Changes planned for downtown Bristol intersection

BRISTOL — The crossroad at the heart of Bristol village, where West, South, North and Main streets meet, will undergo improvements next year to make the intersection safer for motorists and pedestrians.
Derrick Lyman of the Vermont Agency of Transportation, Gregory Edwards of Stantec Design, Carol Wells of the Bristol Downtown Community Partnership and Claire Tebbs of the Addison County Regional Planning Commission presented information on the changes at the Bristol selectboard meeting Dec. 2.
Lyman said the construction project has been in the works for several years, since the state identified it as a crash-prone intersection. He said it is often difficult for the elderly or disabled people to make it across the unusually wide intersection, which currently has no pedestrian signals, before the lights change. The construction will address these concerns.
“The work will include upgrading the traffic signal, constructing bulb outs on each corner, upgrading the signal for pedestrian access and adding crosswalks to the intersection,” Lyman said.
A right-hand turning lane will also be added for southbound motorists turning onto West Street.
The aging traffic light, the only one in town, will be replaced with a “responsive light,” equipped with a sensor to detect traffic patterns. As a result, when there is a long line of traffic, the light will stay green longer, as opposed to an arbitrary timer. The current traffic light suspension will be replaced by poles with mast arms that better match the town’s streetlamps.
Main Street, which is part of Route 116/17, is a Class 1 town highway, meaning it is a part of a state numbered route that is maintained by a village or town. Lyman said the state will finance the entire cost of the construction project, which he estimated at $620,000. The project will also update safety features that will comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act. Truncated domes will be added to the street corners, and the sidewalks will be sloped to provide easy access for wheelchairs.
“Construction will begin in the late summer or early fall,” Lyman said.
He estimated the project to be complete by the end of 2014. The intersection will be subject to lane closures from time to time, but traffic will otherwise continue during the duration of construction.
In addition to the intersection, concurrent improvements will be made to the town green.
Bristol has received a $50,000 downtown transformation grant from the Agency of Transportation that requires a 10 percent match from the town. The funds will be used in part to plant flowers in the bulb outs and along the northwest corner of the intersection, which serves as the entrance to the town green. That corner will be shaved back to allow more room for trucks to turn, and the entranceway will be remodeled.
“It will be a semi-circle entrance with benches,” Wells said.
The funds will also be used to improve facilities on the green. Currently, there are three or four electric outlets on the space, which the town has to pay for regardless of use. The meters will be consolidated to one, and access to electricity will be expanded to the entire green, in order to better serve events and festivals. Benches and recycling bins will be added, and the lighting of the park will also be improved.
“We don’t want to overlight it and make it look like a football stadium, we just want residents to feel safe at night,” Wells said.
Wells added that funds will also be used to plant vegetation in the northwest corner of the green, by the old high school building. Plans also call for berms to be added to create a barrier between the playground and street, to prevent children from accidentally running into traffic.
Tebbs said the regional planning commission’s goal is to ensure that the aesthetics of the intersection construction match the town green improvements.
“We wanted to make sure that everything was consistent with the design, materials used, and the color of concrete,” she said. “We wanted to make sure the landscaping, sidewalk treatment and corner entrance design will all match.”

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