Newfane villages explore ways to slow traffic

Residents describe persistent danger along village roads, but long-term fixes for speeding might not come so rapidly

NEWFANE — In the town's villages of Brookside, South Newfane, and Williamsville, “cars [are] speeding through without slowing down, and you have a recipe for a fatality.”

That's according to Annie Landenberger, a member of a group of residents in the three villages who are working with the Planning Commission as “traffic-calming liaisons” to the Selectboard.

At their Oct. 15 meeting, Selectboard members responded favorably, with the town agreeing to purchase a second mobile speed cart, a device that measures the speeds of oncoming cars and displays the information to drivers. The town has asked the Vermont State Police to increase patrols.

But the more complicated measures the group discussed to address the speeding will come more slowly.

Defining the problem

The liaisons' goal, Landenberger told the Selectboard, is to convince the town to implement short- and long-term traffic-calming solutions to make all roads safer for walking and bicycle riding.

The group, along with some of the planning commissioners, gave a presentation to the Selectboard.

The evening before, the Planning Commission and the liaisons hosted a community forum and potluck at the Williamsville Hall to discuss the matter and collect public comment.

Selectboard Chair Marion Dowling attended the forum, funded by a Municipal Planning Grant from the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development.

Part of the Planning Commission's grant-related work, Planning Commissioner Lynn Forrest told The Commons, is addressing transportation and traffic calming.

Jennifer Stanchfield, the liaison from Brookside, told The Commons, “Those of us in the villages of Brookside, South Newfane, and Williamsville along the Dover Road in the town of Newfane have been struggling for years with speeders racing through our villages, creating a dangerous situation for residents and making our villages 'unwalkable.'”

She said that with road improvements, including widening the road, “more people see the Dover Road as a thoroughfare.”

“Skiers coming to Mount Snow use it as a shortcut and come flying through, but it is also our local neighbors from East and West Dover coming through on their way to and from work,” she added.

“It is sad that we don't feel we can walk in our villages,” said Stanchfield.

'Accident waiting to happen'

At the Selectboard meeting, Landenberger reiterated the concerns shared by many villagers: “We are an accident waiting to happen.”

She noted the previous evening's forum was well attended. “We gleaned a lot of input from different villagers” about speeding on the town's roads, said Landenberger, and “about what they think are the most effective means of ameliorating our traffic situation.”

Some of those measures include installing electronic speed-monitoring signs, speed humps (shorter and wider than speed bumps), and more stop signs.

Charles “Bud” Bergmann, the South Newfane liaison, showed some architectural drawings he made of his village, portraying a layout better geared toward people walking and children playing on the road.

He noted that narrower travel lanes, wider parking lanes, and 20-foot crosswalks paved with different materials from the rest of the road, are all factors “that would force a car to go slow.”

This information, he said, comes from years of traffic safety research.

“These are not radical ideas,” said Bergmann.

Forrest acknowledged that traffic-calming measures designed to alter drivers' behavior could have some challenges.

His concerns include how such changes might affect snowplowing and emergency vehicles' access. He pointed out potential conflicts with residents who don't want any traffic work done on the road in front of their house.

Short- and long-term solutions

Speaking on behalf of Planning Commissioners Lynn Forrest and Marcia Hylan, as well as the committee liaisons, Landenberger urged the board to appoint a member “to be in charge of working toward the timely implementation of short-term measures.”

Additionally, the group wants the board to send a representative to join Road Foreman Jay Wilson at a Vermont Agency of Transportation traffic-calming workshop in Manchester on Oct. 30, but the board did not make any decisions on the matter.

For long-term solutions, the group wants the Selectboard to propose “village enhancements and traffic-calming measures,” said Landenberger.

She warned the board that without such measures, speeding cars could affect property values along the affected roads.

Administrative Assistant Shannon Meckle said that the town has money in the current budget to purchase another mobile speed cart. She later confirmed to The Commons that Road Foreman Jay Wilson will order a second mobile speed cart by the end of the week.

Meckle also spoke with Vermont State Police troopers about increasing their patrols of the villages, and they agreed to begin this week.

Selectboard member Gary Delius noted the next fiscal year's budget season is about to begin, and while the board could do some work in the next budget cycle, it's not entirely under members' purview.

The project should go to the Planning Commission, whose members would “bring back to us the goals and objectives,” said Delius, who described that procedure as “the most logical way to get this done.”

It won't happen overnight, though.“Streetscaping takes a long time to get everybody to reach consensus,” said Delius.

To facilitate this process town-wide, “we really need to have it as part of the Town Plan,” he said, and noted other streets in town are affected by speeders, including Wardsboro Road and West Street.

“I think you're off to a good beginning,” Delius said, and added he looks forward to working together on the project.

Dowling thanked the group for their work. She noted the absence of Selectboard members Chris Williamson and Michael Fitzpatrick, and said she wants a full board present for the discussion.

“But this is a very good beginning,” said Dowling.

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