In Williamsville, a death trap is waiting to happen
In this 2021 photo, a homemade sign implores motorists to slow down as they drive through Newfane Village — another area of town with perennial speeding frustrations.

In Williamsville, a death trap is waiting to happen

It’s really obvious to anyone who lives on this main road to the west of here that it is going to require some kind of physical restraint to really slow us down

WILLIAMSVILLE — I live in a house with a porch that has been described as having the best view in the county. Maybe yes, maybe no, but it is in the middle of Williamsville and faces south, straight across the road into the Rock River from a slightly elevated vantage point.

I used to enjoy sitting here and relaxing. I don't any more, to a large degree. To think that our kids used to skateboard and bicycle around in front of Jim Lessing's store here. They wouldn't last a week there now.

Dover Road (Main Street) has become a steady source of irritation to me. What looks like a Vermont version of small town nirvana to the seeker of pastoral beauty is actually a death trap waiting to happen.

From the people who whip through here at night thinking they can get away with it to the folks who flip us off as we signal “slow down” to them as they rip around the blind curve behind the post office, it's pretty constantly unsafe and loud and scary.

* * *

I can tell horror stories.

Here's one: walking at night, in the dark between narrow, flanking snowbanks with a group of people, sheepdogging them onto one side of the road as I flashed a handheld light to warn the oncoming driver to watch out, then gaping in amazement as they never slow down, probably doing over 35 mph - a speed that will most likely kill an unprotected body, according to statistics - in a 25 mph zone.

Another: my partner planting alongside the road, while a runner and bicyclist pass simultaneously as well as a driver who speeds up, merging through them while honking the horn.

Another: standing outside the Williamsville Hall recently with a reception going on, with guests slightly wandering off the shoulder of the road among the parked cars and having a genuinely close call, hearing someone say, “I had no idea!”

* * *

This is the main road to the west of here, to Dover, Mount Snow, Wilmington, Bennington, and surrounding towns.

Our road is apparently not in the same class as those in Newfane, Townshend, Jamaica, or Rawsonville, where I observe space for parking and sidewalks.

We have no sidewalks, for the most part, but they wouldn't help. As I walk down the road, some drivers can't find it in their hearts to even put the inside tires over the midline to avoid me, even though the oncoming lane is empty! You can tell who walks and who doesn't.

That goes for the back roads as well. When I'm driving on a dirt road, I slow to probably 10 mph and veer widely around a pedestrian. I would estimate that eight times out of 10, I get an appreciative smile and a wave.

* * *

This is obviously a widespread issue - global, if you will. Our local highway superintendent is doing what he can with his resources. Our Newfane Selectboard is doing an intelligent job tackling it. They are bringing in authorities to discuss solutions. Mark Anderson, our Windham County sheriff, came in recently to discuss the situation as well as options. Next up: the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans).

The speed readers do help to wake us up, but it's really obvious to anyone who lives here that it is going to require some kind of physical restraint to really slow us down. Speed bumps, speed humps, speed tables - all are noisy. Same as troughs. Installing potholes would work pretty well, I think.

But it's kind of like waiting for the next car technology to arrive. No one wants to take this beast on. It requires investment. You could mount cameras that catch plate numbers and mail out tickets. (Bye-bye, tourists.) You could put a police presence out there - that adds lots of cars, training, danger, and budgeting/management issues.

We have a box full of files and brainstorming ideas that perennially gets passed around, to no avail. Personally, my favorite is to add landscaped curb structures into the edge of the road - two or three in a place like Williamsville.

Stop signs seem like overkill. This shouldn't be Cedar Street in Brattleboro with its visual-speed-bump stop signs.

* * *

What is going on here is - clearly, simply - just plain wrong.

The state of Vermont is negligent in passing this problem on to small towns without resources and a state policy to back them up. It is unfair to the towns, to the police forces, and to the citizens who deal with this constant nightmare.

If there is a certain population density, we must slow down the traffic coming through that zone. We must have a state contract for all municipalities to use to purchase standardized structures. That would get travelers all through the state used to these measures and to perceive them as normal.

Dogs have been hit. People are moving away. We've thought about it. What is it going to take?

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