Sunday, July 20, 2014

North Avenue Plan Funding--"going for the gold corridor"


When the question of funding for Burlington’s (VT) North Avenue came up last year during the early months of the study of the four-mile corridor, local and regional planners sort of rolled their eyes and expressed with knowing glances the dearth of federal funding.  The Advisory Committee pursued a quality approach focusing on a world class, livable street featuring cycle track (protected bike lanes) and the superior all-modes single-lane roundabout at key intersections.  Community participants insisted on a “going for the gold corridor.”

North Avenue now nears the goal line as the first Chittenden County urban corridor to get in line for livable street funding behind Brattleboro and Manchester Center.  Putney Road in Brattleboro, the Town’s busiest commercial corridor, thanks to business leadership first received town and then Vermont Agency of Transportation support for a full corridor with walk and bike mode facilities and all-roundabouts (four, including the first built in 1999, Keene Turn).

In 2012 Manchester Center completed half its long time plan with the State’s first “roundabout corridor,” three roundabouts along its commercial stretch along Main Street—the first walkable State’s first truly walkable all-mode street.  The second half of the Manchester Center plan, converting its only remaining signals to roundabouts along Depot Street with a likely plan revision to include cycle track.  Manchester Center and Brattleboro now compete to see who gets to the finish line with the State’s first both walkable and bikable urban street.  

Meanwhile in Burlington retains a bright possibility of its own for North Avenue as it is the only urban street in Chittenden County with a neighborhood driven draft plan—soon to be accepted by the City Council—containing walkable and bikable infrastructure.  

The opportunity for Burlington lies in the fact that the Chittenden County as a metropolitan area receives a separate stream of federal funding and does not compete directly against Brattleboro and Manchester.  Having the first walkable/bikable street plan in the County puts the City in the driver seat for funding.  Being the first in the State for a walkable/bikable corridor still remains in the cards a real possibility.

Burlington long led the region and the State with its unique contribution to transportation and recreation path development—the Marketplace car free four block plaza completed in 1981 and five years later in 1986 the completing of the amazing shoreline 7.5 mile Burlington Bikepath. 

Stay tuned as it may well be Burlington and its North Avenue “going for the gold corridor” on the quest for completing a State leading trifecta for transportation and recreation innovation.


Tuesday, July 8, 2014


The process as I understand it at this point will be to present the draft plan first to TEUC* [end of August], which will take public input during the public forum the night it is presented. TEUC* will then amend the plan (if so determined by the committee based on public input and its own deliberations) and forward it to the City Council with its recommendation. The City Council, of course, always has the option of referring it back to TEUC* for further revision.

TEUC* - which consists of Chair Max Tracy, Councilor Mason and myself - will set its next meeting date at this coming Monday's Council meeting. I have told Eleni and NIcole to anticipate a meeting at which they will present the draft plan sometime in early August. The intent at present is then to forward a recommended plan to the Council for its consideration at the first Council meeting in September. It is my intent to widely publicize the August TEUC meeting and public forum and encourage all New North End constituents to attend and speak their minds before the committee deliberates on the draft plan.

Tom Ayres, Ward 7 City Councilor, TEUC

*TEUC: Transportation, Energy, and Utilities Committee studies and makes recommendations to the City Council on issues concerning all modes of transportation, and interrelated development issues; energy plans, rates and other issues; and utility matters regarding, but not limited to, water, sewer, and telecommunications. Monthly Meetings are held at 645 Pine Street, from 5:00 PM to 7:30 PM. The date of the next TEUC meeting can be found in the previous month’s meeting minutes.

North Avenue Advisory Committee Declares Independence--July 1 Windup Meeting Results

        …The three primary features:
(1) Road dieting the shopping center area to two vehicle travel lanes plus a center turn lane, and 25-mph speed limits (short term "pilot")
(2) Restricting parking from Washington Street north, marking bike lanes with some segments also protected with flexible posts (cycle track) (short term)
(3) Moving to highest level of safety and service to all regardless of age and ability: roundabouts at key intersections and entire corridor cycle tracked (long term).  

