By Mara Brooks, Editor

The Selectboard approved a traffic and speed calming study in the east and west villages to be conducted by the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission (CCRPC). The study, which was voted on at the board’s August 23 regular meeting, will focus on two village intersections and gather data about quantity of traffic, types of vehicles, and speeds at which vehicles are traveling.

Town Administrator Dean Bloch said the CCRPC asked the town to match 20 percent of the study’s estimated $20,000 cost. After a discussion, the Selectboard approved the $4,000 contribution.

“We’re not just looking to lower speed limits, we’re looking at a more comprehensive suite of strategies and methods to address traffic calming,” Bloch said. “The speed limits in the west village are already fairly low.”

Dean said as part of the study, the CCRPC would hold public meetings and develop “site-specific” traffic calming strategies in both the east and west villages.

For months, Charlotte residents have voiced concerns about speeding motorists, particularly on Greenbush and Ferry roads. Suggested solutions posted by residents on Front Porch Forum include adding speedbumps and/or traffic cameras, increasing signage, solar speed feedback displays, and lowering town speed limits.

Selectboard member Lewis Mudge described the current 45 mph and 50 mph speed limits on Spear Street as “ridiculous.”

“You’ve got a church, you’ve got the Grange, you’ve got a horse stable up there,” Mudge said. “It’s absolutely necessary to get some type of dialogue started on calming that [traffic] down.”

While northern Spear Street has a speed limit of 45 mph, the southern portion does not have an established speed limit. Selectboard Chair Matt Krasnow pointed out that 50 mph is the default speed limit for unposted paved roads in Vermont. (For unposted class 3 gravel roads, the default speed limit is 35 mph.)

“The town did not set [the speed limit] at 50, that’s the de facto speed of a road that has not had its speed limit set by the town,” Krasnow said.

In 2013, Chittenden County Regional Commission performed a speed limit study on Spear Street from the Shelburne Town line to Hinesburg Road (“Section A”), and from Hinesburg Road to Prindle Road (“Section B”). Their findings indicated 85 percent of motorists traveling both north and southbound on Section A drove an average of 54 mph, while northbound motorists on Section B drove an average of 52 mph. Southbound drivers on Section B drove an average of 42 mph.

The CCRC made several recommendations in the 2013 study, including lowering the posted speed limit from 50 mph to 45 mph, adding pavement edge markings on Spear St. and Hinesburg Road, adding “Stop Ahead” sign locations on all four approaches at the intersection of Spear Street and Hinesburg Road, and other traffic calming measures.

Bloch said the town implemented some, but not all, of the 2013 recommendations. An amendment to the town’s motor vehicle and traffic regulation ordinance was filed in April 2014 setting a maximum speed limit of 45 mph on portions of Greenbush Road, Spear Street, Mount Philo Road and Hinesburg Road. The town also added painted “fog lines” (white lines) on all four approaches to the stop signs in the east village as well as for the west village stop sign.

“The planned CCRPC study will help determine whether [the changes made after the 2013 study] made a difference by providing data that can be compared to previously collected speed data,” Bloch said.

The 2016 handbook “Setting Speed Limits – A Guide for Vermont Towns” prepared by the Vermont Local Roads Program states that towns “tend to set speed limits too low” thereby creating more speeders as “the majority of motorists drive at speeds they perceive to be safe.”

CCRPC Communications Manager Emma Vaughn said speed data collection in the East Charlotte Village will commence after Labor Day weekend and the commission hopes to hire a consultant in September “to assist with the development of traffic calming measures, short- and long-term.”