Williston Road Transportation Study: Phase 1 Initial Technical Evaluation Completed

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Thursday April 30, 2015

Whether you’re a motorist, cyclist or pedestrian, Williston Rd. arguably has the same meaning for everyone: it’s a high-volume, fast-paced corridor. How can this road be improved in South Burlington for the sake of improved flow of traffic and public safety? The answer to that question is already underway via the Williston Road Transportation Study.

The purpose of this study is to conduct a multi-modal evaluation of what potential improvement concepts will need to be considered for Williston Rd. (Dorset St. to Hinesburg Rd.) as future planning for a more walkable community takes place. This means aligning with the city’s future land use objectives as plans for City Center unfold. Once these alternatives have been evaluated, VHB will work with the City of South Burlington and the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission (CCRPC) to identify short-term, mid-term, and long-term strategies.

This study was one of several planning projects, totaling $573,000, that the CCRPC committed to South Burlington for FY15. The study functions in harmony with the work of other funded projects such as the Chamberlin Neighborhood/Airport Committee. The Williston Road Transportation Study received $150,000 for FY15.

The study is broken down into phases, the first phase being the initial technical evaluation, which Martin Kennedy of VHB presented before the Planning Commission on April 14. His presentation consisted of an overview of the study process, the study objective, key improvement action elements, and the preliminary findings.

Improving connectivity and efficiency for everyone (not just motorists) are key objectives of the project, Kennedy explained, stressing that the project aimed to meet these goals without adding through lanes to Williston Rd. Without the addition of through lanes, the study considers several components, such as access management, signal coordination or roundabouts, pedestrian and bicycle mobility, and transit service. The study also takes into account managing the demand; this includes looking at the land use, alternative modes, accepting increased traffic congestion, and future regional considerations (i.e. a future Exit 12B).

The following are the key improvement action items:
• Connector roadway north of the corridor
• Improve connectivity south of the corridor
• Maintain two through lanes per direction on Williston Rd.
• Plan for new future signalized intersection
• Raised median with exclusive left-turn lanes at sign intersections
• Bike lanes along Williston Rd.
• Well-defined pedestrian crosswalks at signalized intersections
• Upgrade and widen sidewalks
• Consider bus signal preemption

Based on these key improvement action items, VHB produced preliminary findings. In terms of access management, the city should consider a raised median with left-turn access/egress and pedestrian crossing at signalized intersections. There should also be consideration of an additional signalized intersections in general. While Williston Rd. will maintain two through lanes per direction, consideration should be given to providing left-turn lanes at signals and providing bike lanes and widened sidewalks. Furthermore, the preliminary findings reveal that there should be improved parcel connectivity and that the Dorset St. intersection capacity constraint issue still needs to be resolved.

“Marty came armed with other slides with all sorts of data that were pulled from this presentation, but this is a high-crash location for a reason,” Public Works Director Justin Rabidoux said. “We’re looking at this as we might be getting the same kind of form and function in terms of safety and efficiency through a separate but parallel roadway, and at the same time, not turning Williston Rd. into something that looks like the south end of Rt. 7 that’s excessively wide.”

Phase II will be more outreach-based, and it will begin in the fall. This outreach will include reaching out to affected property owners and listening to their current and future concerns. This outreach will also consider input from the rest of the public, the planning commission, and the city council.

Christine Forde of the CCRPC said that there will be a data report put together for this phase.

SOURCE: Miranda Jonswold, Correspondent