Thursday, September 17, 2015

"Intersection of Death" Lives at Least until 2021

Shelburne Street Roundabout--Burlington, VT

A contact Monday (September 14, 2015) with the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) section handling the design and construction of the Shelburne Street Roundabout at the “rotary” intersection in Burlington finds the Chittenden County's first roundabout on a busy public street now scheduled for construction 2020-2021.  The project is for safety improvement as the intersection has a high accident rate history.

As this intersection is one of the "dirty 17" in Burlington identified this year averaging one walk mode injury per year, the period from the time base design was completed in 2010 to actual roundabout constructed, 2021 about six individuals crossing the intersection will suffer injuries.  

VTrans engineer Michael Lacroix explained there will be some exploratory work related to underground utilities at the Shelburne St./So. Willard St./St. Paul St./Locust St. shortly but that work does not signal construction. The intersection project also addresses easing entry and exit to Ledge Street just three or four car lengths south of the roundabout as designed. The 100% federally funded roundabout with safety program funds involves a single contract for construction with the first year, 2020, re-configuration and any new/upgraded various utilities which criss-cross the intersection, and 2021 the actual construction of the roundabout. Lacroix said there is no truth to a recent rumor in Burlington that a design contract send out to bid found no takers.

In fact the project with the roundabout design completed in 2010 following the final public meetings and reports in 2008 still requires time consuming right-of-way acquisition before the bid plans are prepared, the bidding process takes place, contractor selected and construction begins. Interestingly the first northeastern U.S. roundabout in Montpelier took three years from authorization by the City of a committee to opening for traffic, development period which included a twelve month pause for addition of funds to the City budget for the project.

At the present pace the project, first discussed and began its development process in 2002, will be completed after 19 years. Meanwhile the high level of walk, bike and vehicle injuries and crashes the roundabout chosen to address continue. In the four year period 2011-2014 two pedestrian crashes occurred. The intersection ranks among the “dirty 17” with highest walk mode injuries in a draft report from the planBTV Walk Bike master planning project now under way. The average frequency of walk mode injuries at the “dirty 17” intersections reaches almost one per intersection per year. A single lane roundabout based on Vermont roundabout experience and research findings can be expected to reduce injuries for those who walk, bike or travel by vehicle—particularly serious and fatal injuries—by about 90%.

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