Wednesday June 12, 2013

The Brattleboro Traffic Safety Committee deserves high praise for its work in developing a thorough, proactive approach to improving pedestrian and bicycle safety throughout the town.

Not only does the plan outline many types of traffic controlling devices that can be utilized, but it also creates a formal process for reporting trouble spots and requesting appropriate action. It also encourages involvement from the public -- those who live in the affected areas and use the roads on a daily basis -- and it seeks to improve communication between the departments and agencies involved with and affected by any proposed changes.

"The Traffic Safety Committee wanted to establish a mechanism for how concerned citizens can present issues about traffic hazards to the town rather than just have them come in ad hoc," said David Gartenstein, the Selectboard representative on the Traffic Safety Committee. "The plan is based on models that have been successful in other municipalities."

The need for such a plan became obvious after Brattleboro had three deaths attributed to vehicle-pedestrian collisions between November 2011 and March 2012, as well as a number of injury related incidents.

Town officials are trying to correct any problem areas before another tragedy strikes.

"We are aware there are traffic safety concerns all over town," Gartenstein said. "There is a substantial, ongoing effort to address those, and this is an effort to establish a formal way to get citizens more involved."

The plan gives citizens more information on how they can make reports, but it also formalizes the way the town will respond to those reports in the future. All requests for traffic calming measures will go through the Department of Public Works, and then the town manager will forward requests on to the Traffic Safety Committee for consideration.

The types of traffic controlling devices suggested in the report are: increased police enforcement (as a first line of defense and for research); portable radar units; permanent radar signs; temporary signage (seasonal only); signing and pavement marking (in compliance with Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices); new crosswalks and crosswalk location changes; median islands; changes in surface texture or color; gateway treatments; traffic circles or roundabouts; curb extensions; chicanes (series of curb extensions on alternating sides of the street); flashing lights at crosswalks; speed humps; push button pedestrian crossing signals.

The Brattleboro Police Department will be required to respond to all requests for increased enforcement within 60 days of receiving a completed Safety Action Request Form. Emergency services and public transit officials will serve advisory rolls to make sure any traffic calming devices do not impede response time or routes of travel. The Selectboard will then have the final say on any traffic calming measures implemented.

The town makes it clear that some requests for increased improvements will be impossible due to budget constraints, but the plan offers many less expensive alternatives that can be used until money does become available.

The plan has been posted on the town’s website, www.brattleboro.org, and the committee is asking for comments on the draft plan before the Selectboard formally votes to approve the plan.