Hardwick, News

New Pedestrian Crosswalks Increase Visibility

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HARDWICK – Anyone walking, biking or driving through Hardwick recently has almost certainly noticed the newly-painted and highly-visible pedestrian crosswalks.

photo by Vanessa Fournier
Carlotta Hayes of Hardwick uses one of the six newly painted and easier-to-see crosswalks in Hardwick village.

Work that led to the new crosswalks began with a pedestrian and traffic safety task force formed in 2019 due to complaints and concerns about safety issues, according to Hardwick Community Development Coordinator Tracy Martin. She also shared information about a grant that’s been received from VTrans to cover the cost of hiring a transportation planner to conduct a study and recommend improvements along 1060 feet of Mill Street and South Main Street (Vt. Route 15).

The complaints and concerns seem to be supported by data in the Vtrans grant application showing that, “In the last five years, from December 1, 2017 to November 30, 2023, there have been 25 traffic accidents involving property damage in the proposed scoping study area, with an additional four accidents resulting in injury.”

The task force formed in 2020 was made up of the Planning Commission and Select Board members Elizabeth Dow and Shari Cornish.

They conducted an AARP-style walkability audit of Mill Street, Main Street and in East Hardwick in 2020. That work was interrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic and then the state paving project came through town.

In 2022, the town’s Planning Commission received technical assistance from Local Motion to develop plans for a Lamoille Valley Rail Trail (LVRT)-Downtown loop.

courtesy U.S. Dept. of Transportation Sharrows are lane pavement markings with bicycle symbols and arrows, carefully placed to guide bicyclists to the best place to ride on the road, avoid car doors, and remind drivers to share the road with cyclists. Unlike bicycle lanes, sharrows do not designate a particular part of the street for the exclusive use of bicyclists; they are simply a marking to guide bicyclists to the best place to ride and help motorists expect to see and share the lane with bicyclists.

The goal of that work was to create the safest possible route for LVRT users to access Hardwick’s commercial center. A secondary goal was to improve bicycle access from Hazen Union High School to the LVRT and downtown.

Final recommendations for the loop have been accepted by the select board, but many of the recommended improvements have been held up because they are tied to the replacement of the pedestrian bridge between South Main Street next to the Civic Standard and Daniels Road, across the Lamoille River.

That bridge project has now received significant federal, state, and private funding and is moving forward.

The section of South Main Street to be studied under the VTrans grant was highlighted as part of that loop.

The VTrans grant covers $40,000, with a $10,000 town match to contract with a transportation planner to carry out a transportation study from the Civic Standard’s location on South Main Street, into the center of town where North and South Main St. meet, then along Mill Street, past the Buffalo Mountain Market.

The study is in keeping with the town plan that, “Hardwick should adopt a Complete Streets philosophy that includes universal design for accessibility.”

As stated in the VTrans grant application, “One of the two specific goals identified in the plan is that ‘pedestrian and non-vehicular transportation networks should be safe and conveniently located to encourage their use.’ The related actions and recommendations in the transportation section of the municipal plan include that the ‘town should encourage the provision of safe and convenient alternatives to automobile travel for local trips . . .’

Work by the consultant will “Advocate for and support town efforts to provide safe, accessible and convenient pedestrian and bicycle networks to encourage their use.”

“The most exciting recent development for walkers and cyclists in Hardwick has been the completion of the LVRT,” suggests the VTrans grant application.

The LVRT runs through Hardwick, defining the northeastern border of the designated downtown, and crossing North Main Street just above the Church Street intersection and below Hazen Union High School.

Also in 2022, in response to recommendations from the Pedestrian and Traffic Safety Task Force, the Town of Hardwick repaved the sidewalk on the north side of Church Street, creating a safer pedestrian connection between key public buildings including, the Jeudevine Library, the Hardwick Memorial Building, the Hardwick Town House, and the Hardwick Train Depot.

Other improvements made as a result of task force recommendations include the addition of crosswalks and signage at key locations, the removal of unsafe parking spots, the installation of speed bumps on West Church Street (which have since been removed), and the placement of “share the road” signage and sharrows along commonly traveled routes.

The funded study “is the obvious next step to address pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure needs in downtown Hardwick. Essential services including the post office, a laundromat, and the only downtown grocery store lie along the two sections of road to be included in the proposed scoping study,” noted the grant application.

“Among the most serious issues in our project area are the absence of any sidewalk for approximately 690 feet on north side of Mill Street; the lack of a proper crosswalk connecting a public parking lot on the south side of Mill Street and the Buffalo Mountain Market on the north side of the street; and the busy intersection of North Main Street, South Main Street and Mill Street. Additionally, sharrows are the only accommodation that have been made for bicycles on both blocks included in this project,” said the grant.

A 2022 Economic Impact Study on the LVRT commissioned by the Northeastern Vermont Development Association, predicts more than 60,000 visitors annually on the segment of the trail running from Greensboro to Hardwick. “This projected increase in bicycle traffic has contributed to the sense of urgency about the proposed study,” noted the VTrans grant application.

Martin says that input from the public will be an important part of the study.

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