discussed other options to ease traffic, including roads connecting to Maple Tree Place and Harvest Lane from 2A and a move to a more urban, boulevard layout, which could include a median on 2A.
Churchill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 846-4490, ext. 11.
TRAFFIC WOES ON U.S. ROUTE 2A
A study is also underway for improvements to the intersection of Vermont 2A, Industrial Avenue and Mountain View Road, as well as along Vermont 2A from that intersection to River Cove Road.
A public meeting is set for July 18 at 6:30 p.m. in the fire station training room for locals to share their experiences, ideas and concerns.
Senior Transportation Planner Christine Forde said CCRPC staff has finished analyzing the area, including traffic patterns and environmental considerations, and is waiting to hear resident input at the July 18 meeting before looking into solutions.
The area’s main issue is evident to anyone who has ever tried to make it up Vermont 2A at 5 p.m.
“There’s a lot of volume,” Forde said. “There’s a lot of cars that are moving, a lot of turning movement.”
Forde said the organization’s goal is to accommodate the volume of traffic while ensuring that the intersections don’t become too complicated for other modes of transportation, like bicycling and walking.
Another public meeting is set for October, and residents can contact Forde at email@example.com or 846-4490, ext. 13 to weigh in or be added to the study’s mailing list.
ROUTE 2 MULTI-MODAL CONNECTION
A third study is looking at ways to improve pedestrian and bike travel, as well as public transportation, on U.S. Route 2 between Taft Corners and Williston Village.
A local concerns meeting was held with the Planning Commission in June.
“It’s a project that has been of interest at the town level for quite a number of years,” Belliveau said. “It’s been identified as a priority in the town plan to look at this… It’s a big void or hole in the transportation system.”
Belliveau said he’s also hoping more facilities for pedestrians and bicyclists in that corridor could lead to additional bus stops.
Planning Commission member Meghan Cope has worked with Williston’s young people, both informally and as a University of Vermont geography professor, to see what they want in their neighborhoods.
“They would love to be able to be better connected to Taft Corners,” she said. “I have to think that at least among middle school and perhaps high school students that (a path) would be appreciated and well used.”
Cope, who often bikes from her home in the village to UVM, said the road isn’t bad for experienced bikers. But she would never let her children bike on it—a sentiment she has heard echoed by area students who say their parents don’t let them walk on the road because it lacks a sidewalk.
“I have observed many people walking along there in pretty unsafe conditions,” Cope added.
CCRPC Planner Peter Keating, currently on vacation, is heading up the study. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 846-4490, ext. 14.
NORTH WILLISTON ROAD
The final planning study is evaluating traffic congestion at the Vermont 117 and North Williston Road intersection and North Williston Road flooding issues. Jason Charest, CCRPC senior transportation engineer, said staff recently wrapped up surveying work and will spend the next month working on floodplain evaluation and intersection alternatives.
CCRPC staff will look into the intersection’s “capacity and ability to handle traffic,” considering possibilities like turning lanes and a traffic signal.
Charest said CCRPC staff plans to host a public meeting, likely in Essex, in mid-September.
In the meantime, residents can weigh in.
“If anybody has any comments or concerns, they can contact me throughout the process,” he said.
Charest can be reached at email@example.com or 846-4490, ext. 32.