By Johana Vazquez
Project Manager John Guzze said the current intersection was a roundabout back in the day. He said the project seeks to improve theintersection and return to what it was in a more modernized version.
The city entered and successfully qualified for the Local Transportation Capital Improvement program in the spring to fund the project. The program is administered by the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments.
Brian Sear, the city’s public works director, said the state will pay for 100% of the project. Based on a conceptual assessment, the construction cost will be approximately $3.2 million, including construction inspection services and contingencies.
Under the same program, construction is getting started for a $4 million road project, including a roundabout, at the intersection of Jefferson Avenue and Chester Street.
Guzze said the benefits to a roundabout are lower speeds, increased pedestrian safety, better traffic flow, reduced crashes and reduced operational and environmental impacts. He said there were 16 crashes at the intersection from 2018 to 2021.
Out of the 16 crashes, Guzze said most were property damage but there were a couple severe injuries and one fatal injury.
Sylwia Tanski, a designer and civil engineer, showed the design and explained that the Williams and Broad streets roundabout would have designated sidewalks on the outer edges. She said it would have two crossings at each leg of the roundabout with a pedestrian refuge in between crossings. She also pointed out the location for two bus stops.
“Beyond intersection improvements, we want to make the roundabout a part of the community,” Tanski said.
Tanski said the team proposes to do this by planting some trees and adding some signage or artwork.
Guzze said in order to make all of these improvements, there would need to be two street adjustments, including a sliver of Williams Park and the slight acquisition of property on the opposing side.
If everything goes according to schedule, Guzze said the project would start construction in the spring of 2024. He said another public hearing will be planned for when the design is further developed.
Many residents in the room were cyclists or pedestrians that use the intersection. While some residents said they would like to see it returned to what it once was, others said a roundabout was not needed in the location or would need to change to not deter pedestrian and bicycle crossings.
One resident said she uses the intersection crossings everyday to walk her children to and from school and works in the neighborhood. She said she appreciates the lower speeds, and that could increase pedestrian safety, but right now there are signaled stops that allow her children to cross safely.
She said few drivers pay attention to pedestrians and bikers as they drive through the city and fears that they will not stop at the crossings in the roundabout.
Guzze said rectangular flashing beacons could be added to ensure drivers stop.
Sear said the city is not limited with this project and could cover things that do not fall within the grant.
Another resident asked how cyclists would go through the roundabout and what would the island be made of.
Guzze said because of the physical constraints of the intersection, there would be no dedicated bike lane. He said cyclists would havea right to share the road.
When another resident asked if the roundabout was a done deal, Guzze said no and noted there are mechanisms within the programto submit changes to SCCOG and, if needed, go back to the drawing room.
After the meeting, Sear said it was a productive meeting. He said the next step is talking with city administration and engineers,taking the public comments into consideration.
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