Friday March 8, 2013

On Thursday night, engineers from the Vermont Agency of Transportation were back in Brattleboro to discuss the overhaul of Putney Road between the Veterans Memorial Bridge and the Exit 3 roundabout.

The project includes adding a median down the length of the roadway as well as removing all traffic lights and adding four new roundabouts in their place. It entails tearing up and rebuilding 1.25 miles of roadway at a cost of at least $10 million in state and federal money.

The roundabouts would be situated at Black Mountain Road, at the Hannaford plaza, at Technology Drive and Fairfield Plaza (where Staples and Peebles are). The distance between the four roundabouts would range between 1,200 and 1,800 feet and they are planned to have two lanes. The plans also call for a six-foot bicycle lane on both sides of the road.

For those of us who like to walk, or have no other way to get around, the good news is the project includes five-foot sidewalks along both sides of the entire stretch of road.

Anyone who has walked along Putney Road, especially along the hill just north of Veterans Memorial Bridge, knows that would be a welcome addition.

The project, which won’t start for another five to seven years, was undertaken to improve safety and mobility for motorists, pedestrians and cyclists.

While many of us who have sat in our idling vehicles at any of the sets of lights on Putney Road might look forward to the roundabouts, the main reason for their installation would be to reduce accidents that result in injuries.


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Because there would be a median between the north and south bound lanes, there would be no more accidents from left-hand turns and rear-enders would also be eliminated.

While we hear many complaints about the Exit 3 roundabout (or more often about drivers who don’t know how to navigate through it), the truth is it’s much safer than the set of traffic lights that used to be there.

Before the roundabout, there were a number of fatalities there, but since the roundabout was installed, there have only been fender benders and none have resulted in injuries.

Though many people who don’t frequent the north end of town may not see the utility of this particular redesign, those of us who live or work on this section of road or who travel it regularly can’t have it happen soon enough.

Yes, there are still some unresolved questions, such as how to deal with the hassles of construction, the impact on certain businesses along the road that might lose parking spaces, crosswalk placement, utility relocation, stormwater management and how enhanced traffic flow might affect the side roads along Putney Road just south of the Veterans Memorial Bridge.

Even though this project has been on the planning table since 2005, there is still plenty of time for public comment. The folks from the Agency of Transportation will be back in Brattleboro for more public hearings and one-on-one discussions with property owners along the corridor.

We feel the project is not only good for traffic flow, it’s a win for pedestrians and bicyclists and will be an asset for the town. It will change the look of the North End, from a dismal commercial strip that you can find anywhere in the USA and make it greener, safer and more amenable to visitors who before might not have wanted to travel down Putney Road to the heart of Brattleboro because of the unappetizing look of the area. There are also several business and property owners along the road who believe the project will increase the values of their assets, and that’s a good thing for Brattleboro’s grand list.

Exit 3 and Putney Road are entry ways to the town; anything that can be done to enhance the visual beauty of the area is a good thing. We only wish we didn’t have to wait so long for the project to get under way.