Saturday, February 5, 2011

Colchester Avenue Project

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It seems that every year Burlington, Vermont makes the top ten in some category; the most recent is for Best Places "foodie" list for it's ratio of local eateries to chain restaurants. It ranks up there as the healthiest city, # 1 place to raise a family, etc., but Burlington is not without it's own set of problems, especially regarding safe cycling on city streets.

Burlington was walloped on Wednesday with 14" of snow. On Thursday evening I trudged up my street amidst shoulder high piles of snow to attend a meeting on the Colchester Avenue Project. This mile long corridor has been a pilot project for Complete Streets in our city. Last October 4 lanes were re-striped into 3 lanes which included the addition of a bike lane. The corridor is a highly used gateway into Burlington affecting residents, two major institutions (hospital and university), and all the buses that these two require, city transit, pedestrians and cyclists. It will not be an easy task to satisfy all who are concerned with Colchester Avenue, but residents, representatives of the hospital, university, and the city convened for an evening of Safe Street exploration.

I learned that this corridor has 3 unsafe intersections—some of the worst in Burlington according to accident statistics. I live only a half mile from Colchester Avenue. As a cyclist I'd been avoiding these trouble spots for years so it was nice to see these presented on paper. By the end of the evening the groups applauded certain ideas:
  • Keep it 3 lanes
  • Widen existing bike lanes
  • Redo the Riverside/Colchester intersection
  • Add missing sidewalk link along the cemetery
  • Straighten the Prospect/Pearl Street intersection
  • University students would not use the additional mid-block crosswalks
  • Add another crosswalk to East Avenue intersection
  • Do not cut any further into the green space
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There will be more meetings as the suggestions are implemented and further designs fleshed out. One keen resident pointed out that we haven't heard any statistics from the pilot project to base any decisions on. These are all good reasons to keep at this discussion until a solution makes it safer for everyone.

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