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New stop light eyed for Route 7 in North Ferrisburgh

FERRISBURGH — Ferrisburgh officials came away optimistic from an Aug. 29 meeting that the Vermont Agency of Transportation would take a serious look at a request from the town — and particularly North Ferrisburgh residents — for traffic signals at the intersection of Route 7 with Old Hollow and Stage Roads.
Selectboard members and residents alike agree that intersection, just south of Ferrisburgh’s border with Charlotte, is dangerous.
Resident Judy Chaves said at the Sept. 4 selectboard meeting she has gathered about 500 signatures on two petitions seeking traffic lights at the crossroads, and an accident there this year injured residents Charles and Deanna Shapiro, Deanna Shapiro badly.
At last week’s selectboard meeting both Chairman Rick Ebel and Road Foreman John Bull said the Aug. 29 teleconference held among town officials in Ferrisburgh and their VTrans counterparts in Montpelier went well.
Ebel said “anecdotal evidence,” such as the report of the Shapiros’ accident, has caught the attention of VTrans’ decision-makers as they evaluate adding signals to the intersection, something they have refused to do in the past.
“That was definitely a factor, hearing that. They’ve received a petition with many signatures on it, and to hear some of those stories (made an impact),” Ebel said in a phone call later in the week.
He added the VTrans officials brought up the fact they have an “emergency budget” that could be used to act quickly if department engineers agreed new information warranted signals.
“I felt really optimistic about the direction of the conversation,” Ebel said.
Bull at the selectboard meeting said VTrans officials pledged to “fast-track” their decision-making, and said he emphasized to them that the “800 or 1,000” trucks that rumble through Vergennes every day also roll along Route 7 in Ferrisburgh.
Ebel later added they told Ferrisburgh representatives that VTrans would get back to them before a Sept. 19 meeting of the Addison County Regional Planning Commission’s Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC). TAC support will also be helpful if lights are to be installed.
Local Vermont House Reps. Warren Van Wyck, R-Ferrisburgh, and Diane Lanpher, D-Vergennes, also attended the Sept. 4 selectboard meeting. Ebel said Van Wyck is researching the right contacts in Montpelier to send additional data and anecdotes about the intersection, which Charlie Shapiro and Chaves at the meeting again said was dangerous.
Ebel suggested that anyone who wanted to be heard should funnel their remarks and information through him at his town email account, and that he would forward the info to the right persons. Ebel can be reached at ferrisburghselectboard@comcast.net.
Ebel said he hopes to hear from commuters as well as town residents.
“An important comment that was shared is this is not just a Ferrisburgh problem or concern,” Ebel said. “Route 7 is a major commuter route for people heading north or south. This intersection is troublesome for people in other towns.”
Lanpher, a former House Transportation Committee member, agreed that the reaction from VTrans looked hopeful, pointing specifically to agency officials’ willingness to perform quickly a new study of the crossroads’ safety.
“I’m pleased to hear this intersection is under safety evaluation right now,” she said.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at andyk@addisonindependent.com.

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