Safety and Aesthetic Improvements Coming to an Ave Near You

By , January 21, 2013 9:30 am

Unlike parking or access to grocery stores, the groans elicited by travel on arterial streets are actually well-deserved.

ALBANY AVENUE

This is why residents from the neighborhoods get angry about Downtown-centric projects that emerge from nowhere and begin to bear fruit within a handful of years. Go to any meeting in City Hall and you’re likely to hear someone asking, “What about Albany Ave?“.

Unlike Downtown, Albany Avenue has a lot of people on the street. Every day. There’s a new, spacious branch of the Hartford Public Library, a  Performing Arts Center, and a YMCA on the street,  not to mention the shops and restaurants. Improvements to Albany Avenue would not be about attracting potential visitors or enticing young professionals to move in; these are changes needed for actual folks, already here.

Will this be the year that everyone gets it together and moves the 1.1 mile project with a $17.5 million budget forward?

After a “public meeting kickoff” in January, there will be a wait for months before the design is finalized in September. The project is slated to go out to bid in December, with construction planned to begin in March 2014.

These repairs should increase safety, particularly for pedestrians. Crosswalks will be made more visible, lighting will be improved, and trees will be planted. Attention will be given to traffic calming.

None of these changes will happen a moment too soon. According to the City’s TIGER II grant application from 2010, between 2006-2008, there were 23 pedestrians struck by vehicles in this stretch of Albany Avenue. This report claims long distances of the avenue lack crosswalks and signals, and the existing signal equipment does not meet American Association State Highway Transportation Officials’ standards. The infrastructure is not always ADA compliant, as there are ramps missing in places.

It’s a hot mess.

The project will span Albany Avenue from Westbourne Parkway and Homestead Avenue to Brook Street.

WETHERSFIELD AVE

In the immediate future, a quarter mile of Wethersfield Avenue should be given a facelift. As with Albany Avenue and Farmington Avenue, this area has been already under one variety of construction or another for some time, thanks to the MDC project.

The Wethersfield Avenue Streetscape Project will go out to bid next month, with construction on the stretch between Victoria Road at the Wethersfield town line, to Eaton Street, beginning in the spring.

This projects intends to make the streetscape more pleasant for motorists and pedestrians. Sidewalks will be repaired and bump-outs added. Improvements will also be made to traffic signals and crosswalks.

The budget for the Wethersfield Avenue Streetscape Project is $2.2 million in state bonding. Construction is expected to be completed in the fall of 2013.

COLTSVILLE STREETSCAPE PROJECT

With a budget of $5.2 million (to date), movement on this is supposed to happen soon, as it went out to bid in January. Construction, due to begin this spring, will make the streets around the Colt Armory more attractive — a must as the City seeks National Park status for the former factory. Funding for the sidewalk repairs, bump-outs, crosswalks, and traffic signals comes from local, state, and federal sources.

If it feels like you’ve been hearing about this project for awhile, it’s because you have: it precedes the City’s current administration.

Work on the streets and sidewalks is expected to be completed by spring of 2014.

FARMINGTON AVE

Here, pedestrians have long waits for crosswalk lights, which do nothing to guarantee that motorists will share the road. Compared with other sidewalks in Hartford, these are not in disrepair, though during this time of year, pedestrians have to contend with long stretches of unshoveled, unsalted sidewalks, such as the stretch west of the Mark Twain House & Museum to Owen Street, and the area in front of 461 Farmington Avenue. Even in the best of conditions, Farmington Avenue makes for a noisy and polluted place to walk.

Cyclists, riding legally in the street, lack any lane of their own. On streets with wide shoulders, or even well-marked travel lanes, a designated space for bicycles might not be as necessary. Currently, traveling by bicycle (or unicycle or tricycle) down Farmington Avenue means throwing oneself into a situation where nobody knows where they are supposed to be due to the absence of consistent lane marking. It means dodging the buses which are often driven without predictability. And it means a degree of physical discomfort. Think the pot holes, dips, and ruts feel harsh in a car?

Motorists on Farmington Avenue deal with congestion, the aforementioned confusion, and situations created by many drivers who drive recklessly.

People have been asking for nearly a decade when the Farmington Avenue Streetscape Project would finally get moving so some of these conditions would be alleviated. Teaser projects — like routine pot hole repair and the not-so-routine major MDC water main replacement which was accompanied by delays — have not helped those patiently waiting for substantial improvements to this main artery.

According to the City of Hartford, this project has gone out to bid this winter, and construction is slated to begin during the spring of this year. This phase will span from South Marshall Street to Sherman Street and include improvements like sidewalk repair, curb bump-outs, crosswalks, and traffic signal equipment. According to the Farmington Avenue Alliance, improvements should also include turnouts so that buses are removed from travel lanes for some stops; trees, planters, and raised beds will add much-needed green to the street. There are no plans to install bike lanes.

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