Sunday, August 31, 2014

City Council Committee Final Hearing/Action Wednesday, September 10, 6 p.m. Police Department Meeting Room

The final committee decisions on a draft North Avenue Corridor Plan occur at  the Transportation, Energy and Utilities (TEUC) Committee meeting Wednesday September 10 starting at 6 p.m. at the Police Department public meeting room in the building at the top of Battery Park.

The TEUC meeting it open to all and everyone who attends will be allotted time to speak on the draft plan, Councilor Max Tracy, chair, has assured.  The other two TEUC committee members are Ward 7 Councilor Tom Ayres who also represented the City Council on the study Advisory Committee and Ward 5 Councilor Chip Mason.  The last step in the review process is expected at a late September  City Council meeting.

The major Advisory Committee short term (within three years)  recommendations: (1) a four-lane to three-lane remarking of North Avenue between Shore Rd./Heineberg Rd. and VT 127; (2) establishing bike lanes on the roadway from Plattsburgh Avenue to Washington Street with cycle track (protected bike lanes which in this case will be flexible posts) between VT 127 and Institute Rd (BHS).

The long term vision includes the goal of North Avenue as a "world class" street with the highest level of safety for those who walk, bicycle, and travel by car or transit.   Achieving that goal includes cycle track from end to end of the 2.8 mile corridor (Plattsburgh Ave. to North St.) and three roundabouts replacing traffic signals at VT 127,  Burlington High School (Institute Rd.) and Plattsburgh Ave).  The improvements for North Avenue represent the first transportation investments impacting on North Avenue since the completion of the Bikepath in 1986 and the Beltline in the 1970s.

Replacing Signals with Roundabouts--Routine Now

The City of Cologne replaced 200 traffic signals with roundabouts and another 90 signals scheduled for the scrap heap there, a trend throughout Germany. Surveys show anywhere from 40 to 100 percent of signals can go the way of the dodo bird.  And the German bike federation applauds the trend.   Article somewhat dated but still topical. 

Burlington has 75 signalized intersection, Vermont about 400.  
The Brattleboro Keene-Turn Roundabout was the first Vermont traffic signal to roundabout conversion in 1999 and injuries dropped 95 percent (five years before, 55, five years after conversion 1).  Montpelier's second roundabout at US 2/302 also replaced a traffic signal.  Manchester Center plans include converting its only two remaining signals to roundabouts (Depot Street).  Brattleboro's Putney Road corridor road re-development plan supported by the Town and Vermont Agency of Transportation converts the three remaining signals from Keeene Turn Roundabout south on US 5 to roundabouts as well as installing both walk and bike mode quality facilities. 

The three signals to roundabouts conversion on North Avenue in the draft plan is just a continuation of the movement to improve intersections with the roundabout reducing delay for all users, saving gasoline and associated pollution (including greenhouse gas emissions), improving scenic quality, and reducing injury and fatality rates for all modes up to 90%.


Saturday, August 16, 2014


In about an hour at an informational session the entire North Avenue Corridor Plan (NACP) process got an overview from Nicole Losch of the Department of Public Works (DPW) and all eight interested City residents, mostly from the Old and New North End commented and interacted with the City Council’s Transportation, Energy and Utilities Committee (TEUC) chaired by Councilor Max Tracy.  The other two TEUC members, Councilor Tom Ayres who also represented the Council on the study Advisory Committee and Chip Mason, also attended the Wednesday, August 13 session, 

An opportunity for all to speak at a public meeting with at least some of the completed draft NACP available will occur in a September (date to be determined) TEUC hearing followed by their changes to the plan, if any.  That TEUC meeting will be held at the Miller Center on Goss Court.  Then a final hearing and decision with changes, if any, occurs at City Council, likely in late September.

The TEUC Wednesday, August 14 meeting held at the Police Department meeting room discussion centered mostly on the Advisory Committee recommendation of a two year “pilot”, a reduction of four lanes to three lanes (the middle lane for turns) between the Shore Rd./Heineberg Rd. intersection and VT 127.  With repaving of that section schedule in about three years to five years a two-year pilot might be possible next year and if found unacceptable to corridor residents, be returned to the current four lanes at no cost as part of repaving at the earliest date of 2017.   The pilot work includes just erasing existing lines and installing the three lane markings, plus marking bike lanes on either side. 

In addition, the Advisory Committee recommendation includes removing parking north of Washington Street and marking bike lanes on either side throughout the corridor north of Washington Street with a demonstration cycle track (protected bike lanes using flexible posts in this case) between VT 127 and BHS.

Advisory Committee NPA member and North End bike commuter RJ Lalumiere asked whether two years is sufficient to determine the three-lane conversion effective.   Tony Redington, another Advisory Committee NPA member pointed to a similar “road diet” conversion in Seattle with the first two years results already showing marked reductions in crashes and injuries for car occupants and pedestrians (down 80 percent) declining significantly and cyclist injury numbers unchanged while bicycle volumes increased 30 percent.  TEUC requested DPW to look into the Colchester Avenue four-to-three lane change and any other examples to give the decision makers some background in addressing this question.  Williston Road from Dorset east underwent a similar conversion in 2013 and reports so far from all users, including cyclists who benefit from marked bike lanes, have been generally very positive.   Redington pointed out the Advisory Committee confidence the pilot would work and obtain community support to be extended.

Phil Hammerslough, a member of the Burlington Walk Bike Council, expressed support for the Advisory Committee recommendations and noted the importance of alternative transportation in the coming years when alternatives of the car become increasingly important to a sustainable community.   Protected bike lanes—cycle track—also was stressed by at the meeting and Mr. Lalumiere noted his own personal bike crash at VT 127—fortunately with only bumps and bruises—while commuting from the North End to his South End worksite.  Two residents expressed doubts about some of the recommendations questioning the quality of public input, the need for the four-to-three lane change, questions about where the funds would come from (mostly from federal highway funds paid by user taxes), and pointing to the Bikepath on the west and the Beltline adjacent bike path for those who bicycle.  Charlene Wallace of Local Motion commented that lack of quality bike infrastructure kept about 60% of the population from bicycling in their community and the presence of lanes and cycle track expands the number of residents willing to take to two-wheelers.  Part and parcel of the pilot would be marked bike lanes from Shore Rd./Heineberg Dr. through to BHS. In addition cycle track would be installed between VT 127 and BHS.

Lalumiere also explained that the others in his family do not bicycle on North Avenue because of safety concerns and getting to the shopping center by bike for them involves an extra mile travel each way—the Bikepath is not an alternative.  

Redington stressed the “try before you buy” approach of the Advisory Committee recommendations of the 4 to 3 lane pilot, and additionally pointed to a letter set to go from the Walk Bike Council to DPW requesting an inexpensive mini-roundabout demonstration at a City all-way stop intersection be installed so everybody gets a chance next summer to drive, walk, and bike though a typical roundabout design.    DPW Director Chapin Spencer and Advisory Committee member and NPA representative Barry Trutor also attended.