WESTMINSTER -- Two public hearings part of a trio of meetings aimed at raising general awareness about the state's plan to install highway rumble strips are slated for northern Windham County later this month.
The Vermont Agency of Transportation is considering the installation of centerline rumble strips on every state highway, either paired with another improvement venture or as a stand-alone project, and the first of the public hearings has been scheduled for Westminster Town Hall at 6 p.m. on Thursday. Another meeting will follow a week later at Rockingham Town Hall at the same time on Aug. 28. The public hearings will wrap up with one held during the Mount Holly Selectboard's meeting at Mount Holly Town Office at 7:30 p.m.
Kevin Marshia, a deputy chief engineer with the VTrans Highway Division told the Reformer, the hearings are part of his division's public outreach process and are meant to inform citizens on what the proposed work will entail, how it will be executed and why the state wants to do it. Marshia said rumble strips, which cause vibrations and create noise when driven on, are intended to address driver inattention and alert operators to possible drifting of the vehicle they are driving.
"We've had great success with their installation in other parts of the state," he said, adding that VTrans started installing the strips in 2009. "We're seeing up to a 25 percent reduction in crashes.
Marshia said centerline rumble strips are specifically aimed at preventing head-on collisions. Marshia said advances in technology -- such as GPS devices and smartphones -- have created some of the biggest distractions to drivers. The state is eyeing sections of U.S. Route 5 between Putney and Westminster and portions of Vermont Route 103 between Rockingham and Mount Holly as potential spots for rumble strips, which are funded with state and federal tax dollars.
Marshia told the Reformer it is hard to gauge how the public hearings will be received because there not many have been held. He said there has been a mixture of reactions from the public, as many people think rumble strips are a great idea, while others are concerned about the noise they may generate.
According to information from VTrans, rumble strips will be considered only where pavement width is 28 feet or greater (with a minimum of a 3-foot paved shoulder), the speed limit is 45 mph or higher and the average daily traffic is 1,500 vehicles or greater per day. They will also be considered for spots that do meet the criteria, as long as crash history indicates a pattern of head-on, sideswipe, or single-vehicle crashes. Marshia stressed there is no intention to install strips in residential neighborhoods.
The VTrans states centerline rumble strips are discontinued where there are narrow bridges, two-way left-turn lanes, breaks in the centerline, residences within 100 feet of a centerline, raised medians, closely spaced commercial drives with high-volume-turning traffic, or bridges or concrete roadways with less than two and a half inches of pavement.
Visit http://vtrans.vermont.gov/ with questions or comments. For more information on highway safety initiatives in Vermont, visit the Vermont Highway Safety Alliance website at http://highwaysafety.vermont.gov/
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.