Thursday, March 22, 2018

Residents To State Transportation Engineers: We Don't Like Your Plans

About two hundred residents spent their Thursday evening at Middletown High listening to the Department of Transportation present its plans to route traffic from Route 9 to Main Street via a highway ramp ending on Rapallo. When given a chance to comment on those plans, none expressed support.

Mayor Drew introduced the presentation, praising them for taking into account comments on a previous proposal. Principal Engineer Will Britnell in turn thanked the mayor for facilitating the work of the DOT.

Britnell highlighted the financial costs of congestion and accidents caused by current conditions, and then presented the changes that would reduce these. He used data from traffic simulations to show that travel times would be reduced by the redesign.

Britnell's numbers indicated that the new design would put almost 500 extra cars per hour on Main Street at peak travel times. Britnell said that this was not a large number for traffic engineers, and indicated that changes in Main Street would allow for the traffic to flow smoothly.

But these extra cars were  a big concern to residents of the city.

Over 30 people expressed their strong opposition to the plan, none spoke in favor.

Residents expressed grave concerns that the the increased traffic on Main Street would cause drivers to cut through residential areas in poor neighborhoods, with many minorities. Izzi Greenberg said that the plan prioritized commuters in cars over residents on the sidewalk and in their houses.

John Basinger spoke passionately about the importance of the neighborhood, "The North End is where people really live... they leave their shoe leather on Main Street."

Mayor Drew did not speak about the merits of the plan, but councilmen Gene Nocera, Phil Pessina, and Seb Giuliano expressed their opposition.


Middletown Eye (Ed McKeon) said...

Am I the only one who thought that this is a done deal? When the DOT has already begun negotiations with property owners to take property to build an exit ramp, it seems that the plan has already been approved at a high level in the city. I got the sense that the meeting was pro forma and that the DOT went through with it because they are required to. And aside from the mayor's warm welcome where were the reports on the plan from the mayor, the planning director, the Chamber and others, who the DOT thanked, for working with them through the planning process. The proposal stinks, but what stinks more is the lack of transparency.

Middletown Eye (Ed McKeon) said...

Here's my summary of the meeting for a friend who couldn't make it.

At the meeting the DOT thanked the mayor, the Economic Development Committee, the Chamber and the city planner. Except for an inconsequential greeting from our mayor (what a great job these DOT guys have done!), no folks among those being thanked, spoke about why they think the plan is so great (ABSENT: Larry McHugh; Joe Samolis; Bill McKenna). Seb Giuliano spoke strongly against the proposal. Gene Nocera expressed grave doubts about the effect on increased traffic in the North end near Macdonough. Phil Pessina questioned the “reality” of the traffic projections on many streets and “cut-through” streets. Matt Lesser (North End resident) had a question about the projected timeline, and how soon the first build date was. Gerry Daley, Rob Blanchard and Linda Salafia were present, but didn’t speak. Chris Drake (chair BOE and North End resident) was there, but didn’t speak. Sean King and Deborah Cain from the BOE were there, but didn’t speak. Noticeably absent were our other current legislators, some of whom are seeking re-election, or election to a different seat, and other notable candidates (Doyle, Serra, Bysiewicz, Suzio). Q. Phipps (North End resident) is running for state rep, but didn’t speak. Bob Santangelo (deputy mayor and North End resident), who is running against Phipps was absent.

Clearly opposed - many Middletown residents, the chair of Planning and Zoning, Stephen Devoto, the Middletown Racial Justice Coalition, Diane Gervais from Amato’s and the DBD, former NEAT leaders Precious Price and Bobbye Knoll, the Community Health Center.

I think the DOT betrayed their statement that it “was just a proposal” and that no decisions had been made, by revealing that the first build date is a mere 9 months away and that they had already begun negotiations to seize land for the off ramp that is “just a proposal.”

And while the DOT spent several minutes talking about racial and social equity, and the steps needed to “acquire” property, they said nothing about who would be the ultimate approvers or how a project like this would be given the (pardon the pun) green light.

Surprise of the evening! After decades of declaring that it was completely unsafe to build a road from the Bridge St. neighborhood across the grade level railroad crossing to Portland Street, suddenly the DOT declared that there didn’t appear to be any real “obstructions” to easily build the crossing to make that neighborhood safe. And Will Britnell, the DOT engineer who made the presentation, expressed surprise that he had never thought about the problem that school buses had to enter and exit Bridge Street from Route 9 every day. “I never considered that,” Britnell said. From the looks of the plan, there’s a lot more that he hasn’t considered.

Jack Vecchitto said...

Does anyone know if the traffic study or the presentation that was shown at MHS is available on-line? There were slides that showed the cars at peak times at all the intersections and I'm interested in seeing those numbers. The numbers were difficult to read on the screen (was it intentional?)

Thank you!

Jack Vecchitto said...

Does anyone know if the powerpoint presentation or the Traffic study that was shown during the meeting last night at MHS available on-line? They showed traffic at all the intersections but the numbers were very difficult to read.

Thank you!