If my recollection is correct, we have gone about ten years since Tony
introduced Vermonters to the modern roundabout. Given the extraordinary
benefits of using roundabouts instead of signs and signals for traffic control,
Vermont's progress toward a safe and convivial road system has been dismal.
Despite Tony's heroic efforts to train engineers, and the efforts of many
citizens to encourage the use of roundabouts, I know of only three roundabouts
constructed so far: Montpelier, Brattleboro, and Manchester. Meanwhile, new
signal projects number in the hundreds.
Chittenden County has the best-funded Metropolitan Planning Organization in the
country. Essex and Williston have large, full-time planning and engineering
staff. Despite these advantages, and much public interest in roundabouts,
three major intersections that should be roundabouts will have undergone
reconstruction and installation of new traffic signals by next year:
US2/Industrial Avenue, US2/VT2A, VT15/Old Stage Road.
The details of these decisions are less important than the forces behind them.
The planners and engineers clearly do not have public interest at heart.
Likewise, the elected officials that I have met share one objective:
I have become convinced that the interests of cyclists and walkers will not be
served merely by promoting good public policy. It is a brute force approach
that wastes our energy. We need to find the motives that shape decision making
-- the tender buttons of influence. Money is the most universal of these. My
objective is to make it very expensive for officials to continue to make these
The draft letter below is the first step, hopefully laying the groundwork for a
very expensive law suit. I would also like to go after a couple of engineers'
licenses. I can think of a couple of good candidates.
I invite vtbikepedpolicy-l subscribers to comment on the draft letter, and
solicit your ideas about other measures that would lead to more rapid adoption
of safe roads practices at all levels of government. I plan to send the letter
out on Friday.
Mary Peterson, Chair
Town of Williston
7900 Williston Road
Williston, VT 05495
Re: DRAFT Tafts Corner Reconstruction Project
Dear Ms. Lyons,
I am writing to document the incorrect decision taken by the Williston
Selectboard in choosing to reconstruct Tafts Corner as a signalized
intersection. Please read this letter into the minutes of your next regular
selectboard meeting -- a written reminder of flawed decision making.
As Williston planned the new design for Tafts Corner, many citizens expressed
concerns about the choice of traffic signals versus a modern roundabout. A
roundabout design had clear advantages in terms of safety, travel delays,
pollution, and fuel consumption. The signalized design typically causes more
than three times as many injury crashes.(1) Despite the public objections to
the design, Williston proceeded with a signal-based design.
Williston relied on the advice of consultants who were inexperienced in
roundabout design and construction. This is Williston's critical mistake in
the Tafts Corner decision. At the time of decision, the benefits of
roundabouts over signals were well known. Vermont engineers had the benefit of
several training programs to familiarize themselves with roundabouts. There
were plenty of opportunities to seek expert assistance in developing the
roundabout alternative. Williston failed to use qualified consultants and
failed to diligently explore and compare design alternatives.
I do not expect that this letter will directly improve the decision making
process in Williston. Too many years of watching corporate interests dominate
public interest in Williston and other towns prevent such optimism. Rather, in
the likely event of an injury crash at the reconstructed Tafts Corner, it is my
hope that a smart attorney will recognize that the Town of Williston has chosen
a dangerous intersection design. One can only hope that the subsequent lawsuit
would lead to modestly improved design decisions in Williston.
(1) Robinson, Bruce W. Roundabouts: An Informational Guide. FHWA-RD-00-067. p.
Peter K. Duval +1 802 899 1132
98 Sleepy Hollow Road fax: 899 2430
Essex Junction, VT 05452-2798 www.uvm.edu/~pduval
USA (from home)
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