Home News and Features City to Relieve Traffic Headaches at Main and Barre Intersection

City to Relieve Traffic Headaches at Main and Barre Intersection

The intersection of Main and Barre Streets. Photo by John Lazenby.
By Mason Singer

The main gateway to Montpelier’s retail center contains a dizzying amount of activity for a small municipality. That’s why work on a state-of-the-art traffic light is slated for this summer at the junction of Main and Barre streets, where drivers often experience long delays, and pedestrians and cyclists alike have trouble navigating.

An active railroad crossing, parking lot entrances and exits, bicycle and pedestrian paths, a bus stop, parking spots, crosswalks, sidewalks, and streets all converge here. Compounding the congestion is a new crosswalk only feet away from, and parallel to, an existing crosswalk with blinking lights. A recent paved entrance to some improved city parking has only intensified the confusion. 

A pedestrian prepares to cross at the Barre and Main intersection. Photo by John Lazenby.
The new light is the first of two upcoming schemes intended to smooth movement and improve safety at the juncture, according to Corey Line, the city engineer managing both projects. 

The second undertaking aims to establish better passage through the busy intersection for cyclists and will create a solid link between existing sections of the downtown bike path where it crosses Main Street by Shaw’s supermarket.

The two projects, though closely related, have separate funding sources and are viewed by the city as independent undertakings with different timelines, Line indicated.

Construction will likely cause more traffic delays than usual in the short term, said Line, but officials hope that by fall traffic will move more fluidly than in years. 

A $500,000 bond for the light was approved by voters in March, and the city will soon select a consultant to develop the site plan. A series of public presentations will follow, with each step “providing an added level of detail as public comments and site limitations are taken into account before construction begins,” Line said. 

When completed, “The lights in the area will all talk with one another,” Line added, and use “adaptive technology” to match cycles with other lights on Memorial Drive and State Street, changing as needed in real time.

The new bike path connector, funded by state and federal monies, will incorporate part of Barre Street and form a safe corridor for cyclists to travel through the intersection and beyond. 

Officials chose the crossing design from several proposed in a comprehensive 2019 study by Dubois & King, Line said. Extending the bike path down Barre Street will require “demolishing the south side sidewalk, curb reconstruction and moving six catch basins,” according to the study.

Barre Street will likely need to be closed or reduced to one lane during construction, the study points out, and the finished plan will necessitate the loss of 13 public parking spots — much to the concern of some residents and downtown retailers.

“It is too early to know all of the potential traffic impacts during construction,” Line noted, but traffic control plans will be submitted to officials before starting, and the public will be kept apprised.