A preliminary concept map showing where three proposed new Bennington roundabouts would be located along Kocher and Northside drives.

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BENNINGTON — After an update from a project engineer, the Bennington Select Board has confirmed Bennington’s interest in a proposal to consider roundabouts along Northside and Kocher drives to improve three intersections.

Jennifer Conley, the project manager with the firm VHB, which is working with the state Agency of Transportation on the proposal, said a vote by the board was needed for conceptual design and other work to proceed.

She said it is too early to estimate when final state approvals and a construction start might be expected.

The three intersections — Kocher Drive and U.S. Route 7, Benmont Avenue and Northside Drive, and Northside Drive at Orchard and Hunt streets — have been determined through studies to be dangerous because of a high rate of accidents, Conley said. The Bennington County Regional Commission has designated improvement work as a priority for the region.


The Select Board unanimously agreed Monday to ask VTrans to continue work on the preferred design option of creating three roundabouts at those three intersections.

Northside Drive currently has a roundabout further west, at the entrance to the Monument Plaza. It replaced an intersection that often was cited as causing significant traffic backups.

In a separate project, a “peanut-shaped” roundabout at the five-way intersection near the entrance to the Bennington College campus is in the final planning stages.


In addition, BCRC Transportation Planner Mark Anders asked that a proposed pedestrian underpass below Route 7 at Kocher Drive be given further consideration in the planning process.

He said a motivation for such a passageway was that the highway is crossed by many students from the middle and high schools walking to and from school.

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When that idea surfaced several years ago, local officials and some residents raised issues, such as the significant cost of a tunnel under the four-lane Route 7 and questions about safety concerns inside the underpass, especially at night.

However, the board agreed to ask VTrans to give the underpass further consideration. A stated goal of the overall project is to address the needs of all modes of traffic through the intersections, Conley said.

During the Monday meeting, bicyclist Eric Postel said he believes the existing roundabout, and any future ones, should add safety improvements to protect bikers passing through them with traffic.

Conley said that can be addressed with prominent signage that specifies that bikes are considered to have the right of way through a roundabout.


VHB also is working with VTrans in implementing a revised highway project ranking, funding and timetable process.

Conley said the town’s projects will be part of that competitive process with other state projects statewide, but the intersection work here has cleared the early hurdles of winning regional planning support and having support from the town to proceed with planning.

A consideration as planning moves forward, Conley said, is whether to design a one-lane, two-lane or wider roundabout at the larger Route 7-Kocher Drive intersection.

The other two intersections would likely have one lane, similar to the existing roundabout at the entrance to the Walmart-Price Chopper shopping center.

All three intersections are considered to have a high crash rate level, which is a significant factor in the state’s formula for prioritizing projects. Roundabouts are considered generally safer because they force a reduction of speed and move vehicles through in the same direction.

Other state project ranking criteria include the condition of an intersection or highway; whether the project enhances mobility, such as through new sidewalks or other improvements; the project’s connections to pedestrian or bike paths and other roads; economic impacts; local and regional support; environmental impacts, and health-related considerations, such as by providing access to bike paths.

Jim Therrien can be reached at or by phone at 413-281-2646.

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