Garden Street Design Workshop Considers Intersections

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Thursday November 26, 2015

Whether you are a motorist, cyclist, or pedestrian, high-volume traffic and concerns about safety are all too familiar on Williston Road. South Burlington, with the help of consultants, is aiming to change that.

A group of more than 20 residents gathered at City Hall on Wednesday, November 18 to discuss traffic alternatives at the intersections of Williston Road and White Street and Williston Road and Hinesburg Road/Patchen Road as part of the Garden Street design and engineering intersection public design workshop.

Garden Street is a proposed support street for City Center and creates an alternative connection between Dorset Street and Williston Road as a cross street to Market Street.

The Garden Street Project began with a series of public workshops between September 2014 and January 2015, and the city council adopted the recommendations set forth in the Project Definition Report in April.

Stantec Consulting, represented by Greg Goyette, is the lead consultant. Other consultants on the project include ORW (landscaping and design) and Chester Engineering.

The next step in the Garden Street Project was the November 18 workshop, which not only revealed five intersection alternatives, but also quantified the hazards experienced on one of the city’s busiest roads.

According to VTrans, General Yearly Summaries - Crash Listing between Jan. 1. 2009 and Dec. 31, 2013, there have been 148 crashes on Williston Road between Midas Drive/White Street and Patchen Road/Hinesburg Road. This is more than double the state crash rate, Goyette added.

Of those crashes, 80 percent of them occur during the day and in dry weather. Furthermore, 72 percent of crashes are caused by left-turn movements.

A number of residents attested to the dangers experienced on Williston Road.

“The curb cuts scare me,” resident and councilor Meaghan Emery said, “They’re looking for cars not bikes.”

Resident Bernie Paquette, whose main mode of transportation is cycling, recalled the times he has been hit by cars, noting that safety should be the number one priority for the project.

The alternatives therefore offer a range of safety features, including reducing the turning curb radii in order to reduce crossing distances and medians to eliminate making a left turn across several lanes. Residents offered their own ideas, such as using landscaping for traffic calming or adopting tactics seen in Europe (i.e. intersections with a pedestrian wait area in the middle of the intersection).

Goyette also identified four categories of bicyclists that the alternatives take in account; strong and fearless (less than one percent), enthused and confident (seven percent), interested but concerned (60 percent), no way no how (33 percent).

The different types of facilities available include bike lanes, shared use path, two-way cycle track with a separate sidewalk.

“Each [alternative] has a different character in how it serves the public,” said Ilona Blanchard, South Burlington’s project director.

Goyette introduced the following five alternatives. A full traffic build-out for City Center was taken into account, as the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission has a Williston Road Network Transportation Study underway. The alternatives were not as vast due to limited amount of Right-of-Way.

After reading the alternatives, residents were asked to select their first and second picks and were encouraged to leave comments.

The popular pick resulted in a fusion of Alternative 2: 10-foot lanes with left turns and Alternative 3B: Form Based Code with Off-Road Street Biking, particularly the inclusion of the one-foot shoulders and separated bike lanes on the south side for all cyclists.
Some residents were intrigued by the idea of roundabouts but were concerned about cyclist and pedestrian safety. Cost estimates and ratios for the alternatives are not yet available, but Alternative 4 would be equivalent to “three dollar signs,” Blanchard said.

Resident Barbara Sirvis applauded the process, noting, “there’s been more transparency and engagement.” She invited her neighbors to attend, resulting in new faces and ideas.

“There are very impatient people on the road,” another resident noted. “Perhaps the mentality will change.”

Through December 4, there will be stakeholder meetings. Between January 2016 and April 2017, work will continue on engineering, final design and permitting, with June 2017 as the projected start date for construction.

SOURCE: Miranda Jonswold, Correspondent