Monday, March 9, 2020

DOT Project: Background to an Opinion

The Connecticut Department of Transportation plans to do maintenance work on the Arrigoni Bridge, to alter the St. John's Square intersection, and the Rapallo/Main Street intersection, and to make Rapallo Avenue one-way going west. There will be a public meeting on March 10, at 6:30, in Macdonough School.

Beth Emery, former Planning and Zoning Commissioner, and current member of the Complete Streets Committee, has collected documents relevant to this work below. 

Ms. Emery will follow this with her commentary on the project in Part II.
Beth Emery Comments for March 10, 2020 public meeting with CT DOT for work scheduled to begin Spring 2020 Regarding Middletown, CT CTDOT Projects--
Project 0082-0320 St John’s Square; Rapallo Ave. improvements
Project 0082-0319 Main St. bump-outs; Washington St and Main St improvements
Project 0082-0312 Rehabilitation of the Approach Spans for Arrigoni Bridge
Other applicable CT DOT documents can be found on the extensive  BikePedDashboardI presume that CTDOT as well as Middletown’s planners, engineers, and public works departments are all very familiar with these documents and policy directives. I highlight below some of the key the documents that I will reference in questions and remarks on the specifics of the plans.
·       On Oct 20, 2014 the Connecticut Department of Transportation issued a policy document Complete Streets Policy (Executive Order 31) so as to be in compliance with CT general statutes. In part it states;  “it is the policy of the Department to consider the needs of all users of all abilities and ages (specifically including pedestrians, bicyclist, transit users, and vehicle operators) in the planning, programming, design, construction, retrofit and maintenance activities related to all roads and streets as a means of providing a “safe, efficient transportation network with enhance quality of life and vitality.
·      In January of 2019 the Connecticut Department of Transportation formally adapted an Active Transportation Plan (ATP) that in part provides guidelines for the Complete Streets general statutes. The above link provides a library of resources including the:
o   Within the Appendices is the Bicycle and Pedestrian Travel Needs Assessment Form (BPTNA) that states: “In accordance with Connecticut General Statutes, Section 13a-153f, Accommodations and Provisions of Facilities for All Users and the Department’s Policy Statement No. EX.0-31, It is the policy of the Department to consider the needs of all users of all abilities and ages (specifically including pedestrians, bicyclists, transit users, and vehicle operators) in the planning, programming, design, construction, retrofit and maintenance activities related to all roads and streets as a means of providing a "safe, efficient transportation network which enhances quality of life and economic vitality.” Therefore, the need for inclusion of accommodations specifically for bicyclists and pedestrians, including those with disabilities, must be reviewed for every project.”
o   CTDOT also writes in the ATP that “The form requires such information as a description of existing bicycle and pedestrian facilities within or near the project limits, a review of bicycle and pedestrian crash data in the project area, and a review of existing or planned bicycle or pedestrian traffic generators, such as parks and schools. The form is expected to be completed to the extent possible during a project’s scoping phase with continual review throughout the Preliminary Design. Upon completion of Preliminary Design, the form is also completed and attached to the Preliminary Design Report for each project.”
·      The 2019 Connecticut Pedestrian Safety Guide   includes the stated vision “to provide a safe transportation system where people of all ages and abilities can walk, bike, and travel by automobile safely and comfortably on Connecticut roadways.”
·      Incorporating On-Road Bicycle Networks Into Resurfacing Projects (FHWA 3/2016)States that “Installing bicycle facilities during roadway resurfacing projects is an efficient and cost-effective way for communities to create connected networks of bicycle facilities. This workbook provides recommendations for how roadway agencies can integrate bicycle facilities into their resurfacing program. The workbook also provides methods for fitting bicycle facilities onto existing roadways, cost considerations, and case studies.”
·      Type: Design Guides | National Association of City Transportation OfficialsThe National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) have Complete Streets guidelines available that are of great value and often provide better design guidelines than what is offered by the FHWA. Presumably, the city of Middletown has copies of the NACTO guidelines which are listed as a resource on the CTDOT dashboard.

General Background Information on the projects as written by CTDOT and cut and pasted here.
Project 0082-0320 is proposed to reduce congestion and improve safety at the intersection of St. John’s Square and Main Street with the addition of two turn lanes as well as geometric realignment. Hartford Avenue, which becomes Saint John’s Square at its intersection with Main Street, operates as an on and off ramp for Route 9. It currently intersects Route 9 at a three-way signalized intersection, providing both northbound and southbound access to and from Main Street. The four-lane cross section of St. John’s Square intersects Main Street in a curve, creating a large roadway footprint.

The proposed work includes the addition of two turn lanes on St. John’s Square westbound. Widening will occur on the southbound side in order to incorporate the two new lanes as well as a proposed median island. In addition, geometric improvements will be made to the intersection by way of median islands on Main Street that will serve to normalize the alignment. Rapallo Avenue, which currently consists of one lane in each direction and on-street parking on both sides of the street, will be converted into a one-way street in the westbound direction with limited on-street parking. Grand Street will be widened for the addition of an eastbound turn lane. Widening will also occur at the northwest corner of the intersection of Main Street and Washington Street to accommodate a dedicated right-turn lane.

Project 0082-0319 is proposed to enhance pedestrian safety and reduce vehicular congestion by constructing sidewalk bump-outs to shorten pedestrian crossing distances along Main Street. Main Street is a north-south running four lane arterial with on-street parking on both sides of the road. It is the main arterial for downtown Middletown, providing access for pedestrians and vehicles to many restaurants and shops. Due to the on-street parking, current crosswalk distances are between 80 and 96 feet, creating long pedestrian phases which in turn lead to poor vehicular levels of service. This project will construct sidewalk bump-outs to effectively shorten the required crossing distance for pedestrians. A total of 18 bump-outs are proposed that will reduce the pedestrian crossing distances to approximately 55 feet, shortening the pedestrian phase. This will reduce the overall delay experienced at each intersection and improve the level of service. The presence of on street parking reduces the sightlines between a waiting pedestrian and vehicles on Main Street. The bump-outs will relocate the sidewalk ramps even with the end of the parking stalls, improving the visibility for the pedestrian and motorist and increasing safety.

 Project 0082-0312 is for the rehabilitation of the Arrigoni Bridge approach spans carrying Routes 17 and 66 in Middletown and Portland. This project will take place simultaneously with the Saint John’s Square/Main Street intersection operational improvement project in Middletown. Work on the Arrigoni approach spans consists of replacing the bridge decks, superstructure steel upgrades and repairs as well as substructure repairs to improve the overall structural capacity, reliability and integrity of the bridge. Additionally, a new protective fence system ranging in height from 8 to 12-feet, will also be installed on both the approach and main spans as part of this project. Work on St. John’s Square and Main Street consists of the geometric realignment of the intersection to improve safety and operational efficiency, as well as the addition of two turn-lanes. 

RELATED, BUT not in the scope of work that is being presented at the March 10, 2020 meeting.

Project 0082-0318 is proposed to reduce congestion, improve safety, and improve access to downtown Middletown by removing two existing traffic signals on Route 9. Connecticut Route 9 is a north/south running freeway except for a short section of non-freeway in the downtown Middletown area where it overlaps with Route 17. This section of Route 9 stretches for approximately 0.36 miles (from exit 15 to exit 16) and includes two at-grade signalized intersections. These signalized intersections contribute to significant delays and crashes. The most recent three year crash history (January 2015 to December 2017) shows that there were 313 crashes resulting in 91 injuries including 1 fatality within the project limits.

I hope to have PART II Ready later in the day. There are many questions, suggestions, and comments that I am still working on putting together.

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