In 2018, the Connecticut Department of Transportation, or CTDOT, granted New Haven $317,085 as part of its $12.4 million “Community Connectivity Grant Program,” a program designed to support pedestrian and bicycle safety. In an emailed statement to the News, CTDOT spokesperson Kevin Nursick said that Route 10 is under a current comprehensive review that is “anticipated to be completed this coming spring.” According to Doug Hausladen, director of New Haven’s Transportation, Traffic and Parking Department, sidewalk construction is slated to begin in 2021.
For many, however, Ella Grasso Boulevard and the city’s other projects move far too slowly; the Safe Streets Coalition describes progress on the Complete Streets Ordinance’s protocols as “slow and piecemeal.” Rob Rocke, a board member of long-time advocacy group Elm Street Cycling and a member of the Safe Streets Coalition, points to the incomplete Edgewood Avenue Cycling Track — a nearby project to build a separated bike lane along one of the city’s busiest streets — as an example of the city’s slow movement.
“The Edgewood Avenue Cycling Track, which was supposed to be a test case for the Complete Streets legislation, is so delayed that among us in the ‘safe streets’ community, it’s become a joke,” Rocke said. “It’s somehow a process issue, with problems between our local and state officials — but years are going by and it’s not getting done.”
The bureaucratic tensions between local and state officials in Hartford can certainly be seen along Grasso Boulevard. Hausladen noted that while the city has jurisdiction over the construction of sidewalks and curbs, most stoplights, pedestrian signals and other infrastructure are owned by the state of Connecticut.
The city’s main problem, however, remains a limited budget. As City Engineer Giovanni Zinn noted at the mayor’s event last month, the city is slated to spend less than one million dollars on infrastructure this year. Mayor Elicker cited lack of funding as a primary roadblock for traffic safety improvements.
“Ultimately, almost every problem that we are dealing with as a city comes down to money,” Elicker said. “It comes down to our ability to fund traffic timing infrastructure and to fund enough police officers to ensure there’s enforcement.”
The general fund budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year reduced the budgets for the Engineering and Transportation departments by more than 7 percent each compared to the previous fiscal year, despite an overall budget increase of 2.04 percent.
#2 Blake and Valley: Community Engagement
Not all traffic safety policies have to be expensive. Carolyn Lusch, a transportation planner and member of the Safe Streets Coalition, is an advocate for changes at the intersection of Blake and Valley streets in the Westville neighborhood of New Haven. Lusch first noticed the potential for danger while walking her son to the Friends Center for Children located at the intersection.
“I immediately realized as I was walking him there every day that this intersection is particularly treacherous, mainly because there is a very wide right turn going for Blake onto Valley. Cars tend to speed around, sometimes without even stopping.”
Besides the child care center, the area hosts a Montessori school and senior living facilities, making it a particularly high-traffic zone for families. Lusch and other members of Westville’s community management team, one of 12 in the city, have pressured officials for years to make changes at intersections like Blake and Valley.
Hausladen told the News that the city recently installed a flashing LED “no turn on red” sign (seen above) to reduce motorist speeds. Lusch said that this has probably had some impact on driver behavior, but that more work needs to be done.
“It has been a constant worry of mine,” Lusch said. “We have had some success in getting some changes, but it’s certainly still a very dangerous situation.”