Union Hill traffic plan meeting set for Thursday


BRATTLEBORO -- It has been about 10 years since the town first started planning for safety upgrades to the Union Hill-Western Avenue intersection.

Department of Public Works Director Steve Barrett has files on the busy and dangerous intersection that date back all the way to 2004, and the project has been on and off of the Selectboard's agenda numerous times through the years.

In 2012 the town was awarded a $63,000 Vermont Agency of Transportation grant to finally tackle some of the projects Barrett has been working on to improve safety in the area, and on Thursday those plans will be presented to the public for input.

The town will have to match the federal and state money with $7,000 of its own funding. With the grant money in hand, Barrett said the town expects to move ahead with the project.

On April 10, at 6 p.m. in the Selectboard Meeting Room, DPW officials and traffic specialists from Holden Transportation Engineering will talk about the upgrades planned for the Union Hill-Western Avenue intersection and answer questions about the project.

"We want the public to give us input on this," Barrett said. "It's always good to have fresh eyes look over a project and maybe tell us something we might have missed. This is a chance for the public to get involved in this important project."

Holden Transportation Engineering has put together a concept plan that includes making the cross walk on Western Avenue shorter and trying to direct the flow of traffic on Union Hill so motorists have a clearer idea about which way to go.

Under the proposed plan, the walk across Western Avenue will be shortened from about 80 feet to 32 feet when the curbs are extended.

Within those plans there are still small decisions to make and Barrett said the meeting Thursday will give the public a chance to weigh in on the plan and help town officials and the traffic engineers make some final decisions.

Barrett said the town had a previous concept design drawn up a few years ago by Southern Vermont Engineering but there was never enough money in the Capital Budget to start the work.

After the town won the federal transportation grant, which is administered by VTrans, the Department of Public Works was required to start over and put the project out to bid.

Doing work on Route 9, which is a state highway, also makes the work a little more complicated than if the town was planning a project on a town-owned road. Some of the original concepts drawn up by SVE were considered, but transportation officials with Holden Engineering modernized the original drawings. After Thursday's meeting the engineers will develop a final plan which will go before the Selectboard for approval.

Barrett said the work could start this year, though the town may have to wait until the 2015 construction season if there are delays with any of the permitting.

Along with looking over the proposed plans, Barrett said the meeting Thursday will also be a chance to answer questions about why certain decisions are being made about the upgrades. Barrett said traffic lights or four-way stop signs will not work at the intersection and the public might have other ideas about safety concerns in the area.

"We have done a lot of studies on this intersection and there are reasons we have made some of these decisions," Barrett said. "We want people to come out and look over the plans and ask questions so we can explain exactly why we are going in this direction."

The town has been able to move ahead with some traffic improvement in the area. In 2006 the town won an $18,000 Safe Routes to School Grant that paid for crosswalk improvements near Green Street School.

With all of the children who walk down Cedar Street to go to Green Street School, as well as the school traffic that backs up at the beginning and end of the school day, Barrett said the intersection at Union Hill and Western Avenue is one of the busiest in town. Traffic coming off of Interstate 91 and heading downtown also flows through the area and Barrett said the new plans are an attempt to make the area safer for everyone.

On Dec. 6, 2013, Eugene Narrett, 64, of Maynard, Mass. was killed by a hit-and-run driver near the intersection, and Western Avenue has been the scene of three other fatalities over the last few years.

"This is a very busy crosswalk, and it is critical for the kids walking to school," said Barrett. "It is a very complicated area and we are trying to simplify it and make it safer for everybody."

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 279, or hwtisman@reformer.com. Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.


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