July 1 North Avenue Advisory Committee—a Summary Report 
The North Avenue Corridor Study Advisory Committee on Tuesday July 1 declared its own independence endorsing a corridor design insuring the opportunity to reach the stated adopted vision goal: “achieve a world class transportation corridor with quality service and highest safety for those who walk, bicycle and travel by motor vehicle or transit.” The next step is for the consultants to draft the implementation plan and distribute it for Advisory Committee review. After that, there will be presentations to the TEUC and the City Council this summer. 
After more than a year of study in a series of votes the Advisory Committed set the final shape of the plan calling for a short term pilot of a “road diet” the one four lane segment in the shopping center area from Shore Rd./Heineberg Rd. intersection to VT 127--reducing four lanes to three lanes with the center lane for turns.  The other major short term betterment within three years, in part taking advantage of roadway freed up by the road diet, marks bike lanes on each side existing roadway from the north end of the corridor at Plattsburgh Ave. to Washington St. near Burlington College, a distance of about two-and-a-half miles.  The short term “pilot” approach to afford the North Avenue community to “try it before you buy it” also removes little used parking along the Washington St.-Plattsburgh Ave. segments.  Part and parcel of the bike lanes marking involves installation along at least one corridor segment of “cycle track”, a protected bike lane, accomplished through a series of removable flexible posts.  The posts can be removed during the snow season. 
The Advisory Committee also approved two ground breaking recommendations for the long term, the first ever in City studies: protected cycle track from end-to-end of the 2.8 mile corridor with roundabouts installed at key intersections.  Together they promise increased safety and service for all modes and users of all skills and ages. The cycle track long term will be one-way built either on the roadway level or the sidewalk level as decided in the future. In addition to improving safety for all modes, roundabouts re-enforce the speed management as the Committee committed to a 25 mph speed limit during the “pilot” period.  The decrease called for by the Committee from the 30 mph limit in the central part of the corridor, accords with the City speed limit policy of 25 mph with part of this North Avenue corridor currently constituting one of less than of a handful of exceptions to that policy.
Roundabouts recommendations include the intersections of Plattsburgh Avenue, Ethan Allen Parkway, VT 127 and Burlington High School (Institute Road).  The votes for Plattsburgh Ave. and Ethan Allen Parkway were by narrower margins.   The discussion of roundabouts included emphasis that each intersection be carefully evaluated as part of scoping studies that will take some years hence, that traffic levels may well allow single lane roundabouts (the safest treatment, particularly for those who bike and walk), and that further study employ firms with proven experience in roundabout evaluation and design (not available for the corridor study).   Burlington’s (and Chittenden County’s) first busy street roundabout on Shelburne Street at Locust St./South Willard St., a single lane design, involves traffic numbers above that of the two high traffic North Avenue intersections today at VT 127 and Ethan Allen Parkway.
The next steps in the Corridor plan involves write-up of the draft plan reflecting the Advisory Committee decisions followed by review by the City Council Committee on Transportation, Energy and Utilities (TEUC), chaired by Ward 2 Councilor Maxwell Tracey, then the City Council.   (An Advisory Committee member, Ward 7 Councilor Tom Ayres and Ward 5 Councilor Chip Mason are the other two TEUC members.)  Further, separate public involvement opportunities occur at each stage of the plan implementation.
This “North Avenue declaration” comes a few weeks after the Burlington Walk Bike Council “Burlington Declaration” calling for investments in quality walking bicycling infrastructure—particularly cycle track and roundabouts—and BWBC support for considering these measures in the North Avenue corridor study.  Local Motion also undertook initiatives to support inclusion of quality walk and bike “infra” in the North Avenue plan. 

While improved transit was not addressed at the July 1 meeting, a consensus has existed in the planning process for improved frequency and hours of service for Chittenden County Transportation Authority (CCTA) routes serving North Avenue, better connectivity to other routes in the City, and at least examining the feasibility of light rail extending from Flynn School south to the Marketplace and beyond (trolley service after about four decades from downtown reaching Ethan Allen Park ended in 1929).

Friday, July 4, 2014



WCAX-TV ran a story about the Winooski traffic oval, erroneously titling the piece “roundabout.”  Roundabouts are engineered to very different specifications, and they are not like the oval in Winooski. Imagine someone putting oversized oval wheels on their wagon, then grumbling that wheels don't work!  Roundabouts are engineered for efficiency and safety, and they move more traffic smoothly through a corridor than any other intersection option.

Not round!
The WCAX reporter described the Winooski traffic oval well, but someone in the newsroom titled the accompanying photo "ROUNDABOUT" in big block letters. But the Winooski traffic oval is what some regional planners accurately call a "traffic circulator."  Roundabouts, like those in downtown Middlebury, Montpelier and soon to be on Burlington's Shelburne Street, all one lane rounds about 120 feet (or less) in diameter. The huge 500ft by 200ft Winooski oval could easily contain three to four normal size roundabouts, with space for other ammenities. 

The likelihood of serious and probably fatal injuries at the poorly planned Winooski oval will continue to place drivers, cyclists, strollers and walkers at risk. The only way to make it safe is to reconfigure the entire area and install two normal size roundabouts. The remaining space can be used for more businesses, wider walkways, and attractive green space around the perimeter. 
NOT a roundabout.