BRATTLEBORO — The Select Board supports bike lanes along Western Avenue on Route 9, safety improvements at the Canal Street and South Main Street intersection, and a new crosswalk at Retreat Farm and Retreat Meadows.
The Select Board unanimously approved a final report of a scoping study last Tuesday and endorsed a plan to add bicycle lanes along Route 9 from Main Street to the Exit 2 interchange. Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) requested a study take place before committing to a project.
Engineer Chrissy Haskins of Dufresne Group said a committee explored different alternatives and presented ideas to the public before landing on a preferred alternative to reconfigure the roadway to add bike lanes to both sides of the street, move the curb line to make wider sidewalks that meet Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines and eliminate a parking lane.
Altogether, the project is estimated to cost about $2.93 million. Haskins said waiting on grants could put construction out three or four years.
“One of the committee’s goals was to get the bike lanes installed as soon as possible,” she said. “So the project can easily be phased to install these bike lanes in the short term and then plan for multiple projects for sidewalk replacement in the long-range plan.”
Painting the bike lanes and adding some crosswalks to the section from Exit 2 to Green Street is anticipated to cost about $28,000, and the remaining would be about $25,000. Brattleboro Planning Director Sue Fillion said the project started out looking primarily at bike lanes but sidewalks were added as needs were identified.
Two types of VTrans grants are being eyed for funding assistance. Board approval will be needed before grant applications are submitted.
“The price tag out of the whole build,” board member Daniel Quipp said, “seems like a big chunk of change to me and I am super committed to the bike lanes. The rest of the stuff, I would take a wait-and-see approach.”
Town Manager Peter Elwell said the board needed to endorse the entire preferred alternative presented in the study in order to be eligible for state funding.
Last Tuesday, the board unanimously approved safety improvements recommended by town staff and the Traffic Safety Committee for the intersection of Canal Street and South Main Street, including the installation of an edge-lit LED stop sign on the southwest corner of the intersection with a sign underneath indicating that oncoming traffic doesn’t stop, installation of an edge-lit LED crosswalk sign at the existing pedestrian crossing sign heading south on Canal Street at the crosswalk, and replacement of the white pedestrian yield sign located before the crosswalk when traveling south on Canal Street with a more reflective yellow sign. Fillion said the committee received several requests from the public calling for action.
“There are a lot of people who are not using the crosswalk,” she said. “That is something we will continue to work on.”
The edge-lit LED signs, states a memo from Fillion, “are solar powered and will flash 24 hours a day. They adjust their light level with the ambient light so they will be brighter during the day to be more visible and dimmer in the evening.”
“A lot of people don’t use the crosswalk because there are so many blind spots due to vehicles blocking vision,” Rikki Risatti of Brattleboro said.
Risatti lives in the neighborhood and doesn’t feel the project would make the intersection safer.
“I just don’t think drivers are going to respond to that light always being on versus indicating just when they need to stop,” said Risatti, who wants the light to be activated by pedestrians. “I’m just frustrated by the outcome of this. This isn’t what I was asking for. This isn’t what my neighbors and everyone I’ve been talking with was asking for.”
Board Chairwoman Elizabeth McLoughlin said the Traffic Safety Committee endorsed the project.
“They don’t live here,” Risatti said. “They haven’t almost gotten hit by a car every day.”
Board member Jessica Gelter said the board will monitor the situation.
Following the recommendation of town staff and the Traffic Safety Committee, the board also authorized Elwell to send a letter to VTrans requesting a crosswalk with a rectangular rapid flashing beacon be installed across Route 30 from Retreat Farm to the Retreat Meadows. Elwell called the project “desperately needed because there’s so much pedestrian traffic and it’s running across an area that has a 40-mile-per-hour speed limit.”