Safety at the Forefront of City Traffic Studies: Planning Commission Considers Williston Rd., 116/Tilley/Kimball Plans

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Thursday August 24, 2017

With great growth comes great responsibility, especially in the case of traffic safety in South Burlington. Therefore, with the help of VHB and Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission (CCRPC) there are transportation studies underway in some of the busiest areas of the city. Most recently, the planning commission received an update on the Williston Road Network Study (Phase II) and the Route 116/Tilley Drive/ Kimball Road Network Analysis (Phase I). Williston Road Network Study Williston Road can now withstand about 28,000 vehicles per day, many of which are classified as “through trips.” Opportunities for U-Turns, safely making left-hand turns, and public transit accommodations are in short supply. So, it was only fitting that city council sought funding from the CCRPC to study future transportation needs in the Williston Road/City Center area. The study looks at how to efficiently and safely move people in the future conditions of City Center and remain consistent with the city’s Comprehensive Plan and overall vision of having a pedestrian-friendly downtown. This project expands upon work completed in the 2007 US2 Corridor Transportation Management Plan. The study is funded in two phases, the first of which was completed in 2015 and presented to the planning commission in the summer of 2016. The first phase served as an initial technical evaluation, which included existing and anticipated future transportation demands and some proposed long and short-term solutions. The second phase dives more deeply into possible solutions, which VHB Project Manager David Saladino and VHB Senior Landscape Architect/Planner Mark Hamelin shared with the planning commission on August 8. They collaborated with landowners to understand their needs and concerns, and they also worked with city staff and Christina Forde, a CCRPC senior transportation planner. What are the goals of this study? • Provide opportunities to make Williston Road complementary to a new downtown • Strike a balance between serving “to” and “through” trips • Integrate design elements to facilitate safe movements for all modes • Identify a grid street network to facilitate connectivity and accessibility The Short-Term Recommendations are as follows: • Update official map to define grid street network: outline of primary streets, secondary streets, tertiary streets, and intended cross-lot connections; approximate cost: none for updating the map, approximately $14.2 million for updating the grid network itself, a longer-term project • Establish 100-foot Right-of-Way (currently 66, convert to 90 ft. wide); cost to-be determined • Traffic signal timing and coordination (advanced traffic management systems); cost to-be-determined • Williston Road improvements -South Side (cycle track and southern sidewalk relocation and widening); approximate cost: $1.3 million • Dorset Street intersection improvements; approximate cost: $5,000 The Long-Term Recommendations are as follows: • Williston Road Improvements - North Side Opportunities (four configuration options); approximate cost: $5.3 million a.Short-term: establish 100-ft right of way and protected bicycle lanes on south side b. Long-term: refine street cross-section over time • I-89 northbound ramp improvements: add second lane to the I-89 northbound on-ramp to accommodate two westbound approaching lanes; approximate cost: $3.5 million Route 116/Tilley Drive / Kimball Ave Network Analysis Phase I Furthermore, VHB is studying the future land use and transportation needs in the Route 116, Tilley Drive, Kimball Ave, and Kennedy Drive area with the help of CCRPC funding. This sets the groundwork for evaluating potential multimodal transportation infrastructure improvements needed to accommodate planned growth (based on property owner feedback). The analysis aims to identify opportunities to integrate and create connections between existing and future development in the area. The study area is approximately 1,000 acres, bisected by I-89, and consists of a mix of residential, office, light industrial, and open space. In this region, there have been 19 reported injury crashes between 2011-2015, none of which were fatal. Eight of them took place on Kimball Avenue, five on Hinesburg Road, four on Kennedy Drive, and one each on Meadlowland Drive and Tilley Drive. The study references the Comprehensive Plan and CCRPC ECOS Plan as guides, as well as results from a public survey conducted earlier this year outlining a series of land use choices and improvement packages. Of the 325 survey respondents, 39 percent live in the project area, 49 percent live outside of it but still within South Burlington, and 10 percent outside of South Burlington. The majority responded most positively to parks/open space, followed by single family homes and offices. The uses with least traction included hotels, services, and light industrial. When asked to select one of four improvement packages, the two most popular were a multimodal alternative and an alternative to construct a new I-89 interchange at Route 116 and expand the existing Exit 13 interchange to accommodate full access to and from Kennedy Drive/Dorset Street and I-89. Multimodal ranked No.1 among respondents outside the study area, and the interchange access was a top pick among non-South Burlington residents. Residents living in the study area preferred a third option: connected streets and paths. The top two were selected to be in the formal plan, and the analysis included assumptions and where intersection improvements could be made. The infrastructure cost for a multimodal network would be an estimated $15.1 million, whereas interchange and connections would be an estimated cost of $42.4 million. Environmental impacts would be moderate for multimodal and high for an interchange, and they would both reduce traffic flow (versus no build) by 93 percent and 91 percent respectively. From the other side of the table, commissioners unanimously supported the first alternative for multimodal improvements. However, the interchange proposal was not a simple choice. “It’s such a big question. We’ve studied it from so many different perspectives,” Planning Commission Chair Jessica Louisos said. “It would drive development…but I’m not in the position to say yes or no to that right now.” No commissioner spoke against the interchange outright, and VHB could consider a hybrid of the two alternatives, Saladino said. “Is it possible to continue to get federal funding for these other issues [multimodal], meanwhile putting an order in for the interchange?” Commissioner Ted Riehle asked. “Bike and pedestrian funds are typically grant programs that go to the state,” CCRPC’s Christina Forde said. “Federal funds flow into different pots,” Saladino said, “Transit is a different pot.” “Where does the community want to expend its energy? Volunteer time? Staff time? Political time? That’s the link between all those pots because we all have limited total capacity to do various things,” added Paul Conner, director of planning and zoning. Staff will return to the commission with a list of priorities. Once alternatives are selected Phase II will have a more detailed analysis of those alternatives. Phase III will focus on a Transportation Improvement District (TID), the state’s new system for more equitable financing of transportation projects. The Williston Road Network Study and Route 116/Tilley Drive / Kimball Ave Network Analysis can be viewed at ccrpcvt.org/our-communities/south-burlington. SOURCE: Miranda Jonswold, Correspondent