“Shape a safe and complete streets project for a livable community as well as enabling a thriving business and arts center”
Cities evolve and so must their transportation systems. The South End highway project—once part of a long abandoned freeway encircling Burlington and subsequently up-dated--still fails to serve the City’s residents.
First called the “Southern Connector” and more recently the “Champlain Parkway,” the project requires a reconceptualization to incorporate safety, street connectivity, a reduction in intersection delay, and to support pleasant walk and bike-ability. With these improvements, the corridor can enhance our burgeoning South End Arts District and associated businesses. Over the last year, City residents in the Save Streets Burlington Coalition (SSB) have met among themselves and with City officials, eventually formulating the following “Champlain Parkway and Pine Street Corridor Redesign Guidelines” (Guidelines).
While specific details will require the work of experts, these principles reflect our collective vision of streets supporting livable communities. When the initial thoroughfare was planned in the 1960s, it incorporated a “speed-the-car” logic. The current Parkway design remains committed to that outdated concept. Worse, the $43 million current Parkway design moves away from both safe street and complete street principles. These better principles are reflected in recent public discussions, Plan BTV Downtown and Plan BTV South End, the North Avenue Corridor Plan, the recent preliminary Railyard studies. the 2014 recommendations of the city's Walk Bike Council, and the City Walk Bike Master Plan now nearing conclusion. The current Parkway plan contravenes each of these studies. In January 2016, SSB issued a White Paper which identified South End road needs as beginning with separate walk and bike facilities, environmental sensitivity along this sensitive lake-front area, and overall livability. It prioritized safety—minimizing highway injuries and fatalities—and called for roundabouts rather than signaled intersections.
These briefer “Champlain Parkway and Pine Street Corridor Redesign Guidelines” do not attempt a detailed prescription but set a starting point and identify essential planning principles to guide any final design. Robust public discussion must be a component as the design phase continues to address integration of mass transit along the Pine Street corridor, traffic facilitation on the Pine/King and Pine/Maple intersections, and preservation of existing businesses and rail activity.
Design Guideline: Bottom of Pine Street to Flynn Avenue The present Parkway design reduces the roadway to one lane in each direction with a median on the section west of Shelburne Road. While this works, there’s a flaw. What’s needed at Pine Street is an intersection that avoids barricading off this important north/south corridor from points south so access to Queen City Park Road and the Kmart lot and other area businesses is maintained. The abandoned Kmart Plaza is a natural site for an intercept park-and-ride facility to shuttle workers to and from Burlington employers including the Hill institutions. Within the project’s 25 year lifetime, it is likely a New North End to Kmart Plaza light rail line will be built to connect North Avenue, the Marketplace, then follow Pine Street through Kmart Plaza and beyond. From the Pine Street interchange, a simple two-lane street with a median should continue to the Home Avenue intersection. From Home Avenue to Flynn Avenue, the Parkway becomes a local street conforming to the “complete street” design which includes separate bike and walking paths along the present routes of Bachelor and Briggs streets, with full connectivity to Morse Place, Lyman Street and Ferguson Avenue. This scraps the present design which would walled off these streets with a limited-access Parkway. The SSB plan enables full access to City Market planned at Flynn. That intersection, as well as the Pine/Parkway exchange, must be efficiently supported by roundabouts. Using Bachelor and Briggs will save a considerable amount of money and free up land, as contrasted with the present Parkway plan.
Design Guideline: Flynn to Lakeside We propose eliminating the planned roadway from Flynn to Lakeside that would otherwise traverse industrial plant areas and sensitive marshes. Advantages in doing so include the opportunity to conserve natural areas bordering Englesby Brook and a better
system of managing lakewater rise and stormwater runoff. The large Gilbane open area between Sears Lane and Lakeside Avenue becomes fully available for business development. With provision of a structured intercept parking at Kmart Plaza, the linear parking transit zone becomes available for higher value us as does a portion of the narrowed Parkway east of the proposed Pine/Parkway intersection. Space now becomes available both north and south of the Innovation Center for business development, increasing its critical mass and creating a “South End innovation enclave.”
Design Guideline: Safe, Separate Bicycle Routes and Walkways The SSB design principles accommodate a seasonal multi-use path along the Parkway from Shelburne Road to Pine Street. At that point separate walk and bike paths would take users through to Curtis Lumber, either via Pine or via Bachelor and Briggs. At Curtis Lumber, a proposed new road following the defunct rail spur would connect Pine to South Champlain Street and the walk and bike paths would follow this route—connecting to the Burlington Bikepath via the Battery Street/Maple Street intersetion. All season lighting and plowing would be provided, maintaining these as safe alternatives to single occupancy automobile use.
Design Guideline: Pine Street from Lakeside Avenue to Main Street Cycle track along Pine Street in this portion would be facilitated by re-alignment of Pine between Howard Street and the old Public Works facility, narrowing by about six feet the western green strip and creating space to widen the sidewalk and add a green strip on the east side of Pine Street facilitating the attractiveness of businesses there. A separate two-way bikeway from Pine and Lakeside to Curtis Lumber using the rail spur and separate sidewalk can easily be installed. Design Guideline: Pine Street from Lakeside Avenue to Main Street Money saved by down-sizing the Home/Flynn segment and eliminating the Flynn/Lakeside component is now available to improve Pine Street from Lakeside Avenue south to the I-189 interchange. Pedestrian improvements like the Pine Street-Home Avenue roundabout contained in a Walk Bike Master plan draft, recommendations from the AARP Dan Burden Pine Street workshop, and bike lanes can be considered. The narrowness of Pine Street south of Lakeside Avenue may constrain choices for bicycle accommodation on lower Pine Street.
Design Guideline: Railyard to the Burlington Bike Path and Main Street: the Tuning Fork Here we propose a street circulation concept, a clockwise circulation of traffic one way north from Curtis Lumber/Pine to Maple, then west to South Champlain, then one-way south on that street back to Curtis Lumber and Pine. With Pine Street south of Curtis Lumber as the stem, the circulator reminds one of a tuning fork with South Champlain and Pine the two northward elements. Already rail yard planning includes the extension of a walk/bike connection from Curtis Lumber to Battery Street and the Burlington Bikepath giving the South End a bicycle route to Union Station, the College Street Shuttle, and the planned Amtrak service. Since the circulator would likely require only one lane to accommodate traffic each of the two north/south elements, space is left for both bike and pedestrian connectivity on separate paths. For information about Champlain Parkway Re-Design see Pine Street Coalition website https://www.facebook.com/SSBPineStreetNOW/ or Safe Streets Burlington website: www.SafeStreetsBurlington.com 3/19/2016