Busway Designers To Hear Ideas About Flower Street Bridge
By DON STACOM
July 15, 2013
After neighbors prevailed in an exhaustive battle to secure a pedestrian bridge over Flower Street in Hartford, people who live and work in the city will get a chance to offer design suggestions.
Residents, cyclists and nearby merchants have said before that they want a safe, reasonably attractive, simple-to-use path that's practical for year-round use. Precisely how many of those features can be engineered into confined space above the busway and rail line at Flower Street remains to be seen.
The state transportation department is hosting a forum about the bridge Tuesday, and invites individuals, civic groups, community associations, business owners and anyone else with an interest in how the bridge is designed.
Rush-hour traffic along Capitol and Farmington avenues near Flower and Broad streets has been heavy for many years, but construction of the CTfastrak busway is making the situation more complex. The introduction of the limited-access busway alongside the Amtrak line is creating plenty of change for the Frog Hollow and Asylum Hill neighborhoods.
The DOT in December permanently closed Flower to cars and trucks because of how the busway will change the once-simple railroad crossing beneath the I-84 viaduct. Instead of a single set of lightly used train tracks, the corridor will be adding two lanes for high-frequency rapid transit buses. When CTfastrak opens in early 2015, the area there would become too wide and heavily used for motorists to cross through safely, the DOT says.
But a DOT administrative officer refused to let the agency close off access to pedestrians, cyclists and wheelchair users. Community advocates warned that simply blocking off the center of Flower Street to everyone would damage local businesses, endanger cyclists and divide two neighborhoods. Hearing Officer Judith Almeida agreed, and this spring ordered that the DOT keep the pedestrian crossing at Flower open unless it builds an alternative fairly similar to the "up and over" structure the designers proposed last winter.
The DOT has said it would cost up to $4 million to build a series of switchback ramps that would bring users up to — or down from — a new platform crossing above the train and bus lines. The DOT will hear public opinion about design options at its forum from 7 to 9 p.m. at The Lyceum, 227 Lawrence St.
In addition, the DOT and staff from the city will present information about other projects designed to improve vehicular and pedestrian traffic in the areas surrounding Flower Street. And in the years ahead, the traffic system is likely to grow vastly more complicated when the state undertakes a far larger transportation project downtown — replacement or redesign of the I-84 viaduct.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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