Dorset Street Pedestrian Safety

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Thursday September 22, 2016

Are you a frequent runner, cyclist, or walker who travels along Dorset Street? Or maybe you have found yourself driving along and struggling to negotiate foot traffic as pedestrians cross at intersections along the road. You are not alone. After personally experiencing challenges crossing Dorset Street at certain locations, and hearing from numerous patrons, the co-owners of Healthy Living Market alerted the South Burlington City Council with a letter that begged the question, what can be done?

Healthy Living has been in business on Dorset Street for years and pedestrian crossing is a topic they have been wanting to discuss for some time. Recently, a runner sent co-owners Katy Lesser and Eli Lesser-Goldsmith a video showing just how difficult and dangerous it is to cross intersections between Garden and Dorset Street as well as Dorset and Market Street.

The duo gave a presentation outlining specific concerns at each intersection; mainly having to do with inadequate time to cross the street and the fact that when an individual tries to cross Dorset at Garden Street, not all four lanes have a red light, increasing the risk someone could be taken off guard by a vehicle turning left.

Potential solutions to this conundrum were presented and primarily involved moving to an “all red” model (where all four lanes have a red light when someone is crossing the street). But, according to Lesser-Goldsmith, South Burlington wouldn’t be “re-inventing the wheel” with this solution since the city already has an intersection that does just that, at Barnes and Noble, where all lights turn red at the push of a button and people are given an ample amount of time to cross the street (26 seconds). Lesser-Goldsmith made the pitch that putting resources into making the streets safer to cross, especially with City Center development forthcoming, would assist business growth while simultaneously boosting revenue for South Burlington as a whole.

In part two of their presentation, traffic light synchronization was addressed. Often, when one travels down Dorset Street, one light may be red while the next is green, creating a bottleneck during high traffic times of day. Lesser-Goldsmith proposed that the lights be synced north on Dorset thus allowing traffic to flow more quickly out onto Williston Road and the interstate.

City Manager Kevin Dorn said that he has been working with Director of Public Works Justin Rabidoux on the planning and funding of an adaptive signaling system; the next generation of signaling designed to better assess and adapt to the needs of existing infrastructure. Adaptive traffic control is a traffic management strategy in which traffic signal timing changes, or adapts, based on actual traffic demand. South Burlington will be an early adopter of this technology, but the implementation is still 18 months out.

Lesser-Goldsmith wondered if in the interim, something could be done to increase the time pedestrians have to cross the street, and floated the idea of Healthy Living or another entity making an investment in such a measure? Dorn said to the extent one increases the time to get across the street, the time people are spending sitting at a traffic light also increases, which is why adaptive signaling will be an important part of the solution.

Resident Roy Neuer pointed out that farther down Dorset Street, there is also a need to adapt the roadway to better accommodate pedestrians and cyclists. Neuer expressed concern regarding pedestrian safety on the section of road from Kennedy Drive to Swift Street and Songbird Lane at Dorset Street. Neuer proposed the sidewalk be extended under the overpass on Dorset Street as a long term solution and traffic calming measures as a short term option.

Dorn will be meeting with Rabidoux to discuss these concerns and will return with more information.

SOURCE: Corey Burdick, Correspondent