Sidewalks in Stowe village are still being rebuilt as summer fades to fall, but a potential problem has already come to light.
A series of new bump-outs — sidewalk and curb extensions at crosswalks that stick out into the road farther than normal — make it difficult for school buses and other large vehicles to turn safely off Main Street onto side streets.
“It’s a big problem,” said Elaine Percy, owner of Percy Transportation, which provides bus services for Stowe schools. “You have to swing wide, into the oncoming lane, to make the corner.”
Harry Shepard, Stowe’s public works director, has heard the complaints. He thinks things will be fine.
The bump-outs are new, he said, and “change is often something people take a little while” to adjust to.
“I’ve seen buses go through these intersections without issue,” he said.
The bump-outs are designed to improve safety for pedestrians using the crosswalks, Shepard said. The bump-outs give drivers a heads-up that there’s a crosswalk there, and help to slow traffic down in general because they stick out into the road. Plus, they increase visibility by ensuring someone crossing the street isn’t hidden behind a parked vehicle until they’re actually step into the road.
Two side streets, School and Depot, are the main routes to Stowe Elementary School. Each has a crosswalk, and now a bump-out, at its intersection with Main Street, and Percy’s drivers have had to deal with the new traffic feature.
“School Street is almost impossible,” Percy said. Big vehicles headed south can turn onto School and Depot streets because they have a whole traffic lane to maneuver in, making it easy to take a wide turn. But northbound vehicles have no room to make that wide turn. The corner is tight.
From Shepard’s perspective, “they seem to be functioning as intended, for enhanced pedestrian safety.” He called them a “tremendous improvement” for pedestrians.
Issues with the bump-outs are probably magnified by the ongoing construction, he said. The bump-outs will make snow removal a bit tougher, but he’s confident that once construction is completed and people get used to the bump-outs, things will smooth out.
Plus, like the centers of the roundabouts springing up all over Vermont, the bump-outs are designed to allow large vehicles, like buses or trucks, to mount them if that’s what it takes to make the turn.
“If drivers have to mount the curb, they’re designed for that,” Shepard said, and that’s what drivers should do once construction is finished, rather than swinging out into the other lane.
Percy hopes to meet with Town Manager Charles Safford, the select board and other town officials to hash out a better solution.
“I’m hoping we can figure out a solution that will work for everybody,” Percy said.
This week’s developments
The project to rebuild the village sidewalks and prepare to bury Main Street utility wires beneath them continues.
This week’s work focused on curb installation, mainly Tuesday and Wednesday, on School and Sunset streets, at the corner of Main Street and Mountain Road and along Maple Street.
For much of the week, traffic was detoured around Maple Street via West Hill, Mayo Farm and Weeks Hill roads to Mountain Road. School Street was also closed sporadically during the week, and paving was scheduled around the Akeley Memorial Building, Stowe Community Church and TD Bank.
Early this week, part of South Main Street was closed for overnight work; traffic was detoured on Moscow, Barrows and Luce Hill roads to Mountain Road. At midweek, the goal was to shift that type of work to lower Mountain Road, near the Main Street intersection. Detours were planned there, too.
For more information, contact Abby Earle at 253-7350 or email@example.com.