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You’ve likely noticed the sidewalk construction in Waitsfield Village…but how did it come to be?
Waitsfield Village is an incredible place for gathering and connection for everyone from kids on their way to school, to visitors taking a stroll, to folks popping in to run errands. Of course, it also serves as a main corridor for many driving through to different destinations. Daily, Main Street in Waitsfield Village (VT Route 100) sees 6,500 +/- vehicle trips, and has a history of ill-defined bicycle lanes, parking areas, and pedestrian crosswalks - resulting in a challenging environment for pedestrians (especially folks with wheels or otherwise susceptible to uneven surfaces). Over the years, residents voiced safety concerns related to poor and incomplete sidewalks, as well as the lack of crosswalks and visibility for pedestrians needing to cross the street. Sections of the existing sidewalk had not been compliant with state statutes in place to ensure safe conditions for users; in addition, informal parking along sidewalk shoulders resulted in stormwater runoff and erosion issues.
Waitsfield’s Main Street is a state-owned highway, so improvements require permission and cooperation between the town and the Vermont Department of Transportation (VTrans). The creation of sidewalks and crosswalks takes collaboration, coordination, planning, and perseverance. In fact, planning for sidewalk improvements in Waitsfield dates back to 1993. Mad River Valley residents, Waitsfield Elementary School families, local business owners, municipal leaders, VTrans and local entities worked together to envision a safe and accessible future for pedestrians. The first phase of this effort was the Route 100 Transportation Path, a 5’ wide sidewalk connecting Bragg Hill Road to the Waitsfield School. The project, completed in 2014, also included installation of a crosswalk, curbing, drainage, bike lanes and landscaping.
The sidewalk being installed this summer closes out the second phase of this effort. With assistance from the MRV Planning District (MRVPD) and the Central VT Regional Planning Commission (CVRPC), the town, school, and interested parties collaborated on planning improvements for the heart of Waitsfield Village. In 2006, the Waitsfield Village Parking and Pedestrian Circulation Study provided the basis for the improvements that we see being built today, including the new sidewalk and mid-block crosswalks with bump-outs. The 2010 Waitsfield Elementary Safe Routes to School Travel Plan laid out a variety of improvements for those traveling to and from the school. The 2011 Waitsfield Village West Sidewalk Conceptual Alignment Analysis studied the feasibility of constructing a sidewalk along the west side of Route 100 from Farr Lane north to Old County Road.
As a result of these efforts, a variety of pedestrian improvements have been implemented in Waitsfield Village over the past decade, such as: the realignment of the Old County Road and Main Street intersection, including the addition of a crosswalk and sidewalk spur along Old County Road; the West Side Sidewalk Phase I (125’ of sidewalk from Old County Road to Valley Players Theater); and new radar feedback signs to alert drivers to their speed. The current project, West Side Sidewalk Phase II, builds upon previous work and connects Valley Players Theater to Farr Lane with an appropriately designed and ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessible concrete sidewalk (755’), including connections to the east side sidewalk with two new crosswalks. These crosswalks are particularly important safety features for children walking to and from the Waitsfield School; they are being built with “bump-outs,” or crosswalk extensions, which help to make crosswalks safer by shortening the crossing distance and placing the pedestrian in a better line of vision to oncoming drivers. A new bump-out in front of Joslin Memorial Library will also help to make the Bridge Street intersection safer. Parking spaces, curbing, and stormwater enhancements are additional elements of the Phase II project.
As the community continues to discuss ways in which to make the Mad River Valley safer and more welcoming for all users of our village roads, the Waitsfield Village West Sidewalk Project is an exciting development toward this shared goal!
Photo: Pat Travers