Isle of Safety Among Changes Planned for Intermodal Triangle Project

For those paying attention, there was nothing new shared at Wednesday evening’s iQuilt Plan update regarding the “Bushnell Park North” and “Bushnell Gardens” projects.

The former is a name given to the street which changes from Asylum to Ford, Jewell, and Wells. There has consistently been talk of putting this on a “road diet” to create a “wonderful boulevard for downtown,” as Doug Suisman says. He added that the “goal is not just to move vehicles down the street” and that it is a “challenge to get that choreography to flow” for all modes of transit in Downtown. Walking is one of the modes receiving attention. The sidewalks along Bushnell Park North could span up to 15′. The only notable change in the Bushnell Park North plans is that the push of the East Coast Greenway from the park is more gentle, less forceful. Suisman said that Bushnell Park North “may have a bike path. We’re still working on it.”

Bushnell Gardens, the name given to the extension of Bushnell Park to Main Street, appears to be right where the last update left off. Gold Street would be realigned and reduced to one lane in each direction to make it a “model street,” Suisman said. Instead of immersing Stone Field Sculpture in water, an idea that was toyed with in the past, this public art would be “featured” in the Bushnell Gardens section of the park.

Suisman said that Bushnell Park is “difficult to access from Downtown” and there would be work to improve this.

The new information was presented by Thomas Deller, Director of the Department of Development Services;  Jonas Maciunas, Complete Streets Coordinator for City of Hartford; and Sandy Fry, Greater Hartford Transit District;  who explained the Intermodal Triangle Project. Mayor Segarra, in his 2012 State of the City address, said that “through transit hubs and corridors, the Hartford Intermodal Triangle will strengthen the Capital Region’s economic and employment core by improving pedestrian and vehicular connections within the Unions Station-to-Main Street triangle.” This project is partially funded by a TIGER grant and should be completed within the next three years.

Deller provided a timeline for this project, with selection of engineers and the start of their work beginning this month. By the end of February there should be a finalization of the concept design. The actual design should be finalized by the end of October and in December a bid will go out on the project. Construction should begin during the spring of 2014 and the project is expected to be complete in fall of 2015.

The goals of this transit project, Maciunas explained, include improving the perception and reality of buses, creating better access to Downtown, improving transfers, improving stops and “route legibility,” and enabling “maximum positive impact” of CTfastrak. The focus of this will be on fixing the Downtown piece of the bus system first.

One issue with the buses right now, Fry explained, is that they create a wall along Main Street. To address this, Fry said that the old Isle of Safety would be reopened with a bus shelter on the westbound side of State House Square. This would mean removing the pedestrian-only State House Square plaza and reopening “State Street” for buses. The stop in front of the Old State House would be eliminated. Asylum Street would also become two-way for buses. Though not part of the Intermodal Triangle Project, Maciunas confirmed that unspecified changes would be made to the Founders Bridge ramp area.

Along with these changes, there would be a realignment of the Pearl Street and Ford Street intersection. Fry said that express buses would not be permitted to use Main Street for layovers and Union Station would offer a mini-transfer station.

After the various parties gave their respective presentations, the public was invited to view designs and give feedback in small groups. Predictably, some expressed fear that they would lose parking with the changes to Gold Street. Others worried that moving parked buses from Main Street would be relocating, not removing, a problem. For those seeking a timeline for when improvements would be made to the bus system citywide, that has yet to be provided.