VTrans won’t install left-turn late on Route 7
FERRISBURGH — The Ferrisburgh selectboard is upset that the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) is refusing to install a left-turn lane for northbound traffic into the town’s Route 7 office building, a safety measure the board has been lobbying for since 2014.
Selectman Red Muir said the board believes it’s dangerous for drivers to wait on the state highway to turn off while traffic, including many northbound trucks, bears down on them from behind.
And the board also believes it would be cost-effective to create the lane when VTrans is in town later this year installing a traffic light at the nearby intersection of Route 7 and Little Chicago Road.
“The majority of the board feels this is something that could be done pretty easily,” Muir said. “It’s scary if you look in your mirror and there’s a tractor-trailer truck hugging that side coming in. It’s very tight.”
At the same time, Muir pointed out the road is wide enough to add the turning lane without additional paving. It is the same width as the intersection of Little Chicago Road and Route 7, he said, where a third lane will be added.
“It’s not any narrower than down by the intersection,” Muir said. “We don’t understand it.”
VTrans studied the situation two years ago as part of scoping the traffic light project, and the town also provided the agency traffic information gathered by the Addison County Regional Planning Commission.
But VTrans concluded the data, which included no accidents, does not justify the left-turn lane, according to a series of emails to the selectboard from VTrans Project Manager Jon Harrington.
“The Agency of Transportation’s traffic count from 2014 showed very low volumes of left turning vehicles,” he wrote.
Harrington said VTrans takes the town’s safety concerns seriously.
“Safety is also a high priority of the agency and our unit looks for opportunities to address safety issues where warranted,” Harrington wrote. “We would certainly consider adding a left turn lane if there was supporting data that justified adding the turn lane, however at this time the traffic data and reported crash information do not justify this inclusion.”
Specifically, Harrington wrote on May 31, “that there still is not enough information to support adding a left turn lane at this location” because the two studies provided only data from major events at the town office building and did not distinguish between southbound and northbound drivers turning off Route 7. In an email to the Independent last week, he called the latter data “critical to the warrant analysis.”
On May 31, Harrington wrote to selectboard chair Loretta Lawrence, “In our current practice, we would typically use peak hour data based on traffic counts from an average day condition and then adjust that to determine a design hourly volume (DHV). In addition, we would need to evaluate the total count from left turn only traffic, where the traffic data provided by ACRPC accounted for all traffic (both left turn and right turn) entering the town office.”
Lawrence and Muir took issue with both those points. Lawrence said, for instance, that without a full population analysis she couldn’t provide exact figures, but that all of Ferrisburgh’s residents who live west of Otter Creek would approach their town office from the south, and much of the rest of the town lies to the south of its location.
“Looking at the make-up of the town,” Lawrence said, “I would guess more of the population is south of it.”
Muir said the data ignores the reality on the road.
“We did the traffic study, and they said there wasn’t enough information. So I guess someone has to get really hurt before they’re going to do anything about it,” Muir said. “It’s all about moving some lines up a little bit, and they just don’t want to do it.”
“All it takes is one person to get killed there. And if you’re heading north, you’re looking in the rear-view mirror and they’re not going around you, and you’re going, hmmm,” Lawrence said. “Somebody’s going to get hurt, and we should not have to wait to get a statistic to get a turning lane.”
As for peak event use such as elections, Harrington said VTrans takes the position that the town is responsible for traffic control.
“We would not typically design a turn lane for an event which occurs infrequently, such as voting,” Harrington wrote. “For isolated events with heavy traffic volumes, the town may want to consider obtaining approval to have a uniformed traffic officer present.”
But Muir said the town’s goal is to create a magnet for the town’s residents, not to have occasional events in the building’s second story.
“They’re saying there’s mainly more traffic when you’re having an event like that, but that building gets used a lot, and we’re trying to use it more,” he said. “What it was made for was a community center.”
And Muir and the rest of the selectboard believe that the time to solve the problem is when VTrans is on the scene later this year.
“They’re redoing Route 7 all the way from Middlebury to Charlotte,” he said. “Everything’s going to be there. It’s going to cost them more to come back and do it.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].
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