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Where the sidewalk ends

Planning Commission agrees on Industrial Avenue sidewalk plan, debates building material

Dec. 8, 2011

By Luke Baynes

Observer staff

 

The White Sox defeated the Cubs, 5-0, at Tuesday night’s Planning Commission meeting.

In the Williston town planning version of Chicago’s North Side/South Side baseball rivalry, Thad Luther, a project engineer for Stantec Consulting Services, pitched a shutout for Alternative 1 of the Industrial Avenue sidewalk improvement study — leading the five Commission members to vote unanimously in favor of constructing a sidewalk on the south side of the road.

Currently, a stretch of concrete sidewalk on the north side of Industrial Ave. begins at the intersection of Vermont 2A and ends just beyond Avenue D, where a crosswalk connects with a path that takes pedestrians through Rossignol Park to North Brownell Road. Alternative 1 would extend the sidewalk on the south side of Industrial Ave., from the crosswalk to Williston Road (U.S. 2).

Luther argued convincingly in favor of Alternative 1 instead of Alternative 2, which would call for a sidewalk on the north side of Industrial Ave.

Luther said that Alternative 1 is less expensive ($320,000 vs. $350,000), better improves pedestrian safety, provides better public transit connectivity and is more conducive to future Williston Road intersection improvements.

The additional cost for Alternative 2 stems partly from 12 utility poles on the north side of Industrial Ave. that would need to be relocated as part of that option.

CONCRETE VS. ASPHALT

Although the preference for building on the south side of the road was unanimous, a point of contention was the material with which to build the sidewalk.

Stantec Project Manager Greg Edwards argued in favor of concrete.

“In the case of asphalt, you actually would have a greater depth of sub-base, so the savings wouldn’t be as great as you might imagine,” Edwards said. “With concrete, because it is a structural item, typically we only have 6 inches of sub-base. Also, there is a question of the longer-term maintenance of asphalt versus concrete.”

Planning Commission member Kevin Batson strongly disagreed.

“We have in our town plan that these paths are supposed to be multi-modal, and if you make it concrete, you make it uncomfortable for anybody but a pedestrian,” Batson said. “It seems so outmoded on a road like this to put concrete sidewalk. Today people have other means of transportation.”

Commission chairman Jake Mathon countered that the proposed 5-foot-wide sidewalk isn’t wide enough to warrant asphalt, which is typically used on wider shared-use paths.

“At 5 feet (wide), it’s not a bike path; it is a sidewalk,” said Mathon. “I don’t think at that width that multi-modal use is compatible.”

Luther explained that a 10-foot-wide asphalt shared-use path was considered by Stantec but rejected because it would require the town to obtain additional public right-of-way, greatly adding to the project cost.

“In order to fit anything more than a 5-foot-wide strip would require additional right-of-way,” Luther said.

Commission member Michael Alvanos ultimately brokered a compromise to the concrete/asphalt debate by proposing that the Commission draft a letter to the Williston Selectboard endorsing the Alternative 1 sidewalk improvement, with the recommendation that asphalt be used “if at all feasible.”

It will be up to the Selectboard’s discretion to approve or reject the project, or to send the proposal back to the Planning Commission for further analysis.