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Rte. 4 Intersection Studied in Hartford

Hartford — Roundabout or traffic light?

That’s the question before town and state officials, as well as Prospect Street developers, over how to regulate what is projected to be a higher volume of traffic feeding into a four-way intersection on the Vermont side of the Route 4 bridge between White River Junction and West Lebanon.

The three parties convened in Montpelier last week to discuss the options for the bridge traffic in addition to that generated by the new Listen at River Point building and a proposed Prospect Street office complex that is expected to increase the number of vehicles approaching the intersection.

Kevin Marshia, assistant director of program development with the Vermont Agency of Transportation, said the involved parties joined to see if some of the intersection improvements could be worked into the Route 4 bridge project. He noted a collaborative approach is important to avoid conflicts and overlap that could result from the bridge project construction with the building of a proposed office complex on Prospect Street. Both are set to begin next spring.

“There are multiple layers of ownership and we don’t want to do one piece and have to waste anybody’s money,” Marshia said. “We decided we would coordinate and look for opportunities where we might be able to get efficiencies.”

Hartford’s public works and planning directors and individuals working on the Prospect Street development project joined VTrans workers last Friday to examine the method that would best govern traffic at the intersection — either a traffic signal or a roundabout. Although neither option was chosen at the meeting, Marshia said both options would work. He noted a roundabout would be a longer term solution.

Hartford Planning and Development Director Lori Hirshfield said VTrans workers would continue to pour over the data in a traffic analysis study conducted by Resource Systems Group, of White River Junction. She said VTrans would get back to the town “hope(fully) by the beginning of next week” with its thoughts on the merits of the data and the pros and cons of the options.

Marshia said the town and the developer would discuss what they think is the most appropriate solution for the intersection, and at that point reconvene.

Process aside, Hirshfield said she hopes the exchange of ideas among the parties will be wrapped up in the coming weeks, in preparation for the Sept. 25 Zoning Board of Adjustment and Sept. 30 Planning Commission meetings. The Prospect Street development project has been before both boards in recent months, but hasn’t yet received approval, in large part because of unresolved questions over the traffic issue.

The company developing Prospect Street, DEW Properties, of Williston, Vt., needs approval from both boards before moving ahead with the first phase of the Prospect Street project, which, among other things, would encompass a 38,600-square-foot state office building.

Hirshfield said the Hartford Selectboard must OK the intersection improvements, as well, because it involves changes to town roads.

The tentative timeline for the bridge reconstruction is to break ground on the new bridge in spring 2014, with completion in fall 2015, which is similar to the timeline for the proposed Prospect Street project. It’s anticipated that state officials will start dismantling the old span, which sits parallel to the existing temporary bridge, this fall.

Hirshfield said the costs are part of the conversations being had. She did note Prospect Street and the accompanying intersection are in the TIFF district, but said it’s too early to tell if funding for the project would be derived that way.

Marshia said the bridge reconstruction project is just that — a bridge reconstruction — not an intersection reconstruction, so he said he wouldn’t anticipate the state funding all of the intersection improvements.

Project Developer Steve Morton, of DEW Properties, didn’t return calls by deadline.

Marshia offered an analogy on the collaboration efforts of the intersection project.

“It’s like owning a duplex. One owner owns the other side and say you’re going to change the roof,” he laughed. “You aren’t going to change the roof on just half.”

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.