The Danville Transportation Enhancement Project is a partnership among the Vermont Arts Council, the Vermont Agency of Transportation [VTrans], and the Town of Danville, Vermont designed to integrate artistic enhancements into the redevelopment of a portion of U.S. Highway Route 2 through the village center.
Purpose & Need
VTrans needed to upgrade road conditions through the a small rural village by meeting Federal Highway System requirements to provide better sight lines and improved vehicular and pedestrian safety while also respecting the aesthetic and socio-economic fabric of the community.
The underlying methodology is collaborative in nature and draws on Vermont traditions of public meetings, civic dialog and representative democracy. Participation by professional artists infuses the process with a creative approach to problem solving and openness to new solutions. A Local Review Committee [LRC] oversees the Project from conceptual design to construction and installation and through to maintenance. The LRC is comprised of Danville residents and business owners, each of whom represents a unique constituency in the town.
Since the 1970s, VTrans had tried to engage the community in a process that would lead to a successful construction plan for a three-quarter mile stretch of Route 2 through the center of Danville. The highway throughout the rest of Vermont, on either side (east and west) of the village had been widened and better design, but VTrans could not reach agreement with village residents on its plans for the "Main Street, Danville" portion of the project. In 1999 the Vermont Arts Council was invited to oversee a process in which artists were engaged to help the residents of Danville articulate a community vision which could be translated back to VTrans and help break the decades-old impasse, and the Danville Project was born.
Regular and frequent meetings of the LRC and concerted efforts on the part of the artists to elicit input from the community have ensured superior representation of voice, and 'buy-in' which manifests through interest and support of a project that is currently  in its eight year, and is not expected to break ground until spring 2009.
Challenges & Solutions
VTrans and its transportation engineers, and consultant Stantec (formerly Dufresne-Henry) examined options over the past twenty years that included a by-pass. Quantitative scientific and engineering-based data were the evaluative tools employed. With the participation of the Vermont Arts Council beginning in 2000, VTrans was able to benefit from a 'human connection' that had previously not been adequately supported. When residents of Danville and transportation engineers realized they, in fact, had the same goals for the project, particularly goals that addressed safety issues, areas of conflict were quickly resolved. Much of the success of the project can be ascribed to the power of vocabulary: when everyone realized they were talking about the same thing[s], but just had different ways of referring to it, a rational and practical solution to each issue became apparent. This piece of the equation did not happen until artists became involved in the dialog.
The final design was approved by the Vermont Agency of Transportation and the Town of Danville in late 2002, after clearing several regulatory hurdles in near-record time, and with demonstrably lower costs in hours and actual dollars to all parties. The design incorporates traffic-calming devices such as colored, textured crosswalks, redefined traffic patterns and channelized lanes, granite curbing, 'bump outs' or neckdowns, a signalized intersection, sidewalks, a gateway divider island at each end of the project, pedestrian refuge islands at the village center, lighting and landscaping ... all of which enhance the residential ambience of the area, and help support business and commerce by providing safe and easy access to homes, stores, schools and essential services. Photos, plans and drawings for components of the project are available through the VTrans Project Manager at (802) 828-2645.
The project is currently  awaiting decision from the Vermont Act 250 Commission before proceeding with Right-of-Way and other legal issues in advance of beginning construction.