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Not-for-Profit, Award-Winning Community News and Views for Windham County, Vermont • Since 2006

Agency of Transportation responds to road project design issues

BRATTLEBORO—Representatives for the Vermont Agency of Transportation, in an attempt to allay residents’ concerns regarding the Route 5 repaving and signalization project, updated the Selectboard about the construction at the board’s July 6 meeting.

“I’m so glad that you came down today. I’m very impressed with everyone and what they did,” Selectboard member Daryl Pillsbury told AOT representatives after the update.

The AOT appeared in response to citizens’ alarm over the design of mast arm traffic lights slated for installation downtown.

Many residents said the aluminum mast arms would clash with the historical look of Main Street. Though the agency followed the letter of the law in warning public meetings, recent critics of the project also believed the AOT shirked due diligence in obtaining public input, resulting in a project whose design took place under the radar of the general public.

The project has been in the planning stages since 1996. AOT Roadway Design Unit Program Manager Kevin Marshia said the agency, in conjunction with project contractor Lane Construction Corp., has found ornamental options that can be added to the mast arms.

However, the Selectboard will need to choose the designs before the traffic signals are installed — and at the town’s expense.

“It’s hard for me to support any amount of money,” said Selectboard Chair Dick DeGray, adding appropriating the money for the ornaments, which could cost as much as $35,000, may require holding a special Representative Town Meeting.

DeGray said he drove to Springfield, Vt., and was “impressed” with the new mast arm lights there.

The ornamental add-ons can be installed later, but Lane needs to know which, if any, ornamental base the town wants so enough room can be left around the traffic pole.

Building a Better Brattleboro board member Bob Stevens suggested choosing the ornamental design options now and, if needed, raising the money through private donations.

Despite earlier anxiety over mast arms, residents attending the meeting focused primarily on the plan to narrow downtown sidewalks.

“There’s a balance here [between pedestrians and vehicles] and we’re trying to balance it out. We’re trying to work with everybody,” said Public Works Director Steve Barrett.

“The sidewalks are vital for this Main Street and downtown were we want people to live 24/7,” Brattleboro resident Jim Maxwell said. “Have a balance, but have the balance shifted toward pedestrians.”

Two areas of sidewalk were slated for narrowing to accommodate the turning radius of large trucks, Marshia explained: the first at the corner of High and Main streets near Brooks House and the second at the corner of Elliot and Main streets near Turn it Up.

Marshia said he and Barrett spent the afternoon walking Main Street exploring other alternatives to narrowing these areas.

Sidewalks in other areas of downtown will be made wider and accessible according to the specifications of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“I want to thank everyone for being responsive [to these issues],” said Selectboard Vice-Chair Dora Bouboulis to the AOT representatives.

“I think it’s good you’re having this meeting. I think it should have been a dedicated meeting [not as part of a regular Selectboard meeting],” said resident Steven K-Brooks.

This week, AOT will begin repaving Route 5 from Price Chopper near Exit 1 to Eaton Avenue. Downtown, between “Malfunction Junction” and High Street, they will replace the outdated traffic lights, make ADA improvements to sidewalks, and alter sidewalks to address issues with large trucks driving over the curb when turning on or off Main Street.

Improvements are also planned for portions of Routes 119, 142 and 30.

The expected duration of the Route 5 project is July 6 through November 2010.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #58 (Wednesday, July 14, 2010).

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