Why stop now?

Drivers are adjusting to the new four-way stop sign where North Williston Road intersects with Mountain View and Governor Chittenden roads.

Commuters struggle to adjust to new four-way stop

By Jason Starr

Observer staff

“Untenable” … “ridiculous” … “insane”

These are a few of the terms that annoyed drivers used to describe the new four-way stop sign at the intersection of Mountain View Road and North Williston Road in the days after it was installed Sept. 24.

The intersection was formerly a one-way stop for east-west travelers on Mountain View and Governor Chittenden roads. North-South travelers on North Williston Road had been accustomed to breezing unencumbered through the intersection.

The new stop signs make it easier for vehicles to make left turns, adding gaps in north-south traffic. But, during morning commuting hours, they have caused bumper-to-bumper traffic for about three quarters of a mile on North Williston Road, adding an estimated 15 minutes to commute times.

About a dozen complaints were lodged via email and phone to the Town of Williston’s administrative and public works offices in the first three days after the stop signs were installed.

One complaint described a near collision where a driver turning northbound from Mountain View was almost hit by a car on North Williston Road that didn’t stop at the new sign.

But the main thrust of complaints focuses on traffic backups from about 7 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. for people driving south on North Williston Road.

“My hope is there is enough public outcry that the signs are removed,” a commuter named Southern Gaudreau wrote in an email to town staff. “I can’t be the only person this is impacting.”

“Please do not keep these signs up,” commuter Rob Ashton echoed in an email to town staff. “Many of us have no other alternative routes to get to work.”

Williston’s assistant to the town manager, Erik Wells, said police presence was increased in the days after the complaints came in, and the Department of Public Works noticed that traffic backups have gotten better since the first week after installation.

The Resource Systems Group of Burlington studied the intersection in March along with the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission. In findings presented to the selectboard in May, RSG engineer Cory Mack said the volume of traffic through the intersection warranted a four-way stop.

He predicted that the change would have negative impacts on North Williston Road’s traffic flow.

“I think you will see North Williston Road become a less desirable route, but Mountain View will become more desirable,” he told the board, which unanimously approved the change.

The four-way stop was one of about six traffic calming elements the board approved for installation this fall. The first element that was installed — rumble strips along the center-line through the winding hollow near Williston Woods Road — was promptly paved over in September after residents complained about noise impacts and reduced safety.

Driver complaints about the four-way stop sign, including requests to re-evaluate the reasoning for it, were presented to the selectboard Tuesday.

“I would think a timed light would be a better solution,” resident Jason Greiner told town staff in an email. “I realize that comes at a greater cost, but the four-way stop isn’t working. It’s making the situation far worse.”