In mid-October, we reported the appearance of stop signs on Flower Street, which indicated that Department of Transportation contractors were preparing the area for the shutting down the street. Michael Sanders, Public Transit Administrator at the Connecticut DOT, vehemently denied these signs had any connection to the government agency; he suggested these were related to the marathon that occurred over that weekend.
But why would a marathon be responsible for placing road closure signs in the middle, rather than at the ends, of a street?
The signs were then pushed to the side of the road, near the tracks, where they were less visible, but not removed. Had these been related to the marathon, it seems someone would have gotten around to retrieving them.
One month later, we call shenanigans.
The signs have been picked back up and are immediately visible to passersby. What’s more, two portable variable message signs have appeared to announce the street closure to motorized vehicles. That closure begins December 3rd.
Pedestrians and cyclists will continue to have access to Flower Street through June 2013, aside from periodic short closures because of construction. On those occasions, when neither pedestrian access is possible on Flower Street or Broad Street for a full 24-hour period during construction, the DOT says that a shuttle will be provided. They also state plans to “establish a defined pedestrian path between Flower Street and Broad Street,” which they are finally recognizing as mitigation and not a replacement for north-south access.
After an adjudicated regulatory hearing at the DOT in August, it was ruled that the agency would have to maintain access for pedestrians and cyclists.
At that hearing, parties wishing to speak were not granted the status requested– those seeking intervenor status were denied it, but permitted to speak on record. Even the City of Hartford was given a lesser status than it requested. As concerns were expressed, it became clear that those opposing the closure had done their homework, while the DOT expected to speed right along without being questioned by locals. No recent traffic studies of Flower Street had been conducted, nor had any studies been presented showing that this particular crossing had posed a danger. In fact, the DOT’s concern that individuals might be struck by trains is one issue they may create by closing a crossing, as trespassers— those anywhere on tracks not at a designated crossing — have been at the greatest risk of injury and death.
Meanwhile, there will be another meeting for all interested parties about the DOT’s “final decision” on January 24, 2013 in Conference Room A at the Department of Transportation at 10a.m. because Timothy Wilson, the Manager of Highway Design for the Bureau of Engineering and Construction has requested to “present new evidence.” The DOT is located on the Berlin Turnpike in Newington.
Why work so hard to barricade a street that provides a safer route for pedestrians and cyclists? A source who wishes not to be named for fear of job loss, has stated that all of his colleagues at the Connecticut DOT are actually opposed to CTfastrak. But, he says, when the federal government provides funding — two-thirds of the $275 million in this case — they step in line.