Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Roundabout Solution To Route 9 Traffic Woes

Proposed double roundabout on Main Street Extension.
Designers and engineers from the Connecticut Department of Transportation presented proposed changes to Route 9 to a crowd of around a hundred interested residents at Middletown's Elks Club Tuesday evening.

Presented by the DOT's engineer, William Britnell, the two formal proposals include a proposed solution to rid Rte. 9 of stop lights (Project 82-318), and to remove a stop sign at the Rte. 17 on ramp (Project 82-316).

Find more complete information here.

Britnell explained that the Rte. 17 on ramp was high on the list of DOT accident sites.  The plan calls for a widening of the overpass over Union street to create a standard acceleration lane on ramp.  In addition the plan calls for a redesign of the intersection of River Road and Harbor Drive, the conversion of Harbor Drive into a cul-de-sac and the construction of a double roundabout at the Main Street Extension entrance to the Rte. 17 entrance to Rte. 9.

Few in the crowd were concerned about the entrance ramp redesign, though former Planning and Zoning member Catherine Johnson noted that the double roundabout on Main Street Extension seemed to be a case of "over-design."

Roundabouts figured large in the proposed redesign of new entrances and exits from Rte. 9 to eliminate traffic lights from the highway.

Britnell explained that the traffics, which many in the city and state see as nuisances, create regular traffic jams, and are the cause of accidents.

Britnell explains the proposed plan.
The proposal calls for the construction of two bridges to bypass the Hartford Avenue and Washington Street entrances/exits and new entrances and exits at both locations with a roundabout at the intersection of Washington Street and DeKoven Drive.

Britnell conceded that there would likely be increased traffic at these exits and entrances, and associated increase traffic on Main Street, Washington and DeKoven, but he portrayed the increases as inconsequential.  To mitigate increased traffic, and to promote pedestrian safety, Britnell and the DOT propose a series of curb bump-outs at intersections all along Main Street.

In addition, the plan calls for the construction of a pedestrian bridge from the site of the current city parking garage adjacent to the court house, over Rte. 9 and to the river.  Britnell called the pedestrian bridge "a lovely space" from which to view the river.

The pedestrian bridge.
Reaction from those gathered was nearly unanimous in agreement that the traffic lights on Rte. 9 were a problem, but few agreed with the merits of the DOT plan.

One of the chief complaints about the new highway bridges was that they would block the view of the river for a significant length along DeKoven.

Common Council member Gene Nocera expressed concern about the obstruction of view.

"I hope this project will be done creatively so as not to obstruct the view of the river," Nocera said.

Washington Street roundabout and Rte 9 bridge.   
"If there has to be a bridge, does it have to be like the bridge in the picture," asked resident Joan Hedrick, noting that the Arrigoni Bridge was an example of a beautiful structure.

Another concern was the increase flow of traffic on Main Street and through other adjacent neighborhoods downtown.  Business owner Rich Bergan called the plan another assault on the North End, which is already plagued by traffic problems.  Dmitri D'Alessandro, a Main Street business owner also noted that the increased drive-through business would be a detriment to traffic and business, and that the Bridge Street neighborhood where he lives would be further isolated from the city.

Many who spoke indicated that they thought traffic would snarl on Middletown's Main Street, and that the curb bump-outs would only exacerbate the problems.

Planning and Zoning Commissioner Stephen Devote expressed an alternate view, urging the DOT to consider adding additional traffic lights to Rte. 9 to make it more like highways that run through cities like Manhattan and San Francisco.

Main Street bump-outs.
Jennifer Alexander, who created Kid City, downplayed the urgency of the need to fix a problem which amounted to an average "six minute delay" at the Rte. 9 traffic lights.  She also noted that the pedestrian bridge to the river was an inelegant solution, and that such bridges in other cities are rarely used.

The DOT urged those who could not attend, or would like to raise questions, concerns or make suggestions to send those concerns by mail to: William Britnell, Transportation Principal Engineer, Department of Transportation, PO Box 317546, Newington CT. 06131-7546.

D'Alessandro suggested that if the DOT were really interested in input, they would allow suggestions to be made online, or via email.


Jen Alexander said...

Just to be clear, what I said was that I was surprised at the figures he shared - it was their analysis that the lights added six minutes to getting through Middletown. If that's at all near accurate, then I think we have to ask what the real gain is at the expense of the health of downtown (which, as I also noted, is one of the biggest tax payers and employers in Middletown and we need it to stay healthy to keep our taxes down and our services up!)

Steve Bayley said...

That 6 minutes means about 250-500 pounds of co2 emissions per car per year. If 2,000 cars go through there a day (estimate, can anyone provide traffic counts). That is 500,000 - 1,000,000 pounds of co2 produced because of the lights.

If this is not a good plan, can folks supply what they think is best. I personally feel this is a good plan but if there are better ones, I am all ears.

jon said...

Does anybody know what the purpose of the double roundabout at Main St Extension is in the design?

Currently that area doesn't seem to have a problem with traffic or accidents, and the roundabouts don't really look like they would help with that anyway, or am I missing something?

IMO all it needs (badly) is better sidewalks.

Gerry Willette said...

"Britnell conceded that there would likely be increased traffic at these exits and entrances, and associated increase traffic on Main Street, Washington and DeKoven, but he portrayed the increases as inconsequential."

