The drivers have spoken: The City of Burlington will widen the too-tight intersection at St. Paul and Maple streets in response to numerous complaints from motorists that a redesigned curb there is causing havoc.
Known as a "bump-out," the extended curb design is meant to lessen the road-crossing distance for pedestrians. It's just one feature of the city's Great Streets Initiative, which aims to create friendlier roadways for walkers and cyclists in the six blocks contained by Maple, Battery, Pearl and South Union streets. The ongoing construction project on St. Paul Street, from Main to Maple, is the city's first Great Streets endeavor.
Vehicles collided with the curb nearly as soon as contractor S.D. Ireland installed it last month, in some cases causing hundreds of dollars in damage. Seven Days reported on the issue in its September 11 edition. Then, on Tuesday night, the city's Department of Public Works announced that it will widen the intersection and angle the curbs to make the passageway more forgiving. The changes will cost $20,000 on top of the $4.9 million project budget, which is primarily paid with tax-increment financing dollars.
"Our team is a learning organization. We innovate, and we’re trying to address longstanding challenges," DPW Director Chapin Spencer said. "The project overall has been remarkably successful."
Crews will begin the re-redesign next week. Each curb on the intersection's southern side will be reduced by four feet to widen the roadway by a total of eight feet. The resulting changes will create an opening of 30 feet — still eight feet narrower than before the project started.
The curbs there and at St. Paul and King streets will be "chamfered," or angled down to create a duller edge, according to Spencer. He sees the modifications as a compromise between the oft-competing goals of drivers and pedestrians.
"Everything we do is trying to balance the variety of needs in the narrow rights-of-way we have in New England," Spencer said. "This is an appropriate response to both the public input and our further engineering analysis."
Spencer expects the work will take five days, but noted the city is still aiming to finish the entire project by month's end. St. Paul between Maple and King streets remains closed to traffic and has been for months.
Spencer emphasized that Great Streets is a long-range planning goal that's about more than curbs. Conceptual drawings for other Great Streets projects, such as on Main Street, show wider sidewalks, rain gardens, terraces for public art installations and covered bike parking.