NEWINGTON - A roundabout proposed to fix a busy intersection in town has left some people excited, some heartbroken and others, just concerned.
The state Department of Transportation has informed Newington officials and residents of its concept for a modern roundabout at the intersection of Fenn Road, Ella Grasso Boulevard and Holly Drive, where there have been upwards of 50 motor vehicle crashes in the last two years.
Representatives from the DOT’s Division of Highway Design held a public information meeting at the Newington Senior & Disabled Center recently. About 20 people attended and the general consensus was supportive. One week later, a dozen others rallied against the project on a parcel of land a few hundred feet from the intersection.
Dr. Stuart Calle organized a press conference at 49 Fenn Road, where he’s planning to build an urgent care clinic. He currently practices at A Walk In Medical Center on Willard Avenue but hopes to move the clinic to Fenn Road.
“I’ve spent the last nine years working on that property and I was very brokenhearted to hear about the rotary,” Calle said. “It would be a disaster.”
At the public meeting he told DOT officials that their plan is ill-fated, would hurt business owners along the roadway and would lead to more, not less accidents.
“Ultimately, we understand that not everybody supports the project but that’s part of the reason we wanted to get out there in the conceptual phase, in order to gather this sort of input and share with the public why we think this is an effective solution for this particular spot,” project engineer Marissa Washburn said after hearing of the protest. “We want to make sure people have accurate information about the project. What we’re proposing is a modern roundabout, not a rotary. We did take traffic counts and have data to support the fact that roundabouts do reduce serious injury and fatal crashes both here in Connecticut and nationwide.”
Newington Economic Development Director Andy Brecher told the project team that a new industrial warehouse is moving onto Holly Drive and would add to increased truck traffic in the intersection.
“After the meeting typically our next step is to evaluate the feedback we got from the public,” Washburn said. “We’re going to go back to the conceptual design and reevaluate it, add more trucks to our simulation and make sure what we’re proposing still works with that added knowledge. Then our next step would be to ask the town of Newington if there is support to move forward.”
Funding would still need to be sought by the DOT, estimated at about $4 million. But officials won’t do that if they don’t have the town’s support.
“We need to make sure we’re not spending money on a problem no one wants to see fixed,” Washburn explained.
If it does move forward, construction wouldn’t take place for several years. According to Washburn, existing businesses near the intersection could be affected by a roundabout in different ways.
“We anticipate the long lines of cars on Fenn Road will be reduced because of the improved efficiency,” she said. “For the businesses on the north side, like the Mobil, the installation would facilitate a U-turn movement and eliminate the need for cars exiting those driveways to cross all that traffic to take a left turn.”
Mobil owner Tom Trumbull wanted to make sure the state wouldn’t be taking his land by eminent domain, which they confirmed they wouldn’t. He also expressed concerns about construction delays, but had generally positive comments about the project.
“I like the design; I think it’s going to work well,” Trumbull said. “Traffic moves very fast there and there are a lot of accidents. I also like their idea of putting sidewalks in from the plaza.”
Aldo Scordino, owner of Safety Driving School on Main Street, is opposed to a roundabout, which necessitates a learning curve for drivers who are new to navigating the circular traffic pattern.
“My students when they leave my school are professionals,” Scordino said. “I’m worried about the people who have been driving for forty years and don’t know how to take a right turn on red.”
Town Planner Craig Minor called the plan “excellent” and Town Plan & Zoning Vice Chair Mike Camillo added, “It’s a great thing.”
Comments can still be sent to Principal Transportation Engineer Matthew Vail at Matthew.Vail@ct.gov, referencing Proposed State Project PP-093-017.
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at 860-801-5097 or firstname.lastname@example.org.