A construction project slated for 2023 anticipates easing traffic at the Severance Corners intersection in Colchester as the area sees increased development in the years to come.
The intersection, where Blakely and Severance roads cross U.S. routes 7 and 2, is known as a “designated growth center” for Colchester, said Erin Parizo, project manager for the Vermont Agency of Transportation.
As a state-designated growth center, Severance Corners will develop into Colchester’s new town center, explained Sarah Hadd, the town’s director of planning and zoning. So far, over 200 units of housing and 80,000 square feet of mixed commercial space have been approved for development with more to come, she said.
“There are some benefits to [the growth center] in terms of prioritization of funding for transportation resources,” Hadd added.
Although the town created the original plans for improving the intersection, VTrans took over the project when state and federal funding became available through the circumferential highway alternatives process, public works director Bryan Osborne said.
As Severance Corners continues to grow, traffic volumes will follow, Parizo said.
“We wanted to build the intersection ahead of that to accommodate traffic and pedestrian volume it would hopefully bring in,” she said.
“If nothing was built there, the background [traffic] volumes would be increasing and causing delays,” echoed Hadd.
The improvements will focus mainly on bettering traffic, which are graded on an A-F “level of service” scale. The state targets a C-average, which, as of 2007, was met during afternoon peak hours, but the morning peak gets a D-rating, Parizo said.
These ratings and the desire to improve capacity there were catalysts for the project, she said. The intersection currently sees approximately 25,000 cars per day, and that number will only increase as development continues.
Plans call for widening the intersection and adding an extra turn lane to each road. To accommodate the wider roads, traffic signals will be updated and condensed into a single, larger structure spanning the intersection.
Officials say the changes will make the intersection safer. Although not designated as a high crash location by the state, Severance Corners has seen 37 crashes in the last five years, Parizo noted.
“We definitely want to improve safety and reduce those crashes as much as possible,” she said.
The project will also increase pedestrian facilities in the area, adding five-foot bike lanes, a shared use path, signalized pedestrian crossings and painted crosswalks to enhance safety as foot traffic also increases, Parizo said.
While plans for the intersection are underway, there are still some hurdles to overcome before construction can start.
Currently, the project is going through the National Environmental Policy Act review process. Parizo said the next step is hosting a hearing to get public input about the project, which will most likely happen in August or September.
After public comments help shape a preliminary design for the project, it still has to go through environmental permitting and the right-of-way acquisition process, Parizo said.
“Because we’re widening the road, there will be a lot of conversations to be had with property owners,” she added.
Town officials are confident the improvements will positively affect the Colchester community.
“It will make it a safer intersection for the community and those traveling in and out,” Hadd said. “It will also help facilitate Colchester’s growth as we continue to grow.”