Study aims to chart Route 7’s future

Henry Bonges and Amy Cook of Milton both offered suggestions to make Route 7 in Milton safer for pedestrians and cyclists during a forum at the municipal complex on Monday, Oct. 6. (Photo by Courtney Lamdin)

Henry Bonges and Amy Cook of Milton both offered suggestions to make Route 7 in Milton safer for pedestrians and cyclists during a forum at the municipal complex on Monday, Oct. 6. (Photo by Courtney Lamdin)

A study in its beginning stages will attempt to give Milton a recognizable identity by fortifying its main passage through town, U.S. Route 7.

Consultants from the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission attended a selectboard meeting Monday night to summarize its study of a three-mile stretch of Route 7, from Forbes Road to Main Street.

“Nothing I say tonight is going to really surprise you. This is an area that has been growing fast. It’s expected to continue to grow fast, but it’s in search of an identity, both visual and generally,” said Joe Barr, team project manager from planning firm Parsons Brinckerhoff. “What does Milton want to be in the future? What does it want to look like in the future?”

The town has pondered those questions over the years, as it’s hosted numerous forums and passed zoning changes in an attempt to give Milton a unique, attractive look. Consultants said Monday night this new study will build upon previous ones.

Andrew Smith, senior transportation planner for Parsons, gave an overview of traffic concerns in the town core. Milton’s population grew 9 percent between the 2000 and 2010 Censuses, reclassifying it as an “urban cluster,” one that sees thousands of cars daily in the study area.

Traffic engineers scored several Milton intersections with an “F” level of service, indicating drivers have to wait up to four minutes to pass through a traffic signal, for example.

Another concern included sidewalk gaps, particularly south of the Hannaford shopping plaza, identified as concerns back in 2001. Later that meeting, the board approved a grant application to fill in those gaps, a total 1,290 feet between different Route 7 developments, and improve stormwater issues there.

Milton Elementary School Principal Mary Jane Stinson, who serves on the 16-member project advisory committee, said the sidewalk gaps near the troubled Railroad Street/Middle Road/Route 7 intersection, the subject of another CCRPC study, make it difficult to walk to school.

Board member John Gifford suggested adding an always-green signal at Barnum Street and Lamoille Terrace that would change red only if pedestrians pushed a crossing button.

The study also identified lacking crosswalks, again in the southern end of the study area between Forbes Road and Haydenberry Drive, a one-mile section without any marked crossings.

Milton Artists’ Guild member Amy Cook suggested incorporating multi-modal paths, a goal shared by the town’s Improvements Committee, which will identify a list of top Route 7 fixes.

Henry Bonges said it’s dangerous for cyclists traveling from West Milton Road, a high traffic area without much of a shoulder. Smith agreed.

Advisory committee member Bill Dailey also spoke about that area but in the context of the long-desired Interstate 89 Exit 17A, a dedicated Milton exit.

CCRPC’s Jason Charest said the study will consider when that exit might become necessary. Selectboard Chairman Darren Adams said he’s in favor of the exit, but it’s unrealistic to assume the state will reverse its funding priorities to build new exits before improving existing ones.

CCRCP is also separately studying the Colchester/Milton Exit 17 for improvements.

Consultants will present this study’s recommendations in January at another public meeting. Smith said the final study this spring will outline which funds, town or state, pay for these improvements.

Board member Stu King asked how long it will take to see results.

Barr said smaller pieces, like changing signal times, are quick fixes, but building new sidewalks or crosswalks will take longer. Then comes funding.

“That’s really what it comes down to: Where’s the money going to come from,” Barr said.

For more information, visit www.ccrpcvt.org.

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