DOT Promises To Consider New Designs For Flower Street Bridge
By DON STACOM
July 16, 2013
HARTFORD — After listening to residents use words like "ugly" and "hideous," state engineers on Tuesday said they'll try to design a pedestrian bridge over the busway on Flower Street that doesn't use hundreds of feet of switchback ramps.
No matter what design is used, CTfastrak engineers said they plan to build a new overhead passageway for pedestrians and bicycle riders by the time the busway starts operations in early 2015. But they also emphasized that they won't sacrifice any part of the CTfastrak system to do it.
"We're not changing a decision that's been made, and we're not changing the busway," Transportation Commissioner James Redeker told a crowd of more than 60 at a forum at The Lyceum on Tuesday evening. "We'll try to do the best job we can."
Columbia Street resident Barry Lubin told the DOT that the design it offered last winter isn't acceptable.
"It looks terrible. It's just ugly," Lubin said of the so-called up-and-over structure.
The DOT has said that tunneling under Flower's busway crossing isn't affordable, and building a simple pedestrian bridge above it isn't practical because of the tight space constraints. The location is at the end of a hill sloping down from Farmington Avenue, wedged beneath the I-84 viaduct and bordered by The Courant's building and parking lot.
The DOT last winter suggested the most feasible plan would be a 110-foot bridge connected by two sets of multiple switchback ramps. That would meet ADA requirements for gentle slopes and landings to accommodate wheelchair users. But users would have to traverse about 280 feet of ramps on each side, so getting past the Flower Street crossing — currently a simple, short walk — would mean walking nearly 700 feet up and down the rampways.
That structure could cost $4 million or so, the DOT said last winter. Residents criticized it as too expensive and unattractive; some compared it to the elaborate pedestrian walkway above I-91.
"It will be like that — and nobody will use it," one resident said.
DOT engineers stressed that they're open to any other design, and promised to work in the next two to three months to incorporate ideas they heard Tuesday evening. Several people suggested that an elevated sidewalk rising from Capitol gradually to rise above the crossing would be best. The DOT noted that such a plan could block access to the Courant's property.
Residents who suggested saving the Flower Street crossing were told that won't happen. They'd prefer to halt the busway at Sigourney Street or narrow it to one lane at Flower, making the bridge unnecessary. But CTfastrak engineers said that would harm the $567 million project.
The DOT plans to permanently close off pedestrian access at Flower's railroad crossing around Oct. 1 to clear the area for busway construction. Simultaneously, the agency expects to open a new pedestrian pathway linking Flower to Broad Street, which runs parallel about a block to the east. For the next year and a half or so, walkers and cyclists going between Frog Hollow and Asylum Hill on Flower will be diverted to a detour using the pathway and Broad Street's sidewalk.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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