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Consultant Details Efforts To Streamline Traffic In The Business District

February 14, 2023
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Consultant Details Efforts To Streamline Traffic In The Business District
Participants in the 2030 Task Force enjoy a glass of beer while they hear about potential streetscape improvements in the town's business district.

In the third of its public forum sessions on January 30, consultants for the 2030 Task Force took a closer look at possible streetscape designs that could help make the business district more attractive.

The task force’s charge is to define ways to grow the Grand List by 2030 – in the hopes that the tax burden will be borne by more taxpayers, and the mill rate will be lower. Their primary effort so far was to work on ways to make the business district a place where businesses thrive and people — from Woodbridge and other communities — want to hang out.

The particular challenge of this area is that it is home to not only businesses, but also homes and offices.

With the guidance of consultant Laura Pirie the committee has been looking at two aspects, namely “traffic connectivity” — what can