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Town and Village

Stop and go

Discussion of stop sign proposals at Arch Bridge elicits accusation, then apology, then unanimous vote

NEWFANE—Stop signs were the subject of the latest round of correspondence between town officials and the Vermont Agency of Transportation about the long-awaited Arch Bridge replacement. But, during the discussion at the Dec. 19 regular Selectboard meeting, the conversation got personal.

The crumbling Arch Bridge is due for replacement in the next few years, and early in 2015 the AOT and the Selectboard held public hearings to share information and gather input on aspects of the bridge’s design.

During the meetings, many Williamsville residents expressed their concerns that a new, wider bridge would exacerbate speeding through the village.

Recently, the AOT presented the town with three signage choices for the bridge’s northwest intersection, which lies at the edge of Williamsville village.

One option is to keep the signage the way it is: a stop sign at Grimes Hill Road and yield signs on Depot and Dover roads. Another choice is to replace Dover Road’s yield sign with a stop sign, making it a two-way stop, with Depot Road traffic yielding off the bridge. The third idea is to give all roads a stop sign at that intersection.

Selectboard Vice-Chair Carol Hatcher advocated for the “two stop signs” option to promote traffic calming in the village. Hatcher also noted the new bridge’s higher railing decreases visibility between drivers crossing the bridge and those waiting at Dover and Grimes Hill roads, and said another stop sign would likely increase safety.

But her colleagues on the Board, Mike Fitzpatrick and Chair Todd Lawley, disagreed.

“I think it works fine now,” Fitzpatrick said, noting the new bridge’s design is wider and “the entrance is safer.”

Lawley said keeping the stop signs the way they are “moves traffic better.”

He mentioned what happened in the past when the town changed the intersection and added another stop sign at the bridge’s intersection: Drivers who were issued tickets by the Vermont State Police for not stopping complained to the Selectboard.

Fitzpatrick expressed skepticism that additional stop signs, or even “a red light,” will calm traffic. “People will break the law” regardless of signage, he said.

“Even if some people aren’t going to [obey] it,” many will take a stop sign more seriously than a yield sign, resident Myra Fassler said.

When Williamsville resident Ann Landenberger attempted to comment on the effect of law-breaking drivers in the village, Lawley interrupted her.

“You have not stopped at the stop sign,” Lawley said, noting, “I’ve seen you at least three times.”

“No. I have stopped,” Landenberger said. “That’s not fair.”

When she tried speaking again, Fitzpatrick interrupted her.

“So much for the public speaking,” Landenberger countered. “That was totally uncalled for.”

Lawley apologized and then said the Selectboard wants the public to participate.

“I’ve been dealing with this for 20 years,” Landenberger said. The number and frequency of drivers speeding through the village and breaking other traffic laws “impinges on my property values. I’ve had people say, ‘F--k you!’ when I’m trying to slow them down.”

Board member Gary Delius agreed that there is a problem, noting that when the AOT and the Selectboard conducted a site visit at the Arch Bridge, “we had a car that blew the yield sign with all of us standing right there.”

Delius reminded the Selectboard that Williamsville residents’ traffic calming requests have been in the Town Plan “for over 20 years, and we need to provide some mechanism for that to happen.”

“I see no reason to not put the stop sign there and if it’s not working, then [we’ll] do something else,” said Hatcher, who made a motion to submit approval to the AOT for the plan to include two stop signs at the intersection when the Arch Bridge is replaced.

The Selectboard voted unanimously in favor of Hatcher’s motion.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #391 (Wednesday, January 18, 2017). This story appeared on page C1.

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