Work On First Phase Of Hartford's iQuilt Plan Could Start Next Spring
By KENNETH R. GOSSELIN
January 09, 2013
Construction is expected to begin next spring on three areas crucial to the iQuilt plan — State House Square, Gold Street and Union Station — a first major step in making the city's center more easily navigated by pedestrians, cyclists and those who ride the bus.
City officials and urban design consultants unveiled the latest plans Wednesday under iQuilt, a vision for making the city more walkable and capitalizing on its arts and cultural assets as well as Bushnell Park and the Connecticut River.
The first phase, expected to cost $23 million, includes sweeping changes in how buses crisscross downtown and the way the central business district handles bus traffic from CTfastrak, the New Britain-Hartford busway now under construction.
Bus traffic will be removed from areas along Bushnell Park, where it is anticipated that streets will be narrowed to encourage more pedestrian traffic. Buses will be added to other areas, including near the Old State House, where State Street will be reopened for buses only. Asylum Street, most of which is now one-way, would be opened to a two-way bus route.
Thomas Deller, the city's development director, told about 100 people gathered at the Hartford Public Library that designers have been selected for each of the three locations, with Suisman Urban Design overseeing the entire project. Doug Suisman has been the lead planner in the development of the iQuilt concept. This part of the iQuilt vision has been called the Intermodal Triangle Project.
The construction is expected to be completed by the fall of 2015. Deller acknowledged that the timetable was ambitious, but it was a condition of the $10 million federal transportation grant that will pay for nearly half of the improvements. Most of the balance will be paid through the city's capital improvement budget, Deller said.
"It's going to improve traffic flow and bring a lot of beautification," Deller said, during a break in the meeting. "It's the first major step in implementing the iQuilt plan."
The iQuilt vision has been developing for several years and has as its centerpiece Bushnell Park and the goal of opening up a pedestrian route from the state Capitol building to the Connecticut River.
Key components of the triangle project are:
--Bushnell Park North. Bushnell Park would be extended to Main Street by moving Gold Street closer to Bushnell Tower. That would create a new, 1.5-acre park area that would include greenhouses, outdoor meeting areas, benches and a cafe. Gold Street would become narrower, resembling a residential street. Streets would be similarly narrowed to Pulaski Circle, with landscaping improvements.
--State House Square. In addition to opening State Street for bus traffic, the park in the front of the Old State House could be redesigned, possibly removing the fence that now surrounds it.
--Union Station. Improvements at Union Station are still in the design phase.
It is anticipated that designs for each of the areas will be finalized by October.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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