Burlington ramps up 'quick build' for bike and pedestrian safety

Published: Jul. 16, 2018 at 5:07 PM EDT
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Burlington officials are employing fast fixes to some long-standing roadway and pedestrian safety issues with a brand-new approach they call "quick-build."

Drivers and pedestrians say the intersection of South Champlain and Main Streets in Burlington is a bit dangerous.

"I've often almost been hit by sharp-turning cars," said Paige Hanley of Burlington.

"It's a hard intersection because people keep trying to cheat their way out because they can't see the people coming down the hill," said Charlie Pughe, who works in the city.

But now there's a simple fix with simple materials. "We have bollards, planters, and paint," said Nicole Losch, a senior transportation planner with the city of Burlington. "In an intersection like this, it slows down drivers, it makes pedestrians more visible as they're trying to cross the street."

Losch says the Public Works Department responded to complaints from community members. They had a hard time seeing around the parked cars and the pedestrians had a hard time crossing. They felt like drivers weren't stopping for them," she said.

So they put in what they call a "quick-build" project to test how extending the curb would work. Losch says there are a few benefits to this method. It's a faster fix. It's also cheaper, costing about $16,000 for the intersection. That's about a quarter of what full construction would cost. She also says the materials can be reused once this project gets replaced. It also gives the city a chance to work out any issues beofre investing in a permanent solution. "It's a very new approach for Burlington," she said.

And it's not just Main Street. These projects are also going in the Old North End as part of the greenway project. Streets like Peru, Grant and Loomis are also getting curb extensions. "They really slow down traffic. Having the planters in the middle of the street adds some of the beautification and the landscaping that may be missing on some of these really narrow Old North End streets right now," Losch said.

Pedestrians like Charlie Pughe say it's working. "It seems like when people come through, there's less space and they slow down a bit because they feel like they're getting squeezed on the roadway," he said.

But there was one concern -- whether the bollards would last when the plows hit the road.

"During the winter I used to live on Buell and those bike lane things -- they were all taken out by like January. So that would be the only concern, but otherwise it looks nice," Hanley said.

Since these projects are intended to stay in year-round, Losch says they are designed to be durable and bounce back if they're hit. She says they also scaled back the extensions on one project after feedback from the bicycling community that they were getting pinched.

City officials say to expect more of these quick build projects to pop up around the city next year too.