It’s good news that the Waitsfield Select Board voted earlier this month to move forward with plans for a sidewalk on the west side of Main Street that includes curb extensions, or bump outs. The bump outs will extend the curb out into Main Street which will slow traffic and improve visibility of people waiting to use the crosswalks.
The sidewalk project runs from just north of the Valley Players Theater to the corner of Main Street and Bridge Street in the village. It includes two new crosswalks, one near the Valley Players, the other between Village Grocery and Waitsfield United Church. Both new crosswalks will now feature bump outs.
Another very important part of this project is a change in the configuration of the intersection of Main Street and Bridge Street. Current traffic patterns effectively create three lanes of traffic on Bridge Street. One lane is used by cars turning right off Bridge Street (erroneously) cutting through the handicap parking space on Bridge Street. Another lane is used by cars turning left onto Main Street and the third lane is used by cars turning onto Bridge Street from Main Street.
That’s clearly not a safe situation, particularly for pedestrians trying to cross Bridge Street or for those trying to use the Main Street crosswalk between the Joslin Library and the Masonic Lodge.
The difficulty of this intersection is compounded by the fact that cars seeking to head south on Main Street can’t see around the porch of the Waitsfield House and so those drivers creep forward. That causes drivers seeking to head north on Main Street to do likewise. That leaves pedestrians with little safe passage.
Plans to create curb extensions and bump outs at that intersection will reduce the lanes of travel to a more appropriate two – one for cars leaving Bridge Street, another for cars entering Bridge Street. It will extend the Bridge Street roadway out beyond the Waitsfield House porch as well, plus enhance the visibility of pedestrians crossing both Main Street and Bridge Street.
Drivers may balk at the need to queue up to exit Bridge Street, but it is going to be much safer for all of us, including anyone trying to use the handicap parking spot near the side steps of the Joslin Library on Bridge Street.
These are welcome changes.