Plan for new Route 7 traffic light unveiled

FERRISBURGH — Vermont Agency of Transportation officials at Tuesday’s Ferrisburgh selectboard meeting unveiled a new traffic light and flow design for the intersection of Route 7 and Little Chicago and Middlebrook roads that they said will resemble that for the junction of Route 7 and Monkton Road a few miles south.
Project manager Joshua Schultz described the plan as only a rough draft that could be changed after feedback from town and Ferrisburgh Central School officials, residents and area business owners.
“We definitely have a ways to go,” Schultz told the board and about 10 residents at the town office building about a project he said would be in place by “2015 at the earliest. I’d say that 2016 is the comfortable, realistic date.”
The draft plan calls for lights to be placed on masts that would extend out from poles over the traveled surfaces of the three roads. Left turners on all three roads would have arrows allowing them to make “protected” turns, Schultz said, thus addressing a major safety concern expressed by town and school officials, residents, and notably FCS students who lobbied legislators for a light over the past two years.
“They won’t have to take their lives in their hand like they do now,” he said.
The southbound left-hand turn lane on Route 7 would be extended 80 feet to a total of 167 feet, a move that Schulz said would allow “storage room” for traffic to back up and give cars a chance to slow down as they approach from the north. The northbound left-turn lane is also being extended in the preliminary design, from 135 to 160 feet.
No pedestrian improvements, such as sidewalks or crosswalks, are included in the draft design, but Schulz said the control boxes that VTrans will install will have the technology to provide for those additions at a later date if Ferrisburgh and VTrans officials agree upon further changes to the intersection.
“We are making sure our design will accommodate future sidewalks,” he said.
Those sidewalks could be placed on “any leg of the intersection,” Schulz said.
“We will work with the town,” he said.
The initial design does not include any changes to the width of the three roads, and it includes repaving the intersection to the extent of the left-turn lanes north and south on Route 7 and for some distance on both of the town roads.
Schultz also said the lights would probably flash yellow during the night for Route 7 traffic, and red for town road traffic.
Selectboard chairwoman Loretta Lawrence said the board was happy that VTrans was acting on an intersection that town officials had lobbied for work on for a decade or more, but wondered how secure was the funding.
“There’s no possibility the funding will be canceled, right?” she asked Schultz.
Schultz said he had “learned never to say never,” but was confident the project would not be dropped.
“I don’t see that happening,” he said.
Rep. Diane Lanpher, D-Vergennes, who worked with the FCS class that successfully lobbied lawmakers to request that VTrans study the intersection, told the meeting she would continue to work on the project’s behalf if necessary.
“I’m watching it,” said Lanpher, a member of the House Transportation Committee.
Schultz said the pupils had played a role in moving the light project forward, and that they were proven correct when VTrans studied the intersection and determined that it “definitely warranted” lights.
“A lot of credit for this project does go to some 6th-grade students,” he said.
But Lawrence later reminded Schultz and two other members of his design team at the meeting that selectboard members had been making the same point for a decade about the intersection.
“The selectboard has been asking for this project for 10 years,” Lawrence said.

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