Route 7 traffic light design work to begin in Ferrisburgh

FERRISBURGH — The wait for a fully signalized traffic light at the Ferrisburgh intersection of Route 7 with Little Chicago and Middlebrook roads might still best be measured in years.
But the Agency of Transportation has been working on the project and is planning on presenting a design to the town selectboard this summer, according to an email from VTrans project manager Joshua Schultz.
Schultz gave the email update to Rep. Diane Lanpher, D-Vergennes, last week. He told Lanpher that VTrans recently surveyed the area, and that the agency is gathering traffic data and information on needed rights-of-way and utility line locations.
He then described the next steps: “My design team will be transitioning into full-time work on this project in the middle of April, and we plan to have a concept design completed by May/June. At that point we’ll schedule a meeting with the Ferrisburgh selectboard to present our concept to the board and project stakeholders, and get input before we’re too far along in the design.”
Schultz wrote the work this winter and spring has not changed the basic timetable, which he described in October 2012 as three to five years. In the past, he also identified as issues to be resolved designing and making drainage improvements, obtaining environmental permits, and working around the area’s historic properties.
“We’re still not sure as to when the project will be ready for construction because a lot of the schedule hinges on the extent of our ROW (right-of-way) impacts. Once we have a handle on the level of impact to the surrounding properties, we’ll be in a much better position to forecast a construction year,” he said.
Certainly, Ferrisburgh groups have had suggestions over the years how to design a light and pedestrian-friendly improvements at the problematic intersection, which is in the heart of a village area that includes the Ferrisburgh Central School, businesses, town offices, homes and a post office.
In an October letter to the selectboard, VTrans Director of Program Development Richard Tetreault said although there have been fewer accidents there in recent years, the agency is “still concerned with the fact that 11 crashes have occurred at this location over the past five years, with four resulting in injuries.”
A bill written by Ferrisburgh Central School 5th-graders a year ago and introduced by Lanpher this past spring called for red and green lights from 7 to 9 a.m. and then again from 2 to 6:30 p.m., with flashing yellow lights the rest of the day.
Another design proposed by a Safe Routes to School effort organized by town residents included a pedestrian-triggered light and a crosswalk.
Schultz met with the class, now 6th-graders, last fall and said their suggestions and others would be considered during a design phase that will include input from town officials and residents. This summer’s presentation before the selectboard will provide a major opportunity for feedback.
Schultz also told Lanpher in the email VTrans officials would attend any forums that Lanpher planned, and would let her know about any they planned to attend.
“I’ll be sure to invite you and keep you updated on any public meetings that we attend. Please let me know if you have any special meetings/presentations where you’d like us to explain the project (I’m thinking about the school children),” he wrote.
Lanpher credited the selectboard’s and other residents’ persistence over the years for keeping the traffic light concept on VTrans’ desk, despite meeting with resistance.  
“The selectboard had actually been working on this, and several people in the past had brought up the idea,” she said.
And she said the students helped push the project over the finish line by highlighting the fact the light would make the area safer. After the students weighed in, a VTrans analysis confirmed the intersection was dangerous, Lanpher said.
“Now the data was there to support the students,” she said. “It’s warranted. It’s a safety issue. I was thrilled, and I love the fact the students got their voice in here.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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