Complete Streets Testing Approved

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Thursday March 22, 2012

At the City Council Meeting held Monday, March 19, the Council voted 4-1 allowing the Public Works Department to utilize the base layer of a planned paving project with temporary markings that will “test” the Complete Streets pilot study. The study area for Complete Streets consists of Williston Road from Dorset Street to Kennedy Drive.  The State of Vermont’s repaving project is planned for the Williston Road corridor from Williams Street in Burlington through the study area to Midland Court in South Burlington this summer.

The project would reduce travel lanes from the existing four to three and would add bike lanes.

Residents have a variety of very strong opinions about this matter.  Some feel that allowing for three lanes of traffic is dangerous, and that the only way this will work is with a reduction in traffic, and believe either four lanes or an alternate route for cars is necessary.

Gene Palombo expressed concern that his street, Myers Court, may become a pressure valve for traffic seeking alternate routes.

If there is more congestion on Williston Road, people will find other ways to get to their destination, negatively impacting bordering neighborhoods. Meaghan Emery, former Councilor and South Burlington parent, said, “The Chamberlin neighborhood is the only open neighborhood in South Burlington, with a large number of children, and near a school.”  She is concerned that increased traffic cutting through neighborhoods will be dangerous to children at play.

Residents at the Council meeting held February 21st agreed that other solutions would involve paving Market Street and continuing to plan for frontage roads, prohibiting eastbound left turns onto Patchen Road, upgrading pedestrian signals along the Williston Road corridor, or changing lane designation for westbound traffic at Dorset Street.

Some residents believe that a solution might be to provide aesthetic incentives so people would get out of their cars, and actually want to walk on the sidewalks or ride their bikes.  Bike lanes ensure that pedestrians walk further from traffic, and roads endure longer pavement life. The Complete Streets Pilot study has support from South Burlington Recreation Path Committee, Local Motion, Vermont Biker & Pedestrian Coalition, the South Burlington Energy Committee and all those who ride the bike lanes.

Phil Hammerstof, a member of the Steering Committee of the Burlington Walk and Bike Council, is concerned about the environmental issues of the traffic on Williston Road.  He said, “We don’t have as much oil as we used to, and we need to participate more in active transportation such as biking and walking.” 

Scott Luria, a physician who commutes by bicycle from Williston, advocated from a health standpoint. When he has encouraged his patients to do the same, they tell him that it’s not safe to ride on Williston Road because of the lack of bike lanes.

South Burlington resident Sarah Dopp said, “We’ll need to gage the reaction of everyone involved.” She suggested that one useful way might be using The Other Paper’s survey tool during the course of the experiment. 

The Public Works Department requested feedback from the city by the end of March. They will diligently solicit input from the Recreation Path Committee, the City of Burlington, and Local Motion.

Public Works Director Justin Rabidoux concluded the meeting by saying that, “It’s a unique opportunity that doesn’t exist except for every 13 years, when the roads get repaved.”  He will work with the State of Vermont to get a specific date to plan when the pilot study will be implemented this summer, and estimates that the study will span about two months. 

SOURCE: Lisa Mattingly, Correspondent