Selectboard reviews transportation studies
By Mal Boright
October 10, 2013
Sidewalks, roadways and intersections were the primary subject matters at Monday’s Williston Selectboard meeting, as consultants shared results from some of the transportation studies now underway.
There was, however, some board action.
Approved by unanimous vote was an application for a $203,459 federal grant for a sidewalk to fill a gap on Harvest Lane between the building that houses Natural Provisions and Goodwill and the U.S. government’s NCIS structure.
Williston would appropriate $50,000 to bring the project cost to just over $254,000.
Lisa Sheltra, assistant public works director, said the project has support from regional planners and area business people.
She told the Observer that the current U.S. government shutdown should not have an effect on the funding because the state has been spearheading the project.
The board also heard presentations from two scoping studies addressing transportation problems in Williston being conducted by the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission.
David Conger from the engineering firm of DuBois and King laid out possibilities for bike and pedestrian pathways along U.S. Route 2 from Taft Corners to the heart of the village—a transportation gap the town has been working to fill for years.
The project would include installing sidewalks from Taft Corners to the South Ridge development, bike paths and some widening of road shoulders.
Estimated costs for the first part of the project to South Ridge would be $1.1 million. From South Ridge to the beginning of the village would be $1.3 million with another $902,000 for rehabilitation of in-village sidewalks and paths.
He said another $400,000 would be required for the hill before the entrance to the village.
Conger added that right-of-way impacts would be “minimal.”
There was little comment from board members. Conger and Michele Boomhower, assistant Metropolitan Planning Organization director, said project planners will make a presentation to the Williston Planning Commission at its Oct. 17 meeting.
Town Manager Rick McGuire wrote in an email to the Observer that it is currently uncertain what state or federal funding could be available for the project.
“It may be that the town will need to take the initiative to undertake the project in segments, much as it did for the long stretches of path along Route 2A,” he wrote. “This study will provide us with the information needed to apply for various future grant programs as they become available. Most likely if the sidewalk and path segments are to be built it will be a combination of a number of funding sources, including some matching funds from the Town.”
NORTH WILLISTON ROAD
Boomhower was then joined by Dubois and King transportation planner Lucy King and planning engineer Jason Charest. The subject was North Williston Road flooding and an apparently dangerous intersection with Vt. Route 117, located just over the Essex town line.
Gibson said the goals of the project being studied are to: address intersection safety and congestion; improve flood resiliency so as to reduce the amount of time the road is closed; avoid negative impacts to local agriculture; and avoid impacts to the floodplain.
Gibson said that six alternatives to hinder flooding have been studied and none reduce the probability of the road being awash by more than 50 percent.
She noted that one project in which the road would be raised by two-and-a-half feet would cost some $2.3 million and reduce the flooding risk by just 17 percent.
“That seems extreme,” commented board member Jeff Fehrs.
During her presentation, Gibson warned that “floods will be happening with more frequency in the future.”
The focus turned to the intersection with Route 117, which Gibson said is a statewide high- crash location.
She said three possible solutions are currently on the table. The cheapest ($700,000) would include widening the intersection with some turn lanes. A signalization project would cost about $1.14 million.
Then came that word again— “roundabout”—the other choice in this particular litter. The cost for a 140-foot diameter roundabout would be $1.1 million.
Gibson said studies show that while signals reduce intersection accidents by 13 percent, roundabouts reduce them by 40 percent.
“Both signalization and roundabouts significantly reduce congestion,” she said.
“The problem with roundabouts is that people don’t understand how to use them,” said board member Debbie Ingram.
Selectman Chris Roy said roundabouts at Maple Tree Place and Winooski have had problems, but some good examples are in Lamoille and Addison counties.
Gibson said public input is being sought by VTrans, the state transportation agency. The next public session will be at the Essex town offices Oct. 21.