Best Most Awesome Superlatives 2016

Winner of the Weirdest Award

Winner of the Weirdest Award

This has been, in countless ways, a crap year.

In terms of Hartford-specific issues, it hasn’t been so bad, but that has gotten drowned out by the presidential election, all of our crushes from the 80’s dying, and a billion other things like plane crashes, environmental racism, Muhammad AliAleppo, Orlando, and Princess Leia.

Still, our ridiculous awards must go on. If it helps, imagine us shoving a fiery dumpster down the red carpet. Because there is nothing more appropriate to round out this year. (more…)

DOT Mitigation for Closure of Flower Street: Ain’t Nothing New Under the Sun

This is what the east-west mitigation path (Flower Street to Broad Street) looked like at 10:30 last night. At the meeting, two representatives from the Hartford Courant said that building a bridge would be “extravagant” and that they think the DOT did a “good job” with this pathway.

Fighting with the Connecticut Department of Transportation to lock down safe and reasonable pedestrian and cyclist access is a long process, so it’s unsurprising that those attending the latest round were small in number– a mix of those who understand the project better than some of those presenting on it, and those who were uninformed about how we came to be in a room discussing a multimillion dollar project that nobody wants.

Background for those just tuning in: The DOT barricaded one of Hartford’s city streets last year. Pedestrians, cyclists, vehicles, even emergency vehicles, are unable to go from Capitol Avenue to Farmington Avenue on this street.

Neighborhood groups opposed this for obvious reasons, like losing north-south access between Frog Hollow and Asylum Hill. Area small businesses opposed this out of fear of losing significant foot traffic; later, those stores along Capitol Avenue would experience the loss in revenue predicted. The City of Hartford initially opposed this, but then backed off. Aetna had been ready to provide legal support to fight this, but they eventually cowered. Christopher Brown, a resident of Frog Hollow and board member of Bike Walk CT, sought a writ of mandamus — for us plain folk, that means he sued the DOT, not to get any money, but to force them to keep Flower Street open for cyclists and pedestrians. In Superior Court, as in these public neighborhood meetings, the argument for keeping the street open got twisted; instead of the case being about safety, it was interpreted as being about convenience — something that has never been the emphasis for vocal residents and business owners. What came out of that time in court was that the DOT is now on record as being committed to building a bridge that would actually move pedestrians and cyclists in the north-south direction.

Still no word on how this would be funded

At Monday’s meeting intended to update the community on the DOT’s plans for this Flower Street up-and-over, the attention once again was placed on convenience over safety. Though the method for obtaining these numbers was never disclosed, we were told that taking the Broad Multi-Use Path would take 6.3 minutes, the Skywalk, 5.5 minutes, and the elevator, 5.6 minutes. During this process, the community has asked the DOT for data on pedestrian and cyclist fatalities and injuries at at-grade crossings versus at busy intersections and at Interstate ramp crossings. To date, the public has not received this information.

At the meeting, Brown raised the point that according to the DOT’s own internal emails obtained through a FOIA request, there is a simple solution that would not require millions of dollars or minutes of detour: go from a double lane of busway to single for a small portion of the New Britain-to-Hartford path. According to the DOT (more…)

DOT Committed in Court to Building Bridge for Pedestrians and Cyclists

Glossing over the matter of safety and likening the plaintiff’s issue with the Flower Street closure to one of “inconvenience,” the Superior Court in Hartford ruled to dismiss the lawsuit against James Redeker, Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Transportation. Christopher Brown had sought a writ of mandamus– a resolution that would require the CT DOT reopen Flower Street for cyclists and pedestrians as DOT’s hearing officer Judith Almeida had ruled previously. With the dismissal, the DOT is permitted to leave a city street permanently closed to all forms of traffic.

Attorney Ken Krayeske said the outcome was not unexpected. “We knew going in that a mandamus presents a unique challenge: how do you prove a plaintiff has a legal right to something?,” he said.

“We understood the uphill odds, but we filed because the Connecticut Department of Transportation relegates cyclists and pedestrians to second class citizenship,” Krayeske said.

View from the “mitigation path” that goes between Broad Street and Flower Street. The broken fence between the Interstate and path adds confidence for those expecting a safe route, free of wayward vehicles.

The DOT, now backed by the court, has said that an east-west path sufficiently mitigates the closure of a north-south route. The bike lanes on Broad Street have been accepted by them and the court as another solution to the closure. The new lanes and bike boxes on Broad Street were painted in November; the paint is already nearly completely eroded in places and few cyclists use it. According to dozens of cyclists, this stretch of Broad Street is not significantly safer since the installment of these lanes. In the last month, huge potholes in the Broad Street and Capitol Avenue intersection have not made things easier for those on two wheels. Although not directly part of the Flower Street situation, a nearby stretch of the East Coast Greenway which has been identified as the responsibility of the State had gone neglected for weeks while a large sheet of ice made walking and cycling a challenge. (more…)

How Flower Street’s Closure Helps Transit Oriented Development

Ken Krayeske, a Hartford cyclist and lawyer, posed a question at Bike Walk Connecticut’s fundraiser dinner: How does the permanent closure of Flower Street to pedestrian and cyclist traffic enhance Transit Oriented Development (TOD)? The keynote speaker, Kip Bergstrom, Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development, gave a succinct response before swiftly changing the topic: “I’m not sure that it does.” (more…)

DOT on Flower Street: Permanent Closure, Tentative Plans

Flower Street fans, be sure to savor the next few days of safe passage. The Connecticut DOT informed their update email list that they intended to ignore and violate a year’s worth of legal precedent and intend to permanently close Hartford’s Flower Street. That’s the short version of what the tone deaf and directionally-challenged Connecticut Department of Transportation wants to do with neither a plan nor the funding for the legally required crossing in place at this time.

At last month’s Asylum Hill and Frog Hollow NRZ meetings,  DOT Principal Engineer Richard Armstrong presented some overpass concepts that were finally met with some satisfaction by residents. Previous meetings included circulating the same expensive and impractical designs, despite residents and other stakeholders repeatedly telling the State agency to be more creative. Nobody wants a $6 million bridge. Five  concepts were revealed during the most recent meetings: a switchback, skywalk, helix, and two different elevator possibilities. The Skywalk concept, likened to New York City’s High Line, was the most well-received. It would cost, by the CT DOT’s estimation, $4.62 to $6.24 million to build.

Luke's on top.

Artist rendition of the Skywalk concept, as viewed from the north.


DOT Unwilling to Change Busway, Attitude

The week began with hope and anticipation. A Monday morning site meeting with an engineer and a planner from the Department of Transportation had gone remarkably well, and neighborhood representatives looked forward to seeing what new ideas the CT Fastrak team had developed for the Flower Street crossing since the May 20th decision requiring that the crossing remain passable. Alas, this bright outlook was no match for the reality of the July 16 meeting the DOT hosted at the Lyceum in Hartford. Officials showed old drawings of overpass designs and a remarkably similar attitude toward neighborhood advocates to that of their August 2012 public meeting in the same room. Several officials, including Commissioner James P. Redeker, said they were not expecting the May decision to be in favor of the neighborhood stakeholders.

In fact, it began before they even made it to the room. DOT officials, seemingly unaware of the sightlines, acoustics and occupants of the multi-chambered Lyceum lobby, spoke aloud of residents as “Ignorant” and quipped that “…the AC should be turned down low so that residents’ tempers don’t flare.” It seemed the meeting was off to a rough start before it began. (more…)