Historic route a little slower in Shaftsbury

Wednesday July 10, 2013


Staff Writer

SHAFTSBURY -- You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, well, you just might find you get what you need.

After years of local efforts to improve safety at the intersection where Route 7A divides Church Street and Buck Hill Road, the Vermont Agency of Transportation has agreed to lower the speed limit along the main north-south route from 35 to 25 mph.

The new, lower limit will be in effect on Route 7A between Cleveland Avenue and Route 67.

An "on-demand" flashing crosswalk sign is an additional measure still sought by local residents.

The intersection currently has a blinking yellow light and crossing guards during school.

Previous efforts by concerned parents and school and town officials concentrated on getting a three-color traffic light at the central intersection to allow pedestrians, particularly school children, to safely cross the state route.

Because of topography and street parking, approaching motor vehicles from the two cross streets also experience limited sight distances pulling onto Route 7A.

Traffic light repeatedly denied

After the need for a traffic light was repeatedly denied by the AOT, however, local safety advocates came up with an alternative.

Given that all local roads in Shaftsbury are currently posted 25 mph, "(we felt) that this was a good Plan B," said Tim Scoggins, a local parent who pitched the reduced speed limit and other measures during an AOT traffic committee hearing June 21.

"We gave up on the stop light," Scoggins said, after Shaftsbury made the request and was successively denied following studies in 1992, 1998, 2009, and 2012.

Those studies looked at motor vehicle and pedestrian traffic and the rate of accidents at the intersection. Those factors combined did not warrant a traffic light according to Amy Gamble, a traffic operations engineer at the AOT. "The signal wasn't warranted," she said.

Shaftsbury Elementary School board member Larry Johnson attended the June hearing with Scoggins, while Select Board Vice-Chairwoman Karen Mellinger and state Rep. Alice Miller provided supporting testimony by conference call.

At Monday's school board meeting, Johnson said the new, reduced limit was "entirely Tim (Scoggins') project."

"Ninety-five percent of it was being up there and having a good presentation," Johnson said. "It struck the points home and they listened."

Scoggins said by telephone Tuesday that an on-demand crossing signal, permanent radar speed limit signs, or differently marked crosswalks could be additional future steps.

Gamble said the new, lower speed limit signs would take about a month to be put up. She said pedestrian-operated beacons were being installed in some areas as part of Vermont's Safe Routes to School program, but there is no policy yet to determine their placement.

Regarding radar speed feedback signs, which tell motorists their current speed and flash when drivers are exceeding the limit, Gamble said towns were given leeway to have those installed.

"From what I've heard, they do have some effect on (lowering) speed," she said.

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