Reports of unsafe driving conditions have prompted village trustees to unanimously green-light closure of what they say is a popular Five Corners bypass route.
Village staff will place a small barrier preventing access from Pearl Street to the municipal parking lot behind the Essex Jct. Fire Station and install up to nine new parking spaces beside the building. Pedestrians and bicyclists will still be able to use the road.
Community development director Robin Pierce said that will make the area safer and also provide more parking in a lot that serves a slew of local destinations, including the senior center, Brownell Library and several local businesses.
“We thought it was worth a try,” he said, citing limited costs: about $50 to paint the new spaces.
Essex Jct. Fire Chief Chris Gaboriault said his department often sees drivers use the road as a cut-through and noted his crew sometimes struggles to find adequate parking, which can be an issue during trainings and emergencies.
“It’s a problem when you pull in and then you’ve got to go back out and find parking,” he said.
Trustee Lori Houghton, a co-owner of two businesses located adjacent to the parking lot, said she’s seen a handful of close calls due to drivers using the road.
“It is very dangerous,” she said.
Reaction to the news on social media was mixed. Commenting on a post about the trustees’ decision, most lamented having to now pass through the oft-congested Five Corners and enter through the Lincoln Street entrance to access the municipal parking lot, while one commenter felt the decision was justified.
“A child’s safety is worth a bit of inconvenience,” wrote Timothy Williams. “The drivers who are in such a hurry are at fault here, not the trustees.”
The street’s closure is the trustees’ latest attempt to crack down on the practice of using side streets to bypass the Five Corners intersection while also increasing pedestrian safety in the village.
Helping that effort is a recently-earned $8,600 grant from the Vermont Agency of Transportation Small Scale Bicycle and Pedestrian Program, which the village plans to match with its own funds and purchase flashing beacons for crosswalks to help pedestrians navigate busy streets.