Route 7 gets new rumble strips in effort to increase safety

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Rumble strips have been added to sections of Route 7 in Bennington County, including a stretch in Pownal where two fatal accidents occurred last winter, as part of a statewide effort to increase safety along the Route 7 corridor, officials said.

The federally funded project of the Vermont Agency of Transportation began about a month ago. All rumble strip installations as part of the project have been completed in Bennington County, said Matthew Bogaczyk, project manager for VTrans.

"Rumble strips are a proven safety enhancement, which is why we're installing them," Bogaczyk said. "[We're] just trying to be ahead of any type of crash that may occur."

Center line rumble strips have been linked to a 44-percent reduction in head-on and fatal injury crashes on two-lane roads, according to a fact sheet on the project. In Vermont, they have reduced center line-related fatal crashes by 20 percent, according to the fact sheet. Bogaczyk characterized the project as a "preventative-type action."

Center line rumble strips are made of a series of raised or milled elements, alerting drivers through both vibration and sound that their vehicles have left the travel lane, according to Federal Highway Administration information.

No crash or pattern of crashes influenced the effort, but with this project, VTrans looked for opportunities to add more rumble strips in Bennington County partially in response to the two fatal crashes last winter, Bogaczyk said. The crashes were both near Peaks Pine Road.

Robert G. Dross, a 21-year-old Pownal firefighter, was killed in a two-car crash Feb. 1. A Shaftsbury firefighter, Shelby Coon, of Bennington, was killed in a one-car crash March 4.

In March, the Pownal Select Board voted to ask state transportation officials to study a stretch of Route 7 for potential safety upgrades, after the two fatal crashes. The project is not in response to that safety study, Bogaczyk said.

The project also includes center line marking along the length of Route 7, and edge line and lane line marking on the state-maintained portions of the roadway, according to the fact sheet.

Bogaczyk said he's unaware of any other safety improvement projects planned for Route 7.

VTrans evaluated all the towns that Route 7 passes through as part of this project; almost all of them have had or will have these strips installed, he said.

Selected stretches of roadway had to meet certain criteria, including having a speed limit of 45 mph or more and a pavement width of 28 feet or more, Bogaczyk said.

The project provided for possible exceptions if these criteria were not met but there was a pattern of head-on, side-swipe or single vehicle off-road crashes.

For many years, Route 7 in the area of Pownal center up to Bennington has had a large number of incidents, said Bill Botzow, D-Pownal, who has long advocated for safety improvements on the road.

Botzow said he hopes the rumble strips are an improvement, but it's hard to say whether this project will be adequate to solve the problem.

VTrans has done a good job with the resources they have, he said — but there's a lot of work to do.

"There's a lot of work to be done to make sure our highways are not dangerous to travelers," he said."I would hope the Agency of Transportation will keep this section [of] road on their watch list, and take any and all appropriate improvements for the safety of residents and travelers."

Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at pleboeuf@benningtonbanner.com, at @BAN_pleboeuf on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 118.


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