DOT Plans City Street Improvements As Part Of Busway Project
By DON STACOM
July 21, 2013
HARTFORD — Busway construction this fall will bring changes to Hartford's heavily used Broad Street and Farmington Avenue intersection, and engineers are already designing a much more ambitious overhaul for sometime in 2015.
Reshaping the eastern end of the so-called Asylum/Farmington Trident will cost more than $3 million and would create more attractive walkways and safer pedestrian crossings, according to the state transportation department.
The triangle bordered by Asylum Avenue, Asylum Place and Farmington Avenue currently could be considered as fairly hostile territory for pedestrians and cyclists. In some spots, walkers cross four or five lanes of heavy and often fast traffic.
CTfastrak planners hope to attract commuters from the workforces of the large employers near the eastern edge of the Asylum/Farmington Trident, including Hartford Financial, Aetna and the state, itself, which is buying the 12-story office tower at 55 Farmington Ave. Making the area more pleasant for large groups of pedestrians would help. Currently, those blocks are unmistakably designed primarily for car traffic.
The transportation department plans to change that. At a presentation last week at The Lyceum about CTfastrak, DOT officials said they have the money lined up and want to coordinate the work with the opening of the busway in 2015. Federal Surface Transportation Funding will pay for 80 percent of the cost, with state and city funds covering the rest.
The department is also considering a streetscape for part of Capitol Avenue and similar work on Sigourney to make those roads more attractive to pedestrians, including the new bus commuters that CTfastrak hopes to draw. The DOT described the changes as ways to make those sites "more green, safer and more pedestrian friendly." Funding for the Capitol Avenue streetscape isn't available so far, however, they said.
In the shorter term, the DOT intends to close the Flower Street railroad crossing to pedestrians this October, while opening a graded walking and bike path that will allow a detour to nearby Broad Street. At the same time, they hope to wrap up construction of the new Broad Street bridge and begin major busway construction alongside the Amtrak line at Flower Street.
"October of '13 is key for us," said Tom Strand of the DOT.
As the state relocates more of its workforce to downtown Hartford, CTfastrak is looking for ways to lure them out of their cars and onto the busway. Working against that goal are the labor contracts that ensure free parking for thousands of state workers in the city.
Michael Sanders of CTfastrak told the audience at The Lyceum that there's no way to change those contract provisions in the short run, but he said the DOT can provide incentives for riding — and perhaps disincentives for continuing to use cars. The state provides free shuttles for employees who park at its more remote downtown lots, and Sanders said the frequency of those shuttles could be scaled back.
"State workers are an important part of the market," Sanders said.
CTfastrak was designed to reduce traffic on the congested stretch of I-84 from downtown to West Hartford, and planners predict that it will carry thousands of riders a day in each direction. The city is looking for it to reduce traffic by getting cars off the road.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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