By Johana Vazquez
New London ― Multiple agencies are working to make the portion of Route 32 that runs along the Connecticut College campus safer and more welcoming.
The Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments held a public meeting Wednesday at Lyman Allyn Art Museum to discuss preliminary options for the ongoing study of Route 32 between Williams Street and Benham Avenue.
This stretch of the corridor provides access to Connecticut College, the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and Lyman Allyn while serving as a connection to locations in the region.
A presentation was made by members of Fuss & O’Neill, a Manchester-based civil and environmental engineering firm and Boston engineering consultant firm Toole Design Group.
Mayor Michael Passero spoke briefly before the presentation and said this is a dream for him. Passero said he was in high school when Route 32 was being ripped apart and the second span of the Gold Star Bridge was being built. He said most of the redevelopment was not necessary and would like to see it restored to what it once was.
Passero cautioned that these sort of projects take a long time and said it started under the city’s previous administration.
Matthew Skelly, the project manager for Fuss & O’Neill, said Route 32 currently includes two travel lanes in each direction, four pedestrian crossings, one bridge, missing sidewalk connections and no bicycle lanes.
As described in the presentation, the corridor “currently feels unsafe, inaccessible and uninviting to those not driving.”
Katherine O’Shea, a transportation engineer for Fuss & O’Neill, said the team has made community outreach efforts as part of the study and received more than 200 online survey responses as well as several comments at pop-up events. She said the biggest concerns expressed by residents involve speeding, walkability, the ability for pedestrians to cross the road and drivers running red lights.
O’Shea said within the past years there have been 228 collisions in the corridor with a high number of rear-end crashes. She said the existing traffic volumes reflect the freeway nature of the route.
Rosie Jaswal of Toole spoke about how the team envisions two scenarios with this project, the interim and the future. The interim, she said, is improving the existing conditions and the future includes changes to nearby Interstate 95 interchanges.
Right now, Jaswal said it is about restoring Mohegan Avenue Parkway, what Route 32 used to be called, before it become an urban freeway. The parkway historically included a landscaped median and other elements the team is considering bringing back.
Jaswal said the goal is to make Route 32 less like a highway and more of a communal street. She said there would be gateway treatments and more signs.
She presented two options for the interim goals which both maintain narrower two travel lanes in each direction. Option A showed a landscape median in between the four lanes, shoulders available for cyclists to use and a shared use path on one side. Option B displayed separated bike lanes on both sides and occasional chicanes, or series of turns, to slow vehicles approaching intersections.
After the presentation, attendees raised questions, offered ideas and opinions about which option they’d like to see. Residents spoke about prioritizing options to slow traffic, making the corridor more attractive and reducing the noise caused by traffic.
O’Shea said there will not be cost estimate for the project until a preliminary option is chosen. She said the report will likely be finished in March 2023 and another public meeting will be held before then. Funding would be comprised of federal and state monies matched by city funds.
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