The Jonah Center for Earth and Art hosted a presentation by the city’s Complete Streets Committee last Tuesday night at Russell Library. The presentation, entitled “Making Middletown Bike-And Pedestrian-Friendly”, saw members of the Complete Streets Committee describe their proposals for making specific Middletown streets and intersections safer and more inviting for bicyclists and pedestrians and building trails that will connect different areas of the city.
The program mostly focused upon the proposals outlined in the Complete Streets Master Plan the Complete Streets Committee introduced in April. Any transportation improvements to the city will be designed according to its guidelines. Speakers used PowerPoint slides to display their recommended improvements to specific streets and intersections and proposed routes connecting residential neighborhoods to downtown areas, parks, and schools.
Following brief introductions from Mayor Dan Drew and Jonah Center Executive Director John Hall, Beth Emery discussed how making Middletown more bike and pedestrian friendly could result in exciting benefits. She said that doing so would protect the safety of bicyclists and walkers, increase the overall capacity and efficiency of transportation networks, encourage physical fitness, bolster economic growth and stability by providing connections between different areas of the city, and ultimately improve the quality of life in Middletown.
Howard Reid spoke about proposed improvements to Saybrook Road and the sidewalk from Tryon Street to Stop & Shop. He said that Saybrook Road could become much more accessible to bicyclists and pedestrians if its existing sidewalks were repaired, new sidewalks were built in certain places and its bike lanes were widened. Reid then recommended that the city improve the quality of the current sidewalk on Tryon Street leading into Stop & Shop and add a second sidewalk on the opposite side of the road, and also place traffic lights at the entrance to the store. These measures would allow all residents to travel to the store more safely and easily.
Ron Krom spoke about proposed improvements that would allow bicyclists and pedestrians to travel more easily on heavily congested Newfield Street much more easily or bypass it altogether. He said that widening the sidewalks on Newfield Street would be a simple measure that makes a tremendous difference, as doing so would keep travelers from having to use the narrow bike lanes and lower the number of traffic accidents on the street. Krom then said that the Complete Streets Committee is recommending that Middletown look into building a footbridge connecting Jackson Street and Berlin Street that would allow people to bypass Newfield Street. The footbridge would have to travel through the Berlin Court Tunnel below Newfield Street, and he made it clear that the Tunnel would have to be cleaned up extensively because it is in poor shape and rarely used.
John Hall also briefly discussed the proposal to build pedestrian and bike bridges that would travel from Veterans Park to Washington Street and its intersection with West Street.
Amy Vaillancourt discussed the current proposed routes of the Wesleyan Hills to Wesleyan University multi-use trail and the Westlake Area Bikeway extension. Both multi-use trails would make it much easier for people to travel from their residential neighborhoods to Wesleyan and Middletown’s public schools.
Vaillancourt said that the Complete Streets Committee is currently recommending that the Wesleyan Hills to Wesleyan University trail extend from Fountain Avenue on the Wesleyan campus to Randolph Road. From Fountain Avenue, the trail would move onto Pine Street before turning onto Wadsworth Avenue and then Long Lane. After Long Lane ends at Long Hill Road, the trail would head south for a little ways before stopping at the point where Long Hill Road meets Randolph Road.
She then said that the Complete Streets Committee has proposed that Westlake Area Bikeway be extended so that it links together Lawrence School, Keigwin School and Middletown High School. The trail currently ends on Westlake Drive near Grandview Drive, but would now end at Middletown High School on LaRosa Lane.
Pam Frost spoke about proposed improvements to the streets and areas surrounding Macdonough School and Snow School. These would include putting a crosswalk at the intersection of Pearl and Spring Streets so students who walk or bike to and from Macdonough can get there more safely, building a pathway to Macdonough through the park on its left, and improving the infrastructure of the sidewalks next to Snow and Macdonough. She said that improving the sidewalks would make students commute to and from these schools much less difficult.
Emery was the final member of the Complete Streets Committee to speak. She concluded the night by discussing the educational component of the Master Plan. The committee will oversee Bike Safety classes that teach students how to ride their bikes carefully and practice defensive biking. Emery said that the ultimate goal of the classes is to make riders feel safer and more confident when out on the road.
For more information about the work of the Complete Streets Committee or these programs, contact John Hall at 860-398-3771 or send a message to www.thejonahcenter.org