BURLINGTON NORTH AVENUE STUDY MEMBERS FIELD TRIP TO MONTPELIER ROUNDABOUTS NOVEMBER 1
BURLINGTON--Three North End neighborhood members of the North Avenue Corridor Study Advisory Committee took a November 1 field trip to observe two busy modern roundabout intersections in Montpelier, VT. The neighborhood representatives, recruited through the Neighborhood Planning Assemblies (NPAs), found roundabouts a good option for key North Avenue intersections along the three-mile corridor under study from North Street north to Plattsburgh Avenue.
Two major new possible treatments possible along the corridor include roundabouts and protected bike lanes called “cycle track.” Roundabouts and cycle track both move the corridor to a higher level of safety and service benefiting all modes and all users, regardless of age and skill.
Jim Holway (NPA Ward 4/7, Ward 4), RJ Lalumiere (NPA 4/7, Ward 7 Alternate) and Tony Redington (NPA 2/3, Ward 3 Alternate) all expressed surprise at how effortlessly traffic flowed and how little delay there was at Keck Circle, a block from the Main Street Middle School, as it handled the rush of school closing traffic of cars, trucks, school buses and students. Added to the mix were four Greyhound tour buses using the roundabout to reverse direction.
At the US 2/302 roundabout the three observed a volume of about 2,200 vehicles an hour during as Friday afternoon peak traffic numbers are highest of the week . Backup waiting to enter the intersection never exceeded about ten cars and at most a 30 second delay, typically far less.
Holway explained the field visit: “Our purpose in selecting Keck at the time we did was precisely to observe higher pedestrian and bike traffic. As school was let out just up the street, we got our answer. We observed congestion coming from the circle to the school. There was no slowing of flow as cars went to the school to pickup. On the other hand as cars came to the circle after picking up, the flow in the circle hardly slowed. Children, bikers and buses all traversed the circle in relatively short span, yet it all flowed very well. The peds and bikers went through the roundabout with surprisingly little concern for doing so. In other words it was the opposite as I would have thought. In contrast, watching the signaled intersections. [At signalized intersections] peds and bikers had to queue up waiting their turn AND the frequency of jay-walking near signaled intersections was frequent by my observation. People between parked cars jutting out and running across. Where at the roundabout no jay walking was to be seen and every mode of traveler could easily see everyone else.
Lalumiere took considerable video of the two roundabouts during the trip which can be accessed on YouTube at http://goo.gl/DdajOC
Lalumiere said “I must say I was impressed by their functioning. Traffic flow was high, but safe; the intersections cleared any backups quickly…”
Redington noted observing the “walking school buses” from Union Elementary three blocks away, a few children each for each “bus” with their adult “driver” crossing the roundabout.
Redington said the Middle School students relaxed and nonchalant crossing of the roundabout may well reflect the fact its 1995 construction means it predates the birth of all of the Middle School which serves all 6th to 8th graders.
Burlington Department of Public Works (DPW) and CCRPC websites provide access to study documents and meeting notices at http://bit.ly/north-ave . Nicole Losch of DPW handles City coordination. The next study step fleshes out a vision and goals for the corridor followed by developing options. The last step of recommendations (short, medium and long term) leads to a final study report.
Other neighborhood representatives on the North Avenue Steering Committee are: Tad Cook (NPA 2/3 W3), Bill Brachter (NPA 4/7 W7), Kelli Brooks (NPA 4/7 W4 Alternate) and Fauna Shaw (NPA 2/3 W3 Alternate). Holway, Lalumiere, and Redington actively participate on the Burlington Walk Bike Council. Holway points to his involvement in safe routes to schools initiatives in the New North End. Lalumiere helped organize the new series of monthly “Bike Party” Burlington excursions on the last Friday evening of the month, May to October. Redington, a roundabout expert and researcher, points to the almost 4,000 roundabouts now in the U.S. and Canada which to date have not experienced a single pedestrian fatality.
The first Burlington busy street roundabout scheduled for construction in 2017 is the “rotary” intersection of Locust St., Shelburne St. and St. Paul St. Note three roundabouts the size of the new Burlington roundabout would fit inside the Winooski “traffic circulator” with room to spare. Modern roundabouts are of a substantially different design and thus produce a much different experience.