Route 9 safety improvements requested

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WEST BRATTLEBORO — Local officials are looking to improve safety along a short stretch of Route 9.

Last week, the Select Board authorized the town manager to write a letter to the Vermont Agency of Transportation requesting that the speed limit for an area between Edward Heights and Paradise Farm in West Brattleboro be reduced from 40 to 30 miles per hour, bike lanes be added in both directions and crosswalks be created at appropriate locations.

The West Brattleboro Association had originally proposed the speed limit change on Route 9, also known as Marlboro Road, in October. But state rules require the Select Board to make a formal request to the state, according to a memo from Town Manager Peter Elwell.

"Town staff supports this request and believes it would also be beneficial to add bike lanes in both directions through this section of roadway," he wrote. "The bike lane request is justified by prior analysis of bike riding in this corridor."

The town's Traffic Safety Committee voted unanimously in support of the requests and suggested adding crosswalks to the list.

Elwell told the board the area has one of the highest concentrations of low-income housing in Vermont.

"Many of the people living in the area rely on walking, cycling, and pubic transportation," he wrote. "Dozens of people daily cross this road without benefit of crosswalks."

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He said the area also is "heavily used" by cyclists for recreation, commuting and errands.

The town's West Brattleboro Master Plan from 2008 and Commercial Districts Study from 2011 identified the area as important to the health of the community, according to the memo. The documents recommended what is being requested of the state.

A study undertaken last year does not address the specific location but recommends traffic calming measures throughout the area, according to the memo.

Elwell called the timing for the request "excellent." The Agency of Transportation is preparing to upgrade Route 9 from Wilmington to Brattleboro in 2021.

"The requested combination of changes would make this section of roadway safer for all users and would add to the feeling of community that is a goal of both the Town Plan and the West Brattleboro Association," Elwell wrote. "While that is achieved to a great extent in the village center area of West Brattleboro, it needs our support to further foster it in this section further west that also includes dozens of businesses and hundreds of residences."

According to its website, the West Brattleboro Association is intended "to promote the thoughtful and effective evolution of the community of West Brattleboro as a place that is safe, healthy, attractive, and prosperous."

"Our vision includes: a village center that is safe and walk-able and that provides all the products, services, and social opportunities needed daily by its residents; a Marlboro Road that takes full advantage as a 'Gateway to Vermont,' marketing the best in local products and goods and services for the Vermont lifestyle; and an environment where small businesses of all kinds can sprout and put down roots ... ," the website states.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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