Elodie Reed, St. Albans Messenger
ST. ALBANS TOWN — You have to hand it to officials at Town Hall. From all indications they are working hard to get its taxpayers some crosswalks.
In the continuing 15-month saga between the town and the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) officials did a site visits Monday with a crew in tow: several selectboard members, town manager Carrie Johnson, Department of Public Works director Steve Beauregard, representatives of Ruggiano Engineering, Collins Perley Sports & Fitness Complex manager Dave Kimel and two media members.
The officials, Michael Golden and Tyler Guazzoni, are in VTrans’ traffic operations division. Golden also happens to have grown up just a few houses from St. Albans Town Hall and the St. Albans Bay store, where one of the two crossings is desired.
“So you understand the need for these [crosswalks], then, right?” Ruggiano said half jokingly, half not.
Yesterday’s first stop was Collins Perley, where the town, since May of last year, has been attempting to install a crosswalk between the sports complex and the east side of Route 104 where a convenience store and hotel are located. Because Route 104 is a state highway, the town must gain approval from VTrans.
Sam Ruggiano showed Golden and Guazzoni the plan he drew for the trans-highway crosswalk. He explained that it might require a small culvert and that it would eliminate 10 parking spots in the eastern portion of the Collins Perley parking lot.
“When the crosswalk is right here,” explained Ruggiano, “because of the angled parking, we can’t have cars within 20 feet. They’re backing out.”
Kimel, who hadn’t heard about the lost spots before Monday, said, “That’s going to make some people unhappy, but the crosswalk is important.” He added that it would have to go through the Collins Perley and Bellows Free Academy-St. Albans boards, which could take a couple of months.
“We’ll try to expedite it,” he said.
Kimel mentioned that he also was concerned about how the crosswalk – which would add impervious surface to currently grassy areas – would affect Collins Perley’s Act 250 permit requirements and the stormwater mitigation it requires.
“We’ve got a little surplus, but not a lot,” said Kimel of any wiggle room in that regard.
Ruggiano said he thought the Natural Resources Board district office could handle the addition administratively.
Johnson said there’s been some back and forth between the town and VTrans traffic operations engineer Amy Gamble. “We’re just concerned about placement,” said Johnson.
As far as Golden and Guazzoni were concerned, the site and plan for the crosswalk were all set.
“We’re pretty happy with the way this one’s coming out,” said Golden.
Beauregard asked, “So we can start building?”
“You’ll have to have permitting people tell you that,” said Golden. But, he added, for VTrans’ part, there shouldn’t be issues move forward. “You’ll have to have permitting people tell you that. [But] I think it’s all good from here – we like it.”
Johnson responded, “Excellent.”
At the bay
Yesterday’s next and last stop was St. Albans Bay near the Bay Store. The selectboard has for some time been trying to have a crosswalk installed between the business, which has an ice cream stand, and the Bay dock — a busy area in the summer.
Though a temporary pair of lines was painted on the road this summer for the Lake Champlain fishing derby in June and for the Fourth of July festivities, VTrans must approve an official crosswalk, since Route 36 is also a state highway.
The first suggestions Golden and Guazzoni made regarding the plan were to move signs warning of pedestrian traffic closer to the Bay Store and to place the curve in the road at a 10 mph speed limit.
At the store by the ice cream window, Ruggiano’s assistant engineer, Jesse Danner, went over the crosswalk plans. He said it would be a little further south than the temporary crosswalk, and small landing would be created on the store side in an effort to help separate passing cars from pedestrians.
“We’re trying to give them a path to follow,” said Ruggiano.
Golden expressed his concern about cars going through the ambiguous curving “T” at the bay, and what would happen on busy days with more traffic.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen stacking here,” said Ruggiano.
Golden added that VTrans was thinking about adjusting the intersection, either by making a real “T” or by adding in a mini-roundabout. He reminisced back to the days he was crossing the road as a kid, and remembered drivers having to stomp on the breaks a number of times.
“There’s so little control over everything,” he said.
Selectboard chair Brent Palmer was more for the “T.” He said, “That would prevent a lot of stuff from happening.”
Golden agreed, “That would make a world of difference.”
As for the crosswalk location, Golden said he and Guazzoni were tentatively fine with it, except for some of the chaos created by cars in the area. As he said this, a garbage truck pulled into the side of the Bay Store, north of the would-be crosswalk, and another driver stopped to wave and say hi to Palmer.
But, Golden said it should work. “You’ve pretty much got it,” he said. “Good enough guys.”
Ruggiano had a couple of revisions to make to plans for the bay location, which is to be sent to VTrans simultaneous with permit applications for both crosswalks.
“Hopefully we receive approval from the Agency of Transportation very soon after we submit them,” he said, well within earshot of Golden.
Golden responded, “Tyler [Guazzoni] will let them know we already went through it.”
With luck and agreement from the Collins Perley and BFA boards and VTrans permitters, the crosswalks are expected to be installed next spring
In a brief meeting among town officials after, everyone was positive about the relative progress made yesterday. “Sam, it’s moving,” selectboard member Stan Dukas said to Ruggiano. “I’m happy.”