VTrans seeks input on Route 7 hotspot in North Ferrisburgh

FERRISBURGH — A public meeting next Tuesday could determine if the Vermont Agency of Transportation eventually makes improvements to the North Ferrisburgh intersection of Route 7 with Old Hollow and Stage roads — and whether those improvements are a full set of traffic lights, a roundabout, or more modest changes.
That Jan. 15 meeting at 6:30 p.m. in Ferrisburgh’s town office building will include a preliminary presentation from VTrans on those options and their cost, effect on safety and impact on the area, as well as crash data and traffic counts.
VTrans officials also want to hear other ideas from residents and the traveling public as well feedback on the options already on the table, according to Addison County Regional Planning Commission Executive Director Adam Lougee and to resident Judy Chaves.
Chaves, along with other members of the North Ferrisburgh Village Association, sent a petition with 500 signatures to VTrans this past summer asking for safety measures at an intersection where two town residents were injured in June.
More testimony and evidence that people feel this intersection is unsafe will help lead to change, Lougee said.
“The reason we go this on the radar screen is because Judy and some of the other association members there got together a petition and really got VTrans’s attention,” Lougee said. “So I think it’s absolutely important for the public to come out, and I think it will make a big difference on the alternative as well.”
Chaves noted that transportation engineering firm Vanasse Hangen Brustlin Inc., or VHB, which is performing the study for VTrans, will also attend the public meeting. She said the petition alone is not enough.
“It’s very important for people who use the intersection to attend that meeting and voice their concerns about its dangers and their ideas for improving its safety,” Chaves said. “It’s important for folks to show up in numbers and express their concerns to VTrans in person. Also at that hearing will be people from VHB, the consulting firm doing the scoping study of the intersection, and they need to hear what we have to say.” 
According to VTrans Project Manager Erin Parizo, “With help from the community, the study will evaluate various improvement alternatives and ultimately make recommendations on what to implement going forward.”
Those who cannot attend the meeting can share their thoughts and opinions about how the intersection could be improved with Parizo at [email protected].
There are differing ideas on how to make the intersection safer. Lougee said both a Western Corridor Plan for traffic movement and the ACRPC’s own Regional Transportation Plan call for roundabouts to handle problem intersections.
Lougee said roundabouts have worked well in similar sites, especially including on the Barre-Montpelier Road, while signals can stagnate traffic.
“We see Route 7 as the main arterial road in and out of Addison County. We want to improve the safety of that area, but we also want to preserve the carrying capacity of that road as best we can,” he said. “And we think a roundabout has the potential … to improve safety and preserve the carrying capacity of the corridor.”
While saying he wanted to see “what the data reveals” before taking a hard position, Lougee said a roundabout could also serve to welcome people to Ferrisburgh.
“I think it can be a nice physical demarcation for Ferrisburgh,” he said. “It’s a place that says, ‘Here’s the start of our community. We want you to slow down here.’”
Chaves, however, said signals would be more pedestrian-friendly to patrons of Cookie Love, the Mobil Short Shop convenience store, the area’s post office, and bus stops at Cookie Love and the now-defunct Jimmo’s Motel. 
“I think traffic lights would accommodate pedestrians far more than a roundabout would, and would provide for safer access/egress to and from the post office and other businesses there,” she wrote in an email. “Roundabouts are great in locations where there’s nothing else going on except roads meeting.”
And while Lougee said a roundabout could be installed with a diameter of about 60 feet, Chaves said she was concerned it might be as large as 150 feet wide and involve the taking of property.
Parizo said in an email no determination has been made whether a roundabout was preferable and how large it would have to be.
“We discussed how some different options could look, but didn’t say anything definitive about taking of land or otherwise as the scope of the project is still to be defined,” Parizo wrote.
While VTrans has reacted quickly to study an intersection that in recent years was improved with left-turn lanes, Chaves said the three-year timetable agency officials discussed for making improvements — if that is the course they choose — probably still holds.
She is hopeful VTrans will make changes to the intersection, noting study results are due in April, when VTrans is also expected to make a decision.
“I am feeling very optimistic that VTrans is going to improve the intersection,” she wrote. “VHB is moving very quickly to get the scoping study done; they hope to be able to make recommendations for improvements by this spring.” 
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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