SHAFTSBURY -- A group of parents and school and town officials are working to improve safety at the town's busiest intersection.
A blinking yellow light at the intersection where Route 7A divides Church Street and Buck Hill Road now alerts traffic on 7A of the intersection, but the school board and parents believe more needs to be done.
With children who walk to and from school crossing the intersection every day, or at least during the warmer months, the group has spent months researching ways to improve safety.
Much of that time has been spent advocating for a three-color traffic light that would stop traffic on 7A to allow pedestrians to cross and slow down traffic, but a previous traffic study conducted by the state showed there is not enough traffic on 7A for the intersection to warrant a three-color light.
A new proposal parent Tim Scoggins presented to the school board Tuesday, and to the Select Board before that, is to slow the speed limit on Route 7A for a tenth of a mile in each direction of the intersection from 35 miles per hour to 25. With the reduced speed limit, he said, the blinking light could be taken down and instead an on-demand flashing crosswalk sign could be put up at the intersection.
The school has a crossing guard at the intersection at the times children are on the way to school or walking home afterward, but the on-demand light would make it safer to cross the road at other times, Scoggins said.
The proposal also looks to create no parking zones at the southeast and northwest corners of the intersection so it is not as difficult for vehicles pulling onto 7A to see oncoming traffic. The plan would not eliminate parking in front of the Shaftsbury Country Store or West Mountain Auto Repair, which are on the northeast and southwest corners of the intersection respectively.
The plan also includes painting stop lines on Church Street and Buck Hill Road to indicate where vehicles should stop so that they do not hang into 7A.
Select Board Chairman Lon McClintock said Wednesday the town board supports the proposal, but because 7A is a state highway any changes at the intersection must be approved by the state.
"We have to file an application with the state and the state has a board that will hear these kinds of issues and make a decision whether we can make these changes," McClintock said.
A study done by the school during a two-week period in May showed from four to 13 children crossed the intersection in the morning and from nine to 25 crossed after school let out. The crossing guard also counted the number of vehicles that left the school and entered the intersection on two occasions after school. Just over 100 vehicles were counted each time.
In addition to children walking to school, the intersection also has a number of pedestrians due to the playground at the school on weekends.
"The playground is used seven days a week, so we'd like that intersection to be safe not just for the opening and closing of school but also for any child that wants to go from that densely populated neighborhood on Cleveland Avenue to the Shaftsbury Elementary School," McClintock said.
Given the volume of pedestrian traffic, mostly children, and the vehicles pulling onto 7A, the school board and Select Board have previously advocated for a stop light on 7A.
Scoggins said there has been recent communication with the Agency of Transportation about doing another traffic study, but the response indicated the results would be unlikely to change. Instead, the AOT recommended many of the measures the group is now looking to implement.
"The main thing we, the parents, are trying to do is get something done," Scoggins said. "We didn't waste time trying to get a traffic light, we just spent a lot of time and didn't get anything for it. So now we're trying to just get permission ... for signs and paint."
If granted state approval, McClintock said the town would hold a public hearing prior to any changes, in part because customers of the two businesses at the corners of the intersection do sometimes park in the areas that would become "no-parking."
"The Select Board said before we would take any action on making changes to the intersection, whether it is signage or parking, we would want to hold a public meeting putting everyone affected on notice of the meeting and give the business owners an opportunity to express their concerns, objections or support for changes at the intersection," McClintock said.
The process, even if everything goes according to plan, will take considerable time. In the meantime, Scoggins said the group of parents would like to get a median sign to draw attention to the crosswalk.
Contact Dawson Raspuzzi at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Twitter @DawsonRaspuzzi