Residents discuss possible changes to Williston Road.


Planning for the Future of Williston Road

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Thursday March 10, 2016

If you could revamp Williston Road, what would you change?

Residents came out to share their own perspective on possibilities for Williston Road at a March 3 outreach session at City Hall. The workshop is part of Phase II of the Williston Road Network Transportation Study, a Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission-funded project which assesses possible transportation improvements between Dorset Street and Hinesburg Road. It also expands on the work in the 2007 US-2 Corridor Transportation Management Plan.

Phase I was completed in 2015 with the help of VHB, the transportation consultant. The initial technical evaluation looked at existing and future conditions along the corridor (Dorset to Hinesburg) and provided an initial screening of potential alternatives.

Phase II consists of a meeting with landowners (held in January and February), the March 3 public outreach meeting, and an evaluation of preferred alternatives which will take place this March through May. The study will develop short, medium, and long-term transportation strategies to help meet the city’s goals for City Center and the surrounding area.

With three tables prepared for brainstorming, David Saladino, VHB’s director of transportation engineering in Vermont, spent a brief time introducing the project team (CCRPC, South Burlington, VHB, and Third Sector Associate’s Diane Meyerhoff) to the group of more than 20 residents in attendance. Saladino reviewed the project, reviewed Williston Road’s classification as a commercial boulevard, and showed Williston Road’s existing conditions. He noted that the intersection of Dorset Street and Williston Road is the busiest intersection of Vermont, drawing in an average of 28,000 cars a day.

Residents were shown examples of improvement ideas that have been used throughout the country, including Boulder, Colo., Minneapolis, Minn., and Richmond, Va.

Participants then broke into groups to identify their top concerns and the improvements they’d like to see.

Collectively among all groups, improving traffic flow, diverting thru traffic, and safety for all users ranked among the highest concerns.

While these ranked as the highest concerns, there were other proposed changes on the list, including more trees and landscaping, fewer curb cuts, and underground utilities. Additional parallel streets, extending grid networks, more/less development, and more parks and open space were other items listed. There were also mixed views regarding the prospect of raised medians; some expressed concern that that businesses would be negatively affected.

With safety being among the highest of concerns, each group presented ideas for how to better accommodate cyclists, pedestrians, and transit riders.

For cyclists, some of the proposed changes consisted of having a separate bike/pedestrian path, dedicated facilities for bikes, not dumping snow on the cycling lanes, and routing with a future bike bridge. For pedestrian use, residents expressed interest in fewer curb cuts, better lighting, benches, signalized crosswalks, pedestrian signage, refuge islands, and an enclosed walkway. Transit riders expressed interest in improvements with the addition of more bus pullout sections along the corridor, incentives for people to use the bus, benches and shelters, extended service, proper lighting, and keeping stations close to crosswalks.

Many participants supported the idea of an expanded street network (grid) to the north and south of Williston Road.

“It’s really no different than Route 15 by the Fairgrounds or Main Street in downtown Burlington,” Director of Public Works Justin Rabidoux said. “Those roads have an entirely different feel because they have entirely different histories. I don’t know if we need to be so respectful to our Williston Road’s history of being the county’s commuter road.”

“Once we start making that statement as a community, that’s when you start going from accommodating maybe three of these wish-list items to then taking on more to reclaim Williston Road as everyone else’s.”

The feedback will be assessed in the next stage of Phase II, which is an evaluation of preferred alternatives.

For more information about the study, visit http://www.ccrpcvt.org/transportation/corridors/williston-road-network/.

SOURCE: Miranda Jonswold, Correspondent