Winooski Avenue 'diet' proposal raises concerns

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) Another 'Great Streets' project in Burlington is raising eyebrows. The city is in the planning phase for redesigning the Winooski Avenue corridor that runs from King Street down to Riverside Avenue, but some are questioning key design elements.

"In general, I try not to drive in Burlington if I can help it," said one Burlington resident.

That's a concept Burlington city leaders are trying to encourage. They know aggressive drivers and congestion is a problem in the Winooski Avenue corridor.

Some pedestrians says drivers don't yield to them, and bikers complain they don't have enough lanes dedicated to them.

"We have so many important destinations in the downtown for people driving, walking and biking, or taking the bus. It's really crucial they be able to access all the facilities there," said the city's Nicole Losch.

The city if proposing a plan that would cut down parts of the corridor from four lanes to two, making a middle lane for turning. They'd also add bike lanes.

But officials say it's a give and take. "Right now there's parking on both sides, so the current proposal we are looking at would retain parking on one side," Losch said.

Some of the greatest concerns raised about how the new pattern would work in the area where cars go into the parking garage and also the turn into city market. Dozens of parking spots in the Old North End would also be on the chopping block.

"Anytime the city promotes a plan that includes eliminating parking, businesses get really nervous," said Kelly Devine with the Burlington Business Association. She says many have raised doubts about the proposal. "Parking is emotional."

While many agree the flow of traffic is not the best through the corridor, some aren't sure removing a lane will help. "People drive so angrily. Two lanes is already so congested already. So, to put it down to one lane, it's even more. I can't even fathom how mad people would get at 5 p.m.," said Tonya Bailey of Burlington. She says she walks, drives and bikes in the area and isn't sure she would bike with added lanes. "There's plenty of other ways to get around and there are plenty of other bike lanes in Burlington," she said.

But others, like local resident Phillip Belibeau, are for the added lanes. Anytime they're talking about adding protected bike space, I'm all for it" he said.

The next public meeting on the project is set for November 13, from 5 to 7 at Old North End Community Center on Allen Street.