City officials pitch plan to improve West Lebanon streetscape

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 6/9/2022 9:43:25 PM
Modified: 6/9/2022 9:41:18 PM

LEBANON — The city has unveiled a $4 million plan to redesign the West Lebanon Main Street corridor with streetscape improvements including a roundabout at the intersection of Main Street and Bridge Street, to improve West Lebanon and make the area more attractive to residents and visitors alike.

David Brooks, director of planning and development, said at a recent City Council meeting that the city has done a lot of work to find what people want and, overwhelmingly, residents and business owners say an improved look is at the top of the list.

“One of the principal recommendations that came out of the 2019 visioning charrette was the desire and needs for streetscaping to make it more appealing to spend time there,” Brooks said, referring to a design workshop that took place the October before the pandemic hit.

Brooks said the study has been ongoing for a year and a half, and the West Lebanon Revitalization Advisory Committee has been studying the issue.

In a report to the council earlier this month, city staff said the need for improvements to the West Lebanon streetscape goes back decades, citing a series of reports and studies showing it to be a priority to residents and business owners.

Among the many needs identified were relocating on-street parking, wider sidewalks, buffers between cars and pedestrians, landscaping, improving connectivity for pedestrians, accessibility enhancements and places to sit with shade and more.

The West Lebanon Revitalization Advisory Committee, which has been studying the issue, advised the city to focus on key areas such as the Westboro Rail Yard, Greenway and Bridge Street Park, as well as prioritizing zoning changes and economic development.

The common thread, according to Brooks, is “opportunities to make it more pleasant and enjoyable to spend time there.”

“It just needs a little TLC,” he said. “Downtown needs some love and some attention.”

Brooks said the Planning and Development Department has held a variety of public events to gather feedback and now hopes to get authorization from the City Council to continue the work toward a final design and permitting.

Grant funding is under way, with hopes of beginning construction soon.

One of the items sure to be controversial is a proposed roundabout replacing the intersection at Main Street and Bridge Street.

Greg Bakos of Vanasse Hangen Brustlin presented the program and said traffic analysis shows the roundabout as a better option for the intersection.

A roundabout would result in reduced traffic delays, no left turns, traffic calming, reduced vehicle speeds, no traffic signal maintenance and better landscaping.

It would also be a safer option for walkability, Bakos asserted.

“One thing you’ll notice about the roundabout is you’ll have pedestrian crossings that will be better,” Bakos said. “You’ll have the ability to cross one lane at a time to refuge islands in the middle. Always looking to your left. It’s a simplified pedestrian environment.”

The roundabout isn’t just a beautification project but would allow the city to fix an intersection that is currently considered “failing” because it’s not designed for the amount of traffic it currently handles. Adding lanes to the current setup is not an option due to right-of-way space constraints

Many residents who spoke on the project were supportive of the roundabout and its contribution to efficiency and safety.

City councilors were also supportive, with a few reservations.

Karen Liot Hill said she supported the roundabout, but she called for a pedestrian survey, similar to the traffic survey, to study the impact on pedestrians and not just vehicle.

As for the cost of the project, the estimate currently sits at a little more than $4 million. The price tag has increased significantly since planning for the project began, Bakos said, though the work would extend not just to surface-level visuals but to infrastructure work, including stormwater improvements and sewer replacement.

The roundabout, which officials have stressed is optional, would also increase the total price tag, though removing it may end up costing the city more than forging ahead.

Officials have already included the roundabout in an application for a $2.3 million grant from the Federal Highway Administration that would cover about half of the project. But since the roundabout is the only transportation-related part of the proposal, removing it could imperil that application.

City Manager Shawn Mulholland pointed out that the federal highway funding is the largest pot of money available for grant work.

“The best chance of getting grant funding is going to be under the federal highway (grant),” Mulholland said. “The streetscape improvements the federal highway isn’t going to care about.

“We don’t have $4.1 million, I can tell you that right now,” Mulholland added. “One of our best opportunities is to get that $2.3 million to pay for half. Hopefully, costs don’t go up any more than they already are.”

Darren Marcy can be reached at dmarcy@vnews.com or 802-291-4992.




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