Tuesday, July 8, 2014

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).

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