April 16, 2009
Have faith in Selectboard
Please! I have been searching for some logic in the letters that have poured in attacking the Williston Selectboard for their choice to move toward a roundabout for the village intersection. I have come up empty.
The choice made unanimously by the Selectboard reflects the kind of leadership that I would hope for in my elected officials. The decision came from a wide political spectrum and affirms a logical conclusion: The only way to continuously move traffic through that intersection is with a roundabout. The fact that there is money available for this project is frosting on the cake.
People from all over the world have learned to use roundabouts to keep multi-directional traffic moving. I think that the tiny rotary at Maple Tree Place works well, and even as a senior citizen, I have learned that the first to arrive has the right-of-way. It beats the heck out of idling in line and waiting for the light to change. And it beats having flashing lights and overhead wires mar this historic intersection.
Might I suggest that we give public servants the benefit of the doubt and open our minds to the possibility that they have studied the issue and come up with a solution that is best for the town. In fact, I would recommend that they see if they can get two roundabouts and put one at each end of the village. That’s the kind of leadership I am looking for.
Roy explains Selectboard decision
In my 13 months on the Selectboard, no decision has generated responses like our support for a roundabout to address traffic and safety issues at the Route 2/Oak Hill Road intersection. Respect for those viewpoints warrants a fuller explanation of one member’s thinking.
Residents’ views were not disregarded; their concerns focused the Selectboard’s thinking. I concentrated on facts, not anecdotal evidence, to best make long-term decisions. Credible information is available from Internet sources (e.g., www.iihs.org/research/qanda/roundabouts.html).
To address a few misunderstandings: First, this will not be a rotary. A modern roundabout is designed differently than rotaries many of us have experienced (www.roundaboutsusa.com). Nor should Maple Tree Place be a basis for comparison — it is undersized and devoid of aesthetic features.
My priority was congestion that prolongs commutes and results in idling vehicles belching exhaust into our community’s air. If you head toward Williston Central School from the west at 5 p.m., you cannot turn into the school because traffic is backed up past the driveway. Back-ups will only get worse.
As for the setting, signal lights and poles are not aesthetically pleasing. Nor are flashing beacons compatible with historic surroundings. In contrast, roundabouts do not require electric fixtures or poles, and require no electricity to function. Proper materials and landscaping can create a pleasing village gateway.
Available data indicate that, with the use of medians and well-marked crosswalks, roundabouts are safer for pedestrians and bicyclists than signalized intersections (safety.fhwa.dot.gov/intersections/roundabout_tri/).
Finally, this roundabout is not a scam allowing Williston to belly up to the stimulus trough. This intersection has been reviewed many times, with a roundabout solution frequently preferred. The funding source would be a safety-related program predating any stimulus, which provides 100 percent federal funding. If an important project can proceed without impacting our property taxes, it would be fiscally irresponsible not to consider those funds.
Studies demonstrate that, while roundabouts often enjoy only 30 percent community support before being built, that support rises to 60 percent after construction, and up to 70 percent after being in place for a year.
As someone who lived in Switzerland for over three years (in 1997-2000) and drove extensively through Switzerland, France, Germany and Italy, I’d like to make some comments concerning the roundabout controversy here in Williston.
First, it is understandable that local residents are concerned about the roundabout plan at Route 2 and Mountain View Road because their only point of reference here in Williston is the very poorly designed example at Maple Tree Place, which is nothing more than a four-way intersection with a little hump in the middle. It’s also poorly marked with signage, which is confusing to a population unfamiliar with how to navigate roundabouts.
However, there are several misconceptions about roundabouts that have surfaced during this controversy that need to be addressed:
1) “Roundabouts are obtrusive and don’t fit in the character of Williston Village” – Switzerland has successfully constructed roundabouts in and around hundreds of beautiful historic (Middle Ages and older) villages. Much like Vermont, Switzerland is dependent on tourism and the beauty of the landscape is part of the attraction. Many of their roundabouts are appointed with flowers, trees and other landscaping that makes them attractive to the eye, and certainly less obtrusive than large, flashing lights hanging from wires.
