Town, State Mull How to Make Route 5 Safer in WRJ

  • Photographed on Nov. 9, 2018, a Vermont Agency of Transportation report found the intersection of Routes 5 and 14 in White River Junction, Vt., is one of the most dangerous. Between 2012 and 2016, there were 63 crashes, including one fatality and eight injuries. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Monday, November 12, 2018

White River Junction — Multiple initiatives could influence plans to reshape the way people travel in White River Junction.

The Vermont Agency of Transportation will hold a public meeting on Thursday at 6 p.m. at Hartford Town Hall to gauge interest in potential improvement projects along a roughly two-mile corridor of Route 5 between the Upper Valley Aquatic Center and Hartford High School.

Meanwhile, Hartford’s Department of Public Works is working with University of Vermont engineering students whose senior capstone project is devoted to studying traffic and parking in the village.

“It’s always important to make safety improvements,” said Hannah Tyler, Hartford’s first-year director of public works. “We’re experiencing growth right now, and creating better transportation is part of that. For lack of a better term, the world is changing around us when it comes to the ways we move ourselves around.”

More commuters are focused on alternative and green transportation methods including walking, bicycling and car-sharing, Tyler said, and she expects those to be topics of conversation at Thursday’s meeting.

VTrans scheduled the meeting after identifying several “high crash locations” and “high crash segments” on the stretch of Route 5 through the core of White River Junction — between Arboretum Lane, which is the entrance to UVAC, and Highland Avenue, where vehicles access the middle school and high school.

According to a VTrans report that studied various locations and intersections statewide between 2012 and 2016, the worst trouble spots along the corridor are the intersection of Routes 5 and 14, where there were 63 crashes, including one fatality and eight injuries. That was ranked sixth out of 111 high-crash intersections that the study identified in the state.

Another intersection identified in the report is the junction of Route 5 and Airport Road, where there were 23 crashes and four injuries, ranking 86th.

The report also identified high-crash segments, or sections of roadways up to 0.3 miles long. Four such segments of Route 5 in White River Junction made the list.

The biggest problem area stretches from UVAC to Veterans Drive — the entrance to the VA Medical Center — which had 12 crashes and one injury to rank 154 of 772 segments named in the report. Veterans Drive to the I-91 northbound off ramp, near the intersection with Sykes Mountain Avenue, had 15 crashes including three injuries to rank 273rd, while a stretch extending from Highland Avenue to Goudreau Street, just north of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, had 12 crashes with no injuries.

The intersection of Routes 5 and 4 ranked 616th with 10 crashes.

Thursday’s meeting is part of a VTrans “scope study,” where additional problem areas and other concerns may be identified via public input. The information helps VTrans focus on areas that may need attention, according to project manager Erin Parizo.

“It helps us try to understand where the issues are and what some of the solutions might be,” Parizo said. “Some areas need added definition, whether it’s paint to mark the lanes or signage. A lot of mobility issues come up, defining who has the right of way and who yields, for example.”

In some cases, VTrans may consider whether a traffic signal is warranted to mitigate problem areas, Parizo said.

While there are no funding sources identified for future improvements along the corridor, Parizo said, Thursday’s meeting could put the wheels in motion toward future projects.

“Defining specific future projects and finding available funding will be determined at a later time,” Parizo wrote in an email.

As part of its collaboration with the UVM engineering students, Hartford DPW has posted a downtown White River Junction traffic improvements survey at www.hartford-vt.org.

The six-question survey inquires about interest in implementing features such as more two-way roads and better signage, parking availability and crosswalks and bike lanes.

Parizo expects many of those same topics to arise at Thursday’s public meeting about the Route 5 corridor, especially those pertaining to alternative and green transportation.

“These are things we’ve heard in our initial kick-off meeting with the town and other regional stakeholders already and will be considering moving forward,” she wrote.

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3216.