A New Bridge for Pedestrians and Bicyclists
The I-89 Exit 14 Crossing Study is Complete
For walkers and bikers (or those who have long imagined doing so) Williston Road over I-89 has long been a sore spot. There are over a thousand hotel rooms hosting visitors on Williston Road, the University of Vermont and the UVM Medical Center – two of Vermont’s largest employers – are just up the hill to the west, the U-Mall sits just south, and South Burlington neighborhoods are all around. It is clear there are plenty of reasons to cross Exit 14 and people who want to do so. But take the sidewalk or bike lane (where it exists) on either the north or south side of Williston Road, and you will find yourself navigating four interstate on- or off-ramps full of commuters. Not fun on one of the busiest intersections in the state.
Some type of pedestrian or bicycle crossing has been on the City’s Official map for over a decade. When the City obtained approval for the TIF District financing plan to realize the vision of a walkable livable downtown in City Center, the door opened to initiate this project.
Both an asset and a barrier, I-89’s Exit 14 connects South Burlington to the rest of Vermont, Canada, and New England via the US Route 2 (Williston Road) corridor. Any solution would need to protect access to this resource, as well as expand capacity and attractiveness of walking and biking.
Working with the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission, the “I-89 Exit 14 Alternative Transportation Crossing Study” was completed—the first step in a multi-phase project. The study goal was to understand how and where safe and comfortable access across this interchange could be achieved.
Public workshops were held. Stakeholders were consulted. Users were surveyed online and by postcard. The Planning Commission approved the Purpose and Need statement with key elements: be attractive and develop a distinctive identity for City Center, be all-season, maintain efficiency of I-89, and accommodate both walkers and bicyclists in a safe way.
Several alternatives considered were bridges – to the south or north or over top – also on the table was a gondola and even putting a separated bicycle facility down the center of Williston Road. These alternatives were laid out and tested.
The recommended solution:
A single span bicycle/pedestrian bridge over I-89, just south of the Exit 14 interchange ramps. The bridge would be accessed by a shared use path from Staples Plaza to the west and by a path to the CVS to the east. A connection would also be built to the shared use path in the Quarry Hill neighborhood and potentially to the University Mall property.
The City has requested that CCRPC continue with a Phase II, now that an alternative has been identified. The next phase will figure out what type of bridge will cross the interstate. It will seek to understand exactly where and at what elevation this bridge connects to places, where bicyclists and walkers travel and what are the costs of doing so. Most importantly Phase II will explore options to meet the Planning Commission’s need that this facility is attractive to pedestrians and bicyclists and creates identity for City Center.