Brattleboro Route 30 gateway plan takes shape
BRATTLEBORO >> Local and state officials recognize a potential for growth on a corridor of Route 30.
Tourism and recreation opportunities could be expanded, according to a draft multi-modal gateway plan for Brattleboro, But state ownership of the road and restrictions around being in the flood-hazard area must be considered.
"This idea really came about through a collaborative effort," said Matt Mann, senior planner at Windham Regional Commission, of the project involving the Vermont Agency of Transportation, the West River Trail Committee, his group and the town.
Sue Minter, Secretary for VTrans at the time when talks started about having a pedestrian and bike path over the river, helped find funding for the study. Addressed were land use and transportation issues from the Brattleboro Retreat to the Saxtons River Distillery.
Place Sense and VHB were hired earlier this year to help with a plan. A technical advisory group was formed with state employees familiar with permitting. A community advisory group of property owners and recreational users also participated.
"The town's interest is extremely strong," said Planning Director Rod Francis, who mentioned the speed limit being one major concern.
A meeting on Tuesday night served as a way for other issues to surface. David Saladino, of VHB, said the idea was to strengthen the role of the corridor.
According to the groups' report on existing conditions, the highway sees about 6,000 vehicles a day and about 5 percent of the total traffic comes from trucks. Travel lanes are 11 to 12 feet wide and shoulders vary from 4 to 8 feet wide. Posted speed limits range from 25 to 50 miles per hour.
Between 2011 to 2015, 25 crashes were reported; 30 percent involved injuries and 28 percent occurred at various intersections. There were no fatalities.
The state is open to towns taking over ownership of highways, Saladino said; there's "less flexibility" when the state owns a road. Guidelines have to do with lane width, space for snowplows and speed limits.
"Our problem is we don't know how much we really want it," said Francis.
Brandy Saxton, of Place Sense, pointed out the assets of the study area. The Retreat and Retreat Farm are nationally registered historic sites and buildings. Along the river are archeologically sensitive lands, she said, noting the scenic views of Retreat Meadows and the Interstate 91 bridge currently under construction. Also in the study area are 15 residential properties, four commercial properties and two parcels belonging to the town.
The West River Park has sports fields, a walking path and access to the water. The West River Trail and Retreat Trails are used for walking and biking. Fishing, paddling, birdwatching and ice skating are some of the activities available at the Retreat Meadows.
"The constraint here is trying to figure out how to coordinate people who want to recreate there with the traffic and other things," Saxton said. "Pretty much all the land between the river and Route 30 is in the floodplain. That's a whole set of challenges of how that land can be used in the future."
Attendees on Tuesday suggested having parking for the bridge overlook, improving the boat launch, moving the first passing lane, upgrading guardrails, dredging sediment and adding more trails.
Another analysis is expected after the advisory groups meet again this summer. The website, placesense.com/gateway, is dedicated to the project.
Contact Chris Mays at email@example.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.
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