Residents say Route 2A roundabout no ticket to ride

A line of cars snakes along Industrial Avenue on Monday afternoon, waiting to get through the intersection with Route 2A and Mountain View Road. (Observer courtesy photo by Stephanie Choate)
A line of cars snakes along Industrial Avenue on Monday afternoon, waiting to get through the intersection with Route 2A and Mountain View Road. (Observer courtesy photo by Stephanie Choate)

Proposals to ease 2A traffic outlined at meeting

By Greg Elias

Observer correspondent

Traffic-beleaguered residents reacted skeptically to proposals for easing Vermont 2A congestion during a meeting last week at Williston Town Hall. 

The Sept. 25 session, attended by about 30 residents, outlined results of a scoping study that considered various improvements to the oft-clogged intersection of 2A, Industrial Avenue and Mountain View Road. Also studied were lane and sidewalk additions on 2A and Industrial Avenue.

Among the proposals made during a PowerPoint presentation by Richard Bryant, senior project manager for Stantec Consulting, was a roundabout, which the study showed would improve traffic the most at the intersection. Adding or lengthening turn lanes, he said, offered less relief for commuters.

As for Vermont 2A itself, Bryant said the study found that adding a middle lane north of River Cove Road would allow both southbound and northbound motorists to turn left without holding up traffic.

But residents expressed doubt that any of the proposals would help them cope with traffic that alternately whizzes by and coagulates near their homes on Vermont 2A. Some said that improving traffic flow would only make it harder for residents to exit driveways or for their children to cross the road.

“There’s no question you’re going to be able to move more vehicles if you have two lanes coming through the Mountain View area,” said Karl Ashline. “But that’s only going to make it more difficult for those of us who live on the east side to get out of our driveways. You’re doing one positive thing, which is creating a very negative thing for other people.”

The study is part of a larger transportation improvement effort in the wake of Gov. Peter Shumlin’s announcement more than two years ago that the state would abandon plans for the 16-mile Circumferential Highway. By linking Williston, Essex Junction and Colchester, the highway would have allowed commuters to bypass overcrowded two-lane roads such as Vermont 2A.

The other initiatives in Williston include changes at the Interstate 89 exit, a pedestrian and bicycle path on U.S. 2 and traffic and drainage improvements on North Williston Road.

Residents at last week’s meeting said the small-bore solutions proposed by the 2A traffic study would not be enough to replace the Circ.

“What the Circ had been designed to accomplish is being shifted to 2A,” said Beth Gutwin. “I’m not convinced this will solve the problem, which is to address too much traffic. When you say a roundabout or something else, that’s kind of a false choice. You’re not addressing the real problem.”

Bryant acknowledged that the measures would not help as much as construction of a new highway, but said they would in fact help improve traffic congestion.

Ken Belliveau, Williston’s director of planning and zoning, said the state Legislature agreed after the Circ was abandoned to give funding priority to projects, such as the Vermont 2A improvements, that would ease traffic congestion. He warned of a “limited window of opportunity.”

Bryant asked for a show of hands to gauge support for the two sets of proposals judged to be the most realistic options among those studied.

For intersection improvements, about 20 people supported adding turn lanes. Only about seven people thought building a roundabout was the better option.

As for adding a third lane on Vermont 2A, about half those present supported the proposal. When asked if they should do nothing, just three or four people raised their hands.

The next step in the process will involve presenting plans to the Williston Selectboard on Oct. 21. Then the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission will submit its final recommendations.

No matter what options are chosen, it will likely take years to make any of the improvements, said Christine Forde, CCRPC senior planner, in an interview before the meeting. It will take a minimum of a year to complete the design phase. Obtaining rights of way could further delay construction.

“You are definitely looking at a number of years,” Forde said. “We have to get further along until we know just how long.”