If you've driven on Williston Road in South Burlington lately you may have noticed a new traffic pattern. A section of the traditionally four-lane road has been reconfigured. Drivers are now guided into one travel lane in each direction. A center left turn lane has been added, as well as two bicycle lanes.
"The city has long been interested in providing for other modes of transportation where we felt we had the room and where we felt it could work," said Justin Rabidoux, the director of South Burlington Public Works.
The project called "Complete Streets" stretches for about 1 mile on Williston Road between Kennedy Drive and Hinesburg Road. The city said when it learned the state planned to repave the road, it presented a unique opportunity to test this new configuration for two months before the final layer of pavement was applied. At the end of August the City Council voted unanimously to make the pattern permanent. But not everyone is pleased.
"You would have to live here to experience it, but it's very frustrating and difficult," said Renee Pariseau, who lives off Williston Road.
Pariseau says the new pattern bottlenecks traffic, forcing her to wait 3-5 minutes every time she needs to turn left off her street. Often times she caves, making a right and then turning around.
"I think it's going to get worse as we get closer to the holidays," said Steve Juiffre, the co-owner of Chappell's Florist shop on Williston Road.
Juiffre says the project has replaced one problem with another.
"It slowed the traffic down a little bit," he said. "I don't sense as much speeding. Although we are starting to note that some people are getting impatient."
He says drivers are using the center turn lane to jet around other cars bypassing backups. Pariseau worries the traffic dangers will worsen in the winter when the snow banks start piling up.
"Just to be able to see who's coming from where you have to pull right out there. I think that's going to be a huge issue, but obviously we won't know until the winter gets here," Pariseau said.
The city says the 6-foot bike lanes will not only keep cars far from pedestrians on the sidewalk, but it will also prevent them from being tucked up closer to the curb where they might otherwise be blocked by snow banks.
The city plans to extend the traffic pattern from Kennedy Drive toward Williston, ending on Millham Court. The project should be complete by the end of September.
Williston Road's new traffic pattern may soon become the norm. Gov. Peter Shumlin signed a law last year requiring all state projects to consider the "complete streets" configuration in the future.
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