By Lisa Loomis
The Waitsfield Select Board appointed a liaison to advocate on the town's behalf with VTrans as the state prepares to pave Route 100 from Waitsfield to Warren.
The town is concerned about making sure the state follows its own rules regarding creating/enhancing and improving access for bikes and pedestrians on state highways. By state law, any road construction or reconstruction process has to take bike, pedestrian and alternative transportation into consideration.
At the select board's June 1 meeting, Sue Frechette, a member of the Mad Bikes organization, was present to discuss the role of the liaison and how the town would/will advocate.
Frechette explained how the state regulations are written and explained that there are five "exceptions" when the state can avoid having to create/improve bike and pedestrian access. Those exceptions have to do with physical constraints such as roads built abutting ledges or on the edges of ravines, roads that are not well used, places where there would be adverse cultural impacts and places where the cost of giving consideration to bike/pedestrian access would be disproportionate to the amount of use bike access would get. (Disproportionate cost is defined at more than 20 percent of a project.)
Frechette told the board that the state regulations have a very specific definition for bike lanes, which is different than improved/enhanced bike and pedestrian access. Advocating for full bike lanes, she said, may not yield the intended results. She urged the town to advocate that the state follow its own guidelines in terms of improving and enhancing shoulders during this process and said that the role of an advocate would be to make sure the state does not overuse the "exception" process.
"If VTrans follows their own guidelines then bike access on Route 100 would improve significantly," Frechette said.
Frechette and the board discussed whether the liaison should be a member of the Mad River Path Association, The Valley Moves group or the Mad Bikes. They also discussed whether other towns could/would use the same liaison or appoint their own advocate. Finally, the board discussed taking the issue to the Mad River Valley Planning District's Steering Committee to broaden the scope of the advocacy.
The board named Frechette and Mad Bikes as its liaison to represent the town going forward to ensure that bike and pedestrian access are included in the Route 100 repaving project.