[Talk-us] Burlington, Vermont road classification

Greg Troxel gdt at ir.bbn.com
Sat Oct 20 00:52:56 BST 2012

Andrew Guertin <andrew.guertin at uvm.edu> writes:

>> If it's a US highway, then it's highway=primary, period.  A US 
>> highway is important simply by virtue of being designated US 
>> highway.
> Good to hear. Which area of Massachusetts is this from? My experience
> with driving there is mostly on 93 and 2 and in Boston, so I don't
> really have a good handle on what a US highway "feels" like there.

Eastern, outside of Boston.  US 20 is often congested with lights, but
it's still culturally one of the main east/west roads.  I think it's
quite analogous to US 9.  Here's an area where US20 is annoying to drive
on due to lights/congestion:

>> An example in vermont that's kind of iffy is 100.  I see parts of it
>>  are primary, and parts of it secondary.  As a non-local who's driven
>>  it only a few times I have no basis for questioning local judgement.
>>  But I would tend to think that 100 is more important than most other
>>  NS roads that aren't US5 and US7. But, the other state roads that
>> 100 are more important than should be secondary, so it's really in 
>> between primary and secondary and thus a tough call.
> I'm not actually too familiar with 100--I don't know that I've actually
> ever been on it myself. VPR had a long repeated segment on it recently,
> where a pair of commentators traveled its length and talked about one
> town each week. My impression is that it has cultural significance, but
> that for going from the bottom of the state to the top, most people
> would find their way 7 or 91/89 first.

I'd agree, but if driving only 30 miles, it's probably better to use it
than go out to the big roads (and mostly, once can drive 60 mph with few
stops, at least on the parts I've been on).  I just meant that it's
likely more important than most secondaries and less than most
primaries and thus a tough call.

>> US7 should really be primary.  Even if it's slow in cities, it's the 
>> main road where it goes (I89 aside, and generally the 'is it primary'
>> test discounts interstates).  I am assuming that if you are in
>> Shelburne and going to Colchester (and we stipulate that interstates
>> are unusable), you'd drive on 7, including North Willard street.  Or
>> at least someone not really familiar with the area would. Is that off
>> base?
> I can't really speak for what someone unfamiliar with the area would do,
> but I have made that trip many many times, and there are many different
> ways, each approximately equally good:
> * 7 the whole way
> * 7 -> Colchester Ave
> * 7 -> Cliff -> Prospect -> Colchester
> * 7 ->-> Union -> Winooski -> 7
> * (if starting farther south) Spear -> East -> Colchester
> * 7 -> 189 -> 89
> * 7 ->-> Pine ->-> Battery -> Pearl/Colchester
> * ...
> Of these, I see most people take the interstate, followed by 7 ->
> Colchester Ave, with Spear Street being a popular choice for a calmer,
> lower-traffic drive. Staying on 7 is probably more common than the
> weirder routes involving Cliff or Pine, but it wouldn't get you there
> significantly faster than them (or slower than the more popular ones).

Another principle is that if something is primary for a long time and
there's a short stretch that's slow, then it's ok to keep it labeled
primary, which is about long-distance use.  You obviously have good
local knowledge, but still you say that just using the signed US highway
is an entirely reasonable approach (even if most locals know about the
Colchester Ave shortcut), which really doesn't argue against it's

> I took a look at traffic numbers from
> http://www.ccrpc.us/data/traffic.php?town=BURLINGTON&yrs=A&year=2011&count=ATR.
> The traffic on various parts of North Willard Street ranges from ~7000
> cars/day in some areas to only 2900 for "US 7 North of North St."
> Meanwhile, both Colchester Ave and Riverside Ave are usually ~15000 and
> never below 10000.
> I'm not really sure how to interpret this.

I would have to guess it's commuters going to downtown, which is
separate from the through route.

Put another way: if Colchester is more important, why don't the
authorities move the US7 signs?  I'm not trying to give you a hard time,
but rather to turn the question around about whether there is adequate
cause to override the judgement of the authorities about which is the
defined-as-main road.  I view primary as about cultural significance and
importance in the larger road network, and the which-road-should-I-use
questions about attributes that are not necessarily directly related to
classification.  In other words, I don't think users are badly served by
the US highway being marked primary.  And if someone wants a map that
renders color by average speed, they are free to render that way and
ignore classification.

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