In general, the problems associated with traffic backups at the 9/100 intersection were mostly seen as only occurring a few times a year: busy ski weekends, peak foliage periods, and during major up-valley activities such as the recent Tough Mudder events at Mount Snow.
But other problems were also identified, including the timing of the traffic lights at the 9/100 intersection and visibility issues at the intersection of Ray Hill Road and Route 9, just west of the traffic lights. Other issues raised included the difficulty in crossing at the corner, lack of midblock crosswalks, and the timing of the traffic lights.
“How does the intersection affect daily life in town?” asked WRC director Chris Campany to open the meeting.
Ray Hill resident Barker Willard III was quick to respond.
“”I come through there every day,” said Willard. “And the light at Dot’s clicks before the traffic comes out of Ray Hill. It doesn’t allow for a turn, and the light is not seen by a lot of people.”
Others in the audience agreed with Willard, citing the difficulty of turning east from Ray Hill onto Route 9. “And now the new Dot’s blocks it even more,” added Willard.
Wilmington Selectboard member Meg Streeter questioned the need for new plans for the intersection, given the down economy. She asked if traffic counts at the intersections showed a decrease in cars at the four corners. WRC planner Matt Mann confirmed that counts were indeed down.
“There are a few times on a Friday evening or a Saturday afternoon when traffic is a problem,” said Ballou Hill Road resident Frank Spencer. “Most days it’s not a problem.”
“I agree,” said selectboard member Susie Haughwout. “We don’t have a perennial problem. It’s mostly event driven.” Houghwaut said she also sees less truck traffic on Route 9. “Truck traffic is diminished. It may be a sign of the times. I almost never have to wait (to turn) at Haystack Road.”
Board member Jim Burke said he would like to see the timing of the traffic light changed. “We timed it last year. It stays green only 15 seconds. That’s not long enough. There should be some regulated time that gets more traffic through.”
Lisle Hill resident Kathryn Longbotham said that her biggest concern was pedestrian safety. She noted that vehicles seemed to increase their speed as soon as they headed north from the traffic light, even though they were still in the village district. North Main Street business owner Mary Wright echoed the concerns for pedestrian safety.
“There are times when crossing the street is scary,” agreed Haughwout.
Clliff Duncan noted that it was difficult for cars to turn north from the West Main Street direction. He said there had been discussion about widening the bridge on the west side of the intersection, and increasing the length of the turning lanes for east- and westbound traffic. “The turning lanes would take away limited parking spaces,” he said, “and reduce traffic calming. The ambiance of the downtown would also be impacted by the traffic changes.”
Duncan, who spent many years on a previous traffic study committee for the town, also noted that it would be unlikely the town would be getting a bypass anytime soon. Numerous studies have been conducted over the years, but no preferred route could be agreed upon.
“The Army Corps of Engineers recommended a southern route,” said Duncan. “I thought it was a non-starter, because it disrupted a residential neighborhood.” He added the committee’s final recommendation was a northern route bypass that included two tunnels, but the state transportation officials were not interested in tunnels. Campany agreed that any bypass options would not come any time soon, noting the state was projecting budget shortfalls for transportation projects for the foreseeable future.
All of the information provided by the public will be compiled into a report, which Windham Regional will provide to the towns and the Vermont Agency of Transportation. The report will also be posted on the WRC website. Campany said the report should be completed after the first of the year.
Windham Regional will be taking comments until December 7. The comment form is available online at www.windhamregional.org, or call Matt Mann or Cullen Meves to provide input.