2) “A Roundabout won’t significantly improve the traffic situation in Williston Village” – It cannot be overemphasized how wrong this perception is. In my many thousands of miles of driving in Europe, I never saw more than two cars queuing to enter a roundabout. On my morning commute into Geneva, I passed through four roundabouts before hitting my first traffic light. There was never a single wait at any of the roundabouts, but then I consistently waited five to 10 minutes at that single stoplight, where all the traffic from those roundabouts accumulated in two lanes, often 20 or 30 or more cars per lane. In addition, I never saw a single traffic incident within a roundabout.
Roundabout not the way
I agree with all of the points from the folks who wrote in last week who are against a rotary at the four-way intersection in town. Who are the Selectboard to do what they choose vs. doing the will of the dozens of its constituents who showed up at the meeting to voice their opposition? Those are good numbers for public turnout in this town, and you can bet it represents a sensible majority. What happened to democracy? It seems to have taken a back seat on this issue.
For the record, I am convinced that this is a very bad idea. A rotary would be a complete and utter failure, and it would be permanent! Historic property will be lost and our quaint town center will be altered forever. Traffic will not flow as smoothly as it does now. There will be more accidents. Tractor trailers will run across the middle vs. slashing tires on curbs. Let’s not forget who we are. We are Vermonters and we use four-ways! If the Selectboard wants a rotary, they should go to Massachusetts — there are plenty of them down there.
Frankly, I am surprised at the Selectboard’s inability to recognize this. The other rotaries in town are ridiculous, and they don’t work. Whoever may be prodding the Selectboard also needs to be stifled. If our tax dollars went into funding this study — and these are the results — I would like my money credited and given to the Town Library. The Board needs to take full responsibility for what is sure to be a disaster for years to come.
Do what the people want — keep the four-way!
Problems with a roundabout
The Williston Selectboard has an unfortunate reputation with the other Selectboards in Chittenden County. The generally held opinion is that this board cannot say “no” to anybody except to its own taxpayers.
A few things seem clear. One is that this intersection is NOT an accident trap. I have lived on Yantz Hill for the past six years and go through this intersection about four times a day. The four stop signs and the blinking lights seem to be working very well. The second is that Route 2 is used not only by passenger cars but also by trucks and trailers and a roundabout would need to be very large to accommodate these — e.g. the roundabout at Maple Tree Place, which trailers find very difficult to negotiate. Thirdly, the roundabout would totally destroy the character of the village. And, lastly, the taxpayers attending the Selectboard meeting on this were against this construction and all the letters to the editor I have seen were opposed to it.
I find it very difficult to believe that the Selectboard, in view of these facts, would blithely proceed with this construction just because there was money for it in the kitty. Such an action would be irresponsible and the individual members of the board would need to be held accountable for it.
Looking for fiscal responsibility
Vermont’s fiscal train continues steeper downhill while picking up more speed. In spite of our Legislature being handed over $700 million this year, it voted to increase taxes on top of that spending during a depression. The $11 trillion federal debt climbs ever faster. Fixing the leak rather than finding better methods of bailing out the boat is the elusive solution we are steadfastly avoiding. If you’re not outraged, you haven’t been paying attention.
After agreeing to accept free money to build a roundabout on a truck route, residents again are reminded that we do not live in a democracy but in a representative republic. Williston gets what the Selectboard gives you. Personally, I feel that the traffic problems will vanish on their own when IBM’s electrical rates double over the next few years.
The free money provided by the federal government is producing two possible gigantic future hurdles nobody is talking about. One: If the free cash stops flowing the town and state budgets will sink like lodestones. Two: If they continue we will become ever more reliant on increased borrowing to secure our future prosperity. Politicians elected to short terms sure aren’t concerned with long-term reasoning.
“Those who invalidate reason ought seriously to consider whether they argue against reason with or without reason.” – Ethan Allen
Uniting communities through children, for children
Celebrate the Week of The Young Child from April 19-25. The Week of the Young Child is a time to celebrate children and all who care for them. Parents, teachers, caregivers and other adults play important roles in the lives of young children, and Week of the Young Child celebrates their efforts. Show your support for early learning in our community by promoting early literacy programs, thanking teachers who care for our children and working to ensure that our public policies support early learning for all young children. Week of the Young Child is a time to focus our attention on bringing Williston together for children!
Judy LaClair, director