The other night we were walking in downtown Burlington toward the Front Street Bottle Shop where a holiday gathering was scheduled. As we turned the corner of Main and Front streets, I pointed to an unsightly row of rolling trash carts on the sidewalk facing the Historic Depot from in front of the old Trollinger’s flower shop. There were six or eight of them taking up a good chunk of walking space and offering the kind of view sometimes available at your better landfills.
“You won’t be seeing these much longer,” I told Roselee, my long-suffering spouse who is often bombarded by me with what seem to be random proclamations on any number of subjects.
In this case, however, there was a point. The rolling trash carts are used by businesses or residents in Burlington and are usually placed in front of properties for easy pickup by the city. In many residential areas the carts are rolled out once a week then taken back inside to a carport or garage — usually. In downtown, however, space and other constraints lead businesses to simply leave the carts out on the sidewalk 24/7. But there are a couple of problems. The trash carts aren’t visually attractive and not conducive to the kind of positive downtown experience the city and the Downtown Corporation would like for visitors. They not only take up space on the sidewalk, but in the summertime in particular reek to high heavens — or worse.
In January that changes.
The Burlington Downtown Corporation worked with business owners and the City of Burlington Public Works Department to come up with a workable plan that will be put in place at the start of 2020. Al Cablay, director of Public Works for the city, presented the solution to the BDC board — full disclosure, I’m on that board — a couple of months ago. It was later approved by the City Council. It creates zones in the downtown area where dumpsters will be placed in contained enclosures. Businesses downtown will take their trash there for city pickup and rolling receptacles now on the sidewalk will be eliminated. The enclosures will be set up so the dumpsters will not be immediately visible. BDC board member Casey Lewis, who owns Owl and Rabbit Gallery on Front Street, helped get agreement from business owners. The smaller “silver bullet” trash cans for pedestrian use will remain with perhaps a couple added.
When I first joined the BDC board in the fall of 2018, I learned that solving this problem had been a high priority for a couple of years. I could understand why. For years it wasn’t a major concern because much of downtown was largely abandoned. But as more businesses opened over the past few years it became a matter the BDC targeted for resolution.
Now, hopefully it will be.
A three-way solution?
Another possible change in downtown would turn the intersection of Main and Front streets into a three-way stop. At the moment the only stop sign there is at Main Street, with traffic flowing unimpeded on Front. Downtown growth, however, has created a hazard for motorists and pedestrians who use that intersection.
Motorists stopped on Main Street beside Burlington Beer Works, across from the Historic Depot, have limited visibility on Front Street in either direction. Street parking makes emerging from Main onto Front in either direction an invitation for an accident. And even though there are pedestrian crosswalks on either side of Main Street, drivers often don’t stop for those on foot or even slow down as they go through the intersection in case a pedestrian might be approaching.
As a result, placing stop signs on Front Street on either side of the Main Street exit has been proposed. It has been OK’d by the city Traffic Commission and will go before the City Council at a future meeting.
I expect some debate about making the change. But speaking as someone who drives on both streets regularly, it’s probably past time to make that intersection safer for motorists and pedestrians. More people are visiting downtown than at any time in the past three decades. That is expected to continue.
And if the downtown long-term strategic plan devised by the BDC and approved by the City Council proceeds, the intersection may change again in a few years anyway. One of the highest priorities of the 7 in 7 proposal is moving the Historic Depot and reopening Main Street and reconnecting East and West Burlington. Stay tuned.