South Street makeover takes shape

MIDDLEBURY — The town of Middlebury has agreed to permanently outfit South Street with a series of traffic calming measures — including five crosswalks — in recognition of the growing number of vehicles the residential street is being asked to bear.
Local officials agreed to the traffic calming measures following a meeting last Thursday with South Street neighbors, who have been lobbying for the town to take steps to slow cars and trucks traveling through the residential neighborhood. Homeowners submitted a petition to the Middlebury selectboard back in 2005 advocating for, among other things, a lowering of the speed limit from the current 25 miles per hour to 20 mph along certain stretches.
Since then the Middlebury Volunteer Ambulance Association has established its new headquarters at the Porter Medical Center campus on the south end of the street, and the Eastview at Middlebury retirement community has just opened a little further along that stretch. Both operations, neighbors noted, will only add to the local  traffic flow.
Town officials acknowledged the need for some changes and have elected to incorporate them in a major makeover of South Street slated to begin this summer. That work calls for:
•  Replacement of the sewer force main that runs from the north drive of Porter Medical Center (Collins Drive) north to the south Chipman Park entrance. The gravity-fed sanitary sewer system starts at that point. This gravity system will be replaced from Chipman Park all the way to Main Street.
•  Replacement of the water main and storm sewer infrastructure from the hospital all the way to Main Street.
•  New curbing on both sides of the street. Crews will try and level out sections of sidewalk that are sagging at driveway crossings.
•  Repaving of the street in a manner that will preserve parking on the east side of the road, but will provide for a 3-foot-wide area along the southbound lane that will be reserved for bikers and joggers.
In conjunction with this project, work crews will equip South Street with several strategies aimed at slowing traffic. They will include:
•  Narrowing the South Street travel lanes to a width 10.5 feet each. Those lanes are now 12 feet and 14 feet wide, noted selectboard Chairman Dean George, who also heads the town’s public works committee.
•  Creating five crosswalks (none exist on the road today) that will be marked in a red-colored, cobble or brick imprint. The crosswalks will be located at the intersections with Green Mountain Place, Chipman Park North, Chipman Park South, Porter Field Road and at the Middlebury College baseball and softball fields.
In addition, colored “nub” (no parking) areas will be posted near the crosswalks on the east side of South Street.
•  Extending the 25-mile-per-hour speed limit to the Eastview retirement community entrance.
•  Placing “pedestrian zone” signs at each end of the street.
•  Erecting at least one solar-powered digital speed indicator on the street to make drivers know how fast they are driving.
John Barstow was one of around 35 South Street neighbors who met with town officials at the May 31 meeting. He is pleased with the proposed traffic calming measures.
“My personal feeling is that all of these things are definitely going to make a difference,” Barstow said. “I feel like it is a good compromise.”
Neighbors have already initiated some of their own signage, as South Street travelers may have observed in recent days. Multiple residents gathered recently at the Barstow/Kate Gridley home, where the neighborhood kids made traffic calming signs bearing such messages as “20 is Plenty.” Everyone chipped in for supplies and Gridley, a prominent local artist, provided some guidance to the young sign makers. Their work can be seen on most of the neighborhood lawns, including that of Middlebury College President Ron Liebowitz.
And there just might be a small silver lining to the South Street traffic conundrum, Barstow said.
“This process has brought us together in many positive ways,” Barstow said.
Middlebury Town Planner Fred Dunnington said the town is prepared to take additional steps if the current traffic calming plan proves inadequate.
“We are going to start with what we have… and we are going to observe the effectiveness of this and layer some additional things — along with enforcement,” Dunnington said. “That’s the game plan.”
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent

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