Funds sought for crosswalk lighting in Vergennes

VERGENNES — The Vergennes City Council last week voted to seek a Vermont Agency of Transportation Bicycle and Pedestrian Program grant to help fund five sets of flashing pedestrian lights at heavily used crosswalks, mostly on Main Street.
The lights cost $11,000 a pair, and City Manager Mel Hawley said required site work, such as metal roadside pedestrian grates, will add to the final cost of installation.
The council researched options late this winter and determined the lights were an effective way to alert drivers that pedestrians were trying to cross the road. Hawley said they could also help to slow drivers down overall.
“I think there’s a traffic calming benefit as well,” he said.
Regardless of the cost, not all city crosswalks should receive the two-sided, pedestrian-triggered lights, Hawley said, because if there are too many around a community they “melt into the landscape” and lose effectiveness.
“You want to use them wisely and when the situation warrants,” he said.
Also, he told the council, there are “warrants that have to be met” for their placement based on the speed limit and the number of vehicles on the road and pedestrians trying to cross it.
Main Street, which is also Route 22A, would meet the threshold, he said, as would what city officials call the “Bermuda Triangle” — the awkward three-way intersection of New Haven Road with Green and King streets.
That intersection “probably meets the warrants,” Hawley said, because it poses a challenge to children trying to reach nearby Vergennes Union Elementary School.
The council agreed on a potential list of four Main Street sites: at its intersections with North and South Maple streets and with South Water Street, at Vergennes City Hall, and at one of three intersections on the west side of the Otter Creek bridge.
Mayor Michael Daniels said he has seen the lights work on Pine Street in Burlington, but added they are no substitute for pedestrian alertness.
“You still have to look before you cross,” Daniels said. 

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