VTrans releases new numbers on I-89 'safety corridor'

By  | 

BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) Safety on the roads is a top priority for Vermont transportation officials, which is why there's been a recent focus on dangerous spots. One year after "safety corridors" were put into place, VTrans is now sharing numbers from their report.

The goal of the safety corridor is to get drivers to be more responsible while driving in Vermont.

There are four places VTrans and Vermont State Police have set up safety corridors. The first is on Route 22A, from Orwell to Bridport. The second is on Route 7, on a more than 2.5-mile stretch from Pittsford to Brandon. Next, they set up a spot on Interstates 89 and 91 in the White River Junction area.

The I-89 portion starts on the New Hampshire border at Exit 1. The final spot is in Chittenden County on I-89 from exits 13 to 16. It’s that area where VTrans and State Police have been collecting data and tracking speeds for the past year.

"We did a before and after speed study just south of the Winooski River bridge and our number are looking good,” said Bruce Nyquist with VTrans.

The study looked at accidents and speed on I-89 between the Patchen Road Bridge in South Burlington and exit 15 in Winooski.

"People were going faster in the southbound lane, and with the increased presence and emphasis on that area, it appears that people really got the message and slowed down," Nyquist said.

The speed limit here for that part of the safety corridor is 55 mph. According to VTrans, in April of 2017, 96 percent of drivers in the travel lane were going more than 55 mph. In September, three months after the safety corridor was established, 81 percent of drivers were speeding.

"The southbound traffic was going a little faster than the northbound traffic to begin with and they dropped their numbers fairly significantly from 6-7 miles per hour," Nyquist said.

They are measuring speed by using equipment set up at those locations that some of you might see and others of you might not.

"Changeable message signs at the beginning that really tell people they are in the corridor-- those have a radar enabled sensor on them that we can collect speed data. Then you have the speed carts that let people know how fast they are going, those can always collect speed data. Then, in the middle, we have just a sensor and that can collect speed data in both directions," Nyquist said.

This program started after State Police noticed a large uptick in car accidents between exits 13 and 16 on I-89, prompting authorities to take action.

In the summer of 2015, there were 20 accidents on that stretch of highway, including one fatality. In 2016, that number jumped to 30 accidents. Last summer, with the safety corridor in effect, there were 27 accidents. Although that's only three fewer accidents last year, Nyquist still calls the safety corridor a success.

"We are hoping we are going to reduce crashes even more this year," he said.

At the end of this year, officials will have data from all four safety corridor areas. They hope the numbers will continue to improve in Chittenden County.