The inexorable march towards eliminating the West Hill Road slip lane advanced further at the Aug. 4, 2015, Select Board meeting wherein Chet Hagenbarth, town facilities and road manager, introduced his “West Hill Road signage package,” which included removing the West Hill Road street sign from the top of the slip lane and introducing a stop sign at the bottom of the slip lane. This configuration eliminates the “slip” characteristic of the slip lane as, rather than allowing traffic to move easily through the intersection of West Hill and Killington roads, it creates a congestive stop where there was none before. Removal of the street sign creates confusion as to whether the slip lane is actually part of West Hill. If you put a stop sign in a slip lane you’ve effectively eliminated its function. It has been the stated goal of the town’s administration to create “traffic calming,” which is a euphemism for “controlled congestion,” at this intersection. Do we really need congestion, controlled or otherwise?
This is supposedly being done to slow down northbound traffic entering West Hill Road, yet there was not even a speed limit sign reducing the speed to 25 mph from 35 mph until I recently brought it to the attention of the Select Board. That is how concerned the town’s administration actually was about speeds on West Hill Road—they did not even realize they did not have a speed limit sign posted to slow down traffic, yet now we’re faced with the prospect of having a stop sign placed there.
All recent actions at that intersection point to discouraging the use of the slip lane. It was supposed to be repaved a year ago and was mysteriously not, even while a paving machine literally sat on it for a week. Then the massive potholes and runnels were not filled in until recently with cold patch, and that just after the lines had been painted, obliterating them and creating an unsightly mess. Arrow stencils were painted on Killington Road where there were none before, directing traffic to take the 90-degree turn at the lights instead of using the slip lane.
Now the repaving is even further delayed until next year because of bureaucratic delays in the installation of the sidewalk from Schoolhouse Road to West Hill.
These are all subtle psychological ploys to make drivers, especially visitors unfamiliar with the roads, avoid the slip lane. Don’t kid yourselves, these ploys are effective. I bet that once the not-knowing-any-better traffic starts to funnel through the right-angle turn at the West Hill Road traffic lights, a study will be commissioned to analyze traffic counts and a new initiative to close the slip lane will surface. In fact, a traffic study was already suggested at last night’s meeting.
If any of you care about this issue, the Select Board has decided to put this on the agenda at their Sept. 1 meeting at 7:30 p.m. (Town Hall downstairs meeting room). You can bet it will be loaded with experts, consultants, traffic engineers and the like, who will tout the benefits of putting the stop sign there if not outright closing the slip lane.
I am not the only ones thinking this way. At the last planning commission meeting the chairman himself wondered out loud if the painting of the arrows was indicative of a conspiracy to close down the slip lane. So while lip service is being paid to supposedly no plans in the offing to shut down the slip lane, the actions being taken at that intersection seem to harbinger otherwise.
Vito Rasenas, Killington