NEWINGTON - The ultimate goal of a fully funded roadway project expected to take place later this year is to improve safety and quality of life in the area, according to town officials.
The state Department of Transportation is giving Newington $2 million to fix critical issues and facilitate multimodal transportation along a 1.6-mile stretch of road, town engineer Gary Fuerstenberg told a few dozen people who attended a recent public information meeting on the Complete Streets Project.
Plans are now 70 percent complete and the DOT is reviewing them before the town and engineering firm VHB iron out the final details and move ahead with construction late this summer or early in the fall.
“We expect to increase the quality of life throughout the whole town and increase property values,” Fuerstenberg said. “It will make for more walkable and bikeable neighborhoods.”
Running along Maple Hill Avenue between its intersections with New Britain Avenue and Robbins Avenue, then turning right onto Robbins and ending at Main Street, this particular corridor is desperate for milling and overlay, along with drainage, sidewalk and curb improvements.
“Doing nothing is not an option,” Fuerstenberg said, sharing 30-some conceptual drawings. “It’s become quite the maintenance problem for the town. Crews are out there sealing cracks almost monthly.”
Added bonuses include a bike lane and an auxiliary left turn lane on Robbins, made possible by the Local Transportation Capital Improvement Program (LOTCIP) grant.
Several people who live along the main stretch or in surrounding neighborhoods have expressed concerns about safety, speed and traffic.
“It’s going to be harder to get out of our driveways,” said Leo Pizzoferrato, a homeowner on Robbins. “Especially during rush hour, because you’re taking the same volume and condensing it. Also, we will have to be looking out for cyclists that we didn’t before.”
The bike lane will run parallel to driving lanes on the perimeter of the street, 5 feet wide with a 2-foot buffer. Nearby New Britain and West Hartford already have active bicycle networks, with lanes that offer little to no buffer.
Newington’s concept allows extra room so cyclists and drivers alike can feel comfortable navigating the roadway together. Eventually the town could expand its bicycle network.
Additionally, officials hope that reducing the four-lane road to two lanes with a center auxiliary turning lane will encourage drivers to decrease their speed.
“I’m a big walker so I’m really concerned about the safety of crossing Robbins Avenue,” Jessica Vandeerfeen said. “I’m generally in favor of this plan.”
A significant component calls for extending Ridgeway Street across Robbins and the Maple Hill Green to meet Thompson Street and connect to Golf Street. The small section of Golf that currently intersects with Robbins would be closed off.
“We have looked at a number of different alignments and the benefit of moving that intersection 200 feet to the east is providing the safer left turn lanes,” Fuerstenberg explained.
His engineering team plans to conduct additional traffic studies, incorporating counts from Indian Hill Country Club’s active season to determine if the volume of vehicles would be manageable after these changes are implemented.
“I was receptive to the feedback we got and we’ve met with internal staff to review the comments,” added Fuerstenberg, who also presented the concept to the Town Council this week.
The state Department of Environmental Protection, the Capitol Region Council of Governments and the town’s Inland Wetlands Commission have each reviewed the plans and given their feedback, with no conflicts.
Plans are available in the town engineer’s office, 131 Cedar St.
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at 860-801-5097 or firstname.lastname@example.org.