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A public input meeting on a proposed sidewalk on the west side of Route 100 from Farr Lane to Old County Road drew several Waitsfield residents to the town offices Monday, November 8, to discuss potential for a new sidewalk and streetscape.
Waitsfield was able to secure $15,000 of funding through the Central Vermont Regional Planning Commission (CVRPC) to begin a conceptual alignment analysis (CAA) of the proposed project; the town hired Lamoureux & Dickinson consulting engineers to come up with a feasibility study.
Lamoureux & Dickinson representative Jodi Carriere gave a
presentation of potential locations for sidewalks, on-street parking and
crosswalks. Included in a list of areas of concern, Carriere identified
the area in front of the Waitsfield Elementary School.
Select board chair Kate Williams said that the idea was to install a temporary sidewalk as a part of Safe Routes to School because kids cross there daily regardless; in addition, she said, "Depending upon how the west side gets sorted out, that may be the place to cross."
CVRPC representative Steve Gladczuk told attendees that the Vermont Department of Transportation (VTrans) requires there be a sidewalk on both sides of the road in order to have a crosswalk across Route 100.
"VTrans requires pedestrian facilities on both sides of the road," he said.
Discussion then turned to a potential crosswalk at the Village Grocery to the Waitsfield United Church of Christ. Select board member Charlie Hosford said, "There is a lot of foot traffic from that parking lot to the church and library; even if the crosswalk was taken away people would still be crossing there."
V.G. owner Troy Kingsbury told town officials, "People are always going to cross in front of the VG; if we put it there, it will cross right in front of my gas pumps."
Williams said that there could be "more clarity where the corner of Parsonage Lane is; there is so much milling around, there could be more clarity on the curb cuts."
One Old County Road resident told select board members that she "doesn't understand what the justification is for building a sidewalk on the other side when there is an existing sidewalk. Why isn't there a crossing?"
"The focus should be putting a crossing where it's needed. The existing path is in such terrible condition; also, in the winter there is a bus that parks in front of the church. It doesn't matter where you put the sidewalk. What you need is a crosswalk at the end of Old County Road," she added.
Carriere said that VTrans requires that a certain amount of people cross the road during peak hours of traffic to put in a crosswalk. The requirement doesn't have to be met at the school because of different conditions, she said.
Gladczuk said, "If you think that many people cross at the VG then we'll go out and count them."
Kingsbury told town officials that "all of historic Waitsfield is in the state's right of way" including the Masonic Lodge front porch. Town Administrator Valerie Capels said she's started a discussion with state Representative Adam Greshin about amending state statutes to acknowledge that historic centers are exempt from the right of way limitations.
Plans to pave Route 100 in a few years call for four-foot bike lanes on both sides of Route 100 with 11-foot travel lanes, which must be taken into account when considering on-street parking and sidewalks.
Select board member Sal Spinosa said he "could be in favor of a minimal effort on the west side, focus on something minimal, keep the main attention on that side of the road where we already have spent time, money and attention."
Carriere said that she will consider all the alternatives suggested from residents including what she called "the do-nothing alternative, the minimalistic alternative with the least disturbance possible, and the full-length sidewalk with on-street parking."
In addition, she said she would come up with a matrix that listed the total cost of each project as well as the pros and cons for all the options.
Waitsfield resident Nan Hornbeck asked town officials who would be liable should somebody fall down on the sidewalk and who would be responsible for maintaining the sidewalks including repairing damages on property owner's land as a result of the project.
"There are questions that need to be answered. There needs to be a daylight study of how many people using the sidewalks. It's a lovely design with a lot of data and pictures. Sidewalks are green, they're good for exercise and they are politically correct right now. It looks like they were designed for a new town. It takes away from the country look and will change the character of the town," Hornbeck said.
"You've all heard of the bridge to nowhere; a west-side sidewalk is a sidewalk to nowhere. The energy needs to put into Irasville where there are no sidewalks at all," she continued.
Hosford disagreed, specifically referencing the town's newly acquired seven-acre Flemer field that he anticipates will draw a lot of activity. "In the coming years there will be plenty of children, parents and so forth. How will those people get from the field to the VG and other places?"
Hornbeck said, "In their cars, the way they always do."
Carriere said that the next steps involve the development of a "purpose and needs statement required to receive federal and state funding, come up with conceptual alternatives, indicate adverse effects, have an alternatives presentation meeting in January, and come back with a final version in February."