Safety is goal of paving project
In an effort to shed light on the Woodstock Avenue paving project, the Rutland Regional Planning
Commission believes some issues need to be clarified. The project is first and foremost about increased safety for drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians, which should be the main focus of local officials and the public.
Second, it should be noted this is a 30-day trial project and not a permanent change.
Third, this is a Vermont Agency of Transportation project, paid with federal funds and not a RRPC project paid with state funds.
Fourth, this is not a bike-lane project.
Last, this is an independent project not tied to any other local projects.
Vermont AOT, with the assistance of the RRPC, presented to the city of Rutland the concept of a trial safety project as part of the paving project of Woodstock Avenue.
The Federal Highway Administration has recognized that converting an undivided four-lane roadway into three lanes made up of two through lanes and a center two-way left-turn lane, reducing the overall number of lanes, has multiple safety and operational benefits for vehicles as well as pedestrians, such as:
Reducing rear-end and same-direction, side-swipe crashes.
Improving speed-limit compliance and decreasing crash severity when crashes do occur.
Decreasing vehicle travel lanes for pedestrians to cross, therefore reducing the multiple-threat crash (when one vehicle stops for a pedestrian in a travel lane on a multi-lane road, but the motorist in the next lane does not, resulting in a crash) for pedestrians.
Improving safety for bicyclists, if bike lanes are added (such lanes also create a buffer space between pedestrians and vehicles). Bike lanes are a possible by-product of the extra space create by the conversion to single-lane traffic for safety purposes, not the reason for the conversion.
Providing the opportunity for on-street parking (also a buffer between pedestrians and vehicles, though this is not part of the project on Woodstock Avenue).
As part of a paving project, the time (approximately 30 days) between installation of the base and top coat, provides an opportunity to try this striping arrangement. Paving occurs roughly every 15 years or so.
The McFarland-Johnson study completed in 2002 to address upgrades to routes 4 and 7 in Rutland City and Rutland Town identified 11 projects with the purpose described as “reduce traffic congestion and delays, address safety issues and enhance pedestrian and bicycle mobility by improving U.S. routes 4 and 7 and the highway network directly related to routes 4 and 7 in the city and town.”
Some have been completed, some are in progress, and this two-way left-turn lane was identified as Improvement 9, with an option of one lane in each direction. Thus, it is not a new idea.
Crash data from 2008-12 on Woodstock Avenue indicates two sections that are considered high-crash sections. They are just east of Harrington to east of Ross Street and west of Jasmin Lane through the Stratton Road intersection. Of the crashes, 32.2 percent were rear-end collisions and 24 percent were same-direction side-swipes, both indicative of the present lane configuration and recognized as the types reduced with the road reconfiguration.
The Federal Highway Administration also states that “roadways with average daily traffic (ADT) of 20,000 or less may be good candidates for a road diet and should be evaluated for feasibility. It has been shown that roads with 15,000 ADT or less had very good results in the areas of safety, operations and livability.”
Traffic counts recorded for Woodstock Avenue from 2008 and 2012 went from 15,500 adjusted ADT to 12,400, respectively. Woodstock Avenue is a Class 1 town highway, and the city of Rutland is managing this paving project.
Planning with the goal of a safe roadway for pedestrians and drivers that is also a convenient, economic and energy-efficient transportation network that serves multiple users and uses is essential for the vitality of the region. This kind of project shows Rutland is a vibrant, progressive community willing to try new things to become a better and safer place to live.
Susan Schreibman is assistant director of the Rutland Regional Planning Commission.