Wednesday, April 10, 2013

EDC Approves "Complete Streets" Report

Making Middletown streets safe for everyone, no matter their mode of travel, was the focus at the Economic Development Committee's meeting Monday night.

The committee received a report from the city's Complete Streets Committee.  (The report was featured in this recent Hartford Courant article.)

Complete Streets Committee member Beth Emery introduced Brian Kent of the Mystic-based architectural firm Kent+Frost.  They had been paid $20,000 by the Common Council to help prepare the report for the committee.   Kent said the report focused mainly on policies that could be enacted to incrementally create safer pedestrian routes, bike lanes, signage and the like.

The first step after adopting the policy would be collecting data and identifying streets that are a priority.  Kent mentioned Newfield Street, Randolph Road and Saybrook Road as examples of streets that are main travel corridors but hazardous for pedestrians and cyclists.

Kent said the goal of the policy proposals was to have different city departments -- planning, public works, parks, health, etc. -- asking common questions such as "Is this a Complete Streets priority corridor?" before embarking on a project.

While he admitted that it was "not unusual to have property owners resisting new sidewalks because of liability issues", Kent cited several surveys showing broad support for more bike-able, walk-able communities.  He noted that a project such as the proposed Wesleyan Hills to downtown pathway is a good way to rally further support for "complete streets".

Kent also suggested that the town might be eligible for Safe Routes to School grants.  In researching the report, the Complete Streets Committee visited South Windsor and Northampton, MA to see how they implemented changes.  Kent said S. Windsor had gotten $1 million dollar grant to improve roadways through Safe Routes.  Councilman Serra questioned if there was a matching obligation from the town, which Kent did not know.

Safe Routes grants also require a safety curriculum to be taught to 4th graders in the area.
"The principal justification for the entire program is safety," Kent said.

The EDC voted unanimously to forward the report to the Common Council.  Chairman Gerald Daley said "There are any number of reasons to pursue this. Environmental benefits, health benefits, aesthetic benefits."

In addition to Emery, the meeting was attended by another eight members of the Complete Streets Committee, which Emery pointed to as a sign of their commitment to follow through on the ideas in the report.

In other business the Economic Development Committee accepted notification from Lady Katherine Cruises that they were exercising a one year extension on their 5-year lease at Harbor Park.

The Committee also approved two new leases for the Remington Rand building, one for 1400 square feet for Trinity Power Washing, and 6000 square feet for the Green Skies Renewable Energy to store solar panels for use around the country.

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