By Curt Peterson
Killington selectmen and planning commissioners met via Zoom on Wednesday, June 10, to hear what progress has been made on the “Killington Road Master Plan.”
According to traffic engineer Evan Detrick of Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc. (VHB), project cost could reach $33,200,000 and involves rebuilding almost 4 miles of Killington Road, from Route 4 to East Mountain Road at the entrance to Killington Resort, lowering the road surface as much as a foot in some places, easing the downhill grade approaching Route 4, and creating bus pulloffs and pedestrian/bicycle paths/sidewalks on both sides of Killington Road.
Burying utilities underground is also included in that estimate at $10 million. However, Town Manager Chet Hagenbarth said that Green Mountain Power is also looking to upgrade the electrical system in Killington and could be a possible working partner for that portion of the project.
Hagenbarth said the town had estimated rebuilding Killington Road “as is” at $8.5 million and doing the sidewalks would be an additional $2 million.
VHB recommends replacing one of the two downhill traffic lanes with a “two-direction center turning lane” to encourage slower speeds and to make accessing local businesses safer, also to eliminate the “slip lane” at the intersection of West Hill Road and replace the intersection with a roundabout.
Most traffic is on Killington Road, Detrick said, so the roundabout would essentially be a straight-through for them and not a bottleneck.
Selectman Jim Haff’s major concern is to allow for large plow trucks and fire trucks to make necessary turns.
Jeff Temple, of Killington Resort, questioned VHB’s data and doubted these recommendations won’t impede the large volume of skier traffic at night.
Planning Commission member Vince Wynn worried that snow-covered center lane markings won’t be visible to drivers. Detrick said adequate signage and keeping the road cleared of snow would minimize confusion.
Hagenbarth suggested rumble strips to indicate the turning lane boundaries.
Restaurant owner Chris Karr warned, “The last thing we want to do is constrict traffic flow to and from the Resort.”
An alternative, Detrick said, is to try the turning lane for one ski season by striping the road – if it doesn’t work, it can be restriped back to the original.
Town Planner Preston Bristow told the Mountain Times he is working on creating a TIF Zone (Tax Increment Financing Zone) for Killington to qualify for grants that would help finance the project.
Town Manager Chet Hagenbarth said creation of the master plan will also qualify the project for sidewalks, utilities and lighting grants.
Overall redesign goals include safety for vehicles, bikes and pedestrians, controlling the traffic speed, and enhancing roadside aesthetics.
At the August, 2019 project “kickoff” meeting Detrick promised the draft report would be ready by May, so it’s nearly on schedule. The final report, Detrick said, will be ready this coming fall. But it is estimated that the project won’t be completed for about 10 years.
Public input at this stage is enthusiastically sought.
To create the draft report VHB employed a “drone survey” merged with a topographical map providing a bird’s eye view of the road, its access points and the occupancies that inhabit it. Traffic counts were performed and analyzed, and the firm worked with the Agency of Natural Resources to identify wetlands, waterways, and endangered species that might be affected by the master plan.
“If we rebuild the road pretty much where it is, we won’t run into too many natural resources,” Detrick said. Adding sewer lines under the road will also be considered.
Detrick said traffic volume — 9,560 cars on a Saturday in 2020 — hasn’t changed since an earlier study in 2011. The road has total capacity for 1,900 cars at a time, and rarely exceeds 800 on a peak traffic day.
“The road still has plenty of capacity,” he said.
Speed, however, is an issue. Measured vehicle speed is generally about a third faster than the posted 35 mph limit (about 47 mph) Detrick reported, which makes stopping to cross lanes and constricting traffic very dangerous.
Provisions for pull-off bus stops and pedestrian/bicycle paths/sidewalks on both sides of Killington Road are included in the draft plan.
Lowering the road surface will eliminate a difference in elevation of up to a foot between business parking areas and the road created by years of resurfacing.