November 18, 2018

The future of Williston transportation

bikeRide

Observer file photo Many Williston residents have listed alternative transportation infrastructure, like bike and pedestrian paths as priorities for the new town plan.

By Luc Reid

Special to the Observer

What will Williston look like in 10 years, or 20? At two meetings in May kicking off the new town plan for 2016-2021, one of Williston residents’ visions was making it easier, safer and more enjoyable to get to, from and around Williston.

Town Planner Ken Belliveau facilitated brainstorming sessions focused on two questions: what residents like about Williston, and what they think the town should be working on for the future. (Notes from the meetings are online at http://willistonpz.blogspot.com/2015/05/saturday-may-9-williston-town-plan.html) Among the likes, one out of every four items Belliveau wrote down dealt with transportation: how convenient Williston is to other communities, bike and recreational trails, bus service and more. This might suggest that most Williston residents are content with the transportation options they already have, but transportation concerns—traffic, safety for pedestrians and bicyclists, new paths, commuter parking and public transportation—formed nearly half the items on Belliveau’s list of tasks residents want the town to work on for the future.

Residents cited the town’s well-established practice of focusing most development in the area around Taft Corners as one of the things they especially liked about the town. Now that practice, through dozens of new homes at Finney Crossing, will bring a new dynamic to an area that has been predominantly commercial for years, making walking, biking and mass transit more attractive alternatives to fighting the perennial traffic through the lights on Route 2A. At the same time, the new park and ride further south on Route 2A, past the Interstate, will offer new carpooling and possibly transit options in Williston.

Residents’ ideas for Williston transportation, while clearly a wish list rather than a plan, paint a picture of a town much less shackled to individual cars. One item that was mentioned again and again at the kickoff meetings was the expansion of bike and pedestrian paths in Williston. The Vermont Department of Transportation has the final say about such paths along state routes, which has been one of the obstacles to creating a path along Route 2 to connect Taft Corners with the village. If these obstacles can be overcome, however, such a path could address many issues at once, including making foot and bike connections between the two areas, providing safer biking and walking routes for Williston children to reach both schools, providing new recreation opportunities and contributing to the long-term viability of businesses in the village. Improved bike and walking paths in the area of Taft Corners and bike lanes added strategically along north-south roads would connect many other town residents and provide further benefits.

In terms of mass transit, Williston CCTA commissioner and Sustainable Williston member Chapin Kaynor has suggested a transit hub close to the commercial center of town. Such a hub could simplify the process of hopping a bus to Burlington or commuting to Waterbury and Montpelier via CCTA’s Link Express routes, which currently stop only in Burlington and Richmond. Even more options open up if more commuter parking is added in that area. Siting such a transportation center would be a challenge, but much less so now than after another decade of development.

The possibilities don’t stop there: bike and car sharing, electric car charging stations and expanded use of CCTA buses are among the possibilities within our grasp. With the Circ no longer an option to ease traffic on our busiest roads, it’s alternative transportation options that offer the most creative solution for a cleaner, less congested, safer and more connected town.

Sustainable Williston (SustainableWilliston.org) works on issues like clean energy, water quality and planting trees and writes about a different sustainability topic for the Observer each month. Community members interested in any aspect of sustainability are invited to join its steering committee or to work on particular areas of interest with its task forces. Upcoming Sustainable Williston events include a presentation on insulating, weatherization and heat pumps Sept. 14 at the Dorothy Alling Library and the Birth Tree celebration for parents who have registered to receive a free tree in honor of newborn and newly adopted children Sept. 27 at Gardener’s Supply.

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