Burlington Free Press
By John Briggs
February 9, 2009
The City Council will vote tonight on a design for the Shelburne Street rotary.The one-lane roundabout plan won the unanimous approval Friday of the City Council's Transportation Committee -- Andy Montroll, D-Ward 6, Bill Keogh, D-Ward 5, and Clarence Davis, P-Ward 3.
The committee approved a design that would narrow northbound Shelburne Street traffic into a single lane through the roundabout. Council approval would lock the city into the design, according to Public Works transportation planner Dan Bradley.
Traffic-flow studies indicate the design would back up northbound traffic during rush hours, though the vehicles, Bradley said, would "be constantly in motion."
The slowing of traffic has been an impetus for the design change. State data shows that the complicated intersection has a high accident rate.Traffic feeds there from South Willard and St. Paul streets onto Shelburne Street, with Locust Street entering from the west and Ledge Road from the east. Neighborhood residents have argued that fast-moving traffic makes the area dangerous for pedestrians and bicyclists.
The change has been questioned by the Chittenden County Transportation Authority. Chris Cole, CCTA general manager, wrote Bradley in December warning that the new design could hamper bus service.
Cole said last week that buses already have trouble getting to the Cherry Street bus station during rush hours. The anticipated backups, he said "could result in delays for all the buses."
The narrowing of the road to a single lane might also require the elimination of a bus-stop at Adams Court, just south of the roundabout, Cole said.
Keogh said he supported it because of a flood of e-mails from those supporting the one-lane roundabout."This is a compromise," he said, noting that the design approved by the Transportation Committee has a footprint that could allow the one-lane roundabout to be converted into two lanes. "I think it will create traffic queues that will be unacceptable. I hope it will not hurt our bus service to the South End."
Charlene Wallace, a neighborhood resident and a staff member at Local Motion, a nonprofit that promotes nonmotorized transportation, said Local Motion and residents believe the one-lane roundabout, by slowing traffic, will make street crossing safer.
The current configuration, she said, invites motorist confusion because it moves traffic through the area in two lanes and because of poor signage. "This is a good design because there's no question of where drivers need to be," she said.
Ward 6 resident David Porteous, a former chairman of the Parks and Recreation Commission, said the design is flawed and will create a bottleneck "much like the one that was at the top of the hill at UVM (on Williston Road) in the 1990s.
"Merging doesn't improve things," he said of the planned narrowing at the roundabout, "it just makes a mess."He said the pedestrian problems could be solved by better lighting and street marking.
Bradley said the $1 million project would be paid entirely with state funds. With council approval tonight, he said, construction could begin in three to five years.