In my opinion ANY increase in traffic on Washington Street, especially where it intersects with Main, would not be "inconsequential". Poorly timed/designed lights at that intersection cause backups that can, at times, reach from Main to the Dekoven Drive exit on an almost daily basis. It can easily take 10 minutes or more to travel from Route 9 to Main Street via Washington during rush hour. And on a summer weekend the delays are even worse.

Eliminating traffic lights on route 9 is important, but added traffic on Washington & Main, even "inconsequential" traffic, would nullify any benefits that may come from the DOT plan.

Anonymous said...

What about bicycles and pedestrians? There needs to be a bike lane.

Paul Bourque said...

There are several design flaws in this, particularly the routing of traffic onto Main Street to get on and off the bridge from rt 9. Why not put full interchanges at Hartford Rd and a partial one at Dekoven Dr./ Washington St. The roundabouts don't seen to be too bad of an idea on Main St. Extension- that interchange is horrible.

"Planning and Zoning Commissioner Stephen Devote expressed an alternate view, urging the DOT to consider adding additional traffic lights to Rte. 9" Ok wait, isn't the idea to DECREASE congestion on Rt 9, how does adding MORE lights accomplish this? I don't see how they state there is an average 6 minute delay going into the lights, as often the traffic is backed up Southbound to exit 18 or even 19 at it's worst.

Something needs to be done, but pouring more traffic onto Main Street does not make sense to me.

Anonymous said...

We need more lights, the more the better. It will force people to shop on Main Street. Keep commerce local. And bike lanes. If there were organic dog parks in the medians and shoulders people could walk dogs when traffic is heavy. A canoe launch near the round about is needed for citizen recreations. Why is everyone always in a rush & a slave to the automobile?

Anonymous said...

After watching the video of the presentation, it appears there is more work to be done on the design of the proposed changes and the visual impact this project will have on the city. I think many are underestimating the massive size of the structures required to raise the two sections of highway. During the presentation they provided a "before and after" view of the bridge at Washington St. What wasn't shown was the view to the left and right of that bridge opening.

I posted this link on another post - and here it is again.,-72.919376,3a,75y,137.48h,80.51t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1spud2ifgI9sjnficKKGfkTg!2e0!7i13312!8i6656?hl=en

(copy and paste into your browser - then rotate the views left and right to get a better view)
This is Water St. in New Haven, and will give you a good idea of what the elevated sections will look like. The highway will rise and lower to go under the railroad bridge and then rise again for Washington St - the Middletown roller-coaster! Then we have a rotary - with a train track in it! Forget about crossing the road - and "take the lane" for bikes turns into "take your life" when trying to ride thru that section. Traffic does not stop in a rotary. No mention of any crosswalks.

Also - the double rotary on South Main is an over-kill. I have seen road designs built in CT - that have had to be re-done, because trucks and buses cannot make the turns (RT80 & RT139 intersection, Branford RT1 intersection to Main St, near Walmart)
The designs may work on paper, but fail in the field. I think we need to work on this one.

Alain Munkittrick said...

It’s hard to know where to begin.

The DOT’s conceptual diagram for replacing the traffic regulating lights at Hartford Avenue and Washington Street is an expensive solution for a problem that is not defined. While the DOT representative made a somewhat convincing case that replacing the stop sign at the Rte 17 interchange could improve safety, he did not make the case for the other signal interchanges.

What are the accident statistics for these interchanges? We should have received more than anecdotal evidence that rear-end collisions occur with frequency at these interchanges. If in fact this is a significant problem, one needs to know whether any other safety strategies for traffic calming have been suggested, such as better approach signage and warning signals, rumble strips, speed limit reductions, camera surveillance/automatic ticketing, and stepped up law enforcement techniques? Does any of this take into account new automobile safety technology such as automatic braking, lane shift warning and car cameras? Not to mention reductions in trips due to surges in tele-commuting, web meetings online commerce? Were medium speed traffic rotaries (round-abouts for higher traffic volumes such as Route 9) that other states have employed with great success, ever considered for these interchanges?

This feels to me like old and expensive, bad-for-business “By-Pass” highway engineering that creates extra infrastructure that will be costly to maintain. It seeks to rectify the original sin of the Route 9 placement between downtown and riverfront with a new sin that compounds the original mistake. The additional visual barriers created are going to make riverfront development that much harder to achieve and will devalue downtown real estate values further. The roller-coaster bridge overpasses without shoulders and good sightlines will probably create another set of safety concerns.

As many have pointed out, this DOT diagram shifts traffic and safety problems from Route 9 to Middletown streets that are definitely not designed for such shifts in traffic flow and volumes. Hartford Avenue (between Rote 9 and St. John’s Square) and Washington Street (between Dekoven Drive and Main Street), will effectively become on-off ramps with unrestricted flows during peak commuting periods. The short lengths of these ramps without easing congestion where they intersect Main Street, will back up ONTO Route 9 at rush hours, creating problems for both our city streets AND Route 9 safety. (If the Main Street corner sidewalk bump outs are such a great safety idea, why have these not been installed already?) Uninterrupted, higher speed flow off Route 9 from the north up to St. John’s Square, without a round-about at the Square, will make the blind turn on Hartford Avenue a high-speed death trap. If you have ever come around this corner braking hard, you know intuitively that more rear-end collisions will be the norm here.

There have to be better solutions. DOT should be challenged to present other conceptual alternatives, before proceeding into the next level of design. Much more business and citizen community and fire/police input is needed before proceeding. Why weren’t the Mayor, Police Chief, Fire Chief, Chamber of Commerce representative, Riverfront Committee, Middletown Planner, at this meeting? Middletown citizens need to hear from all of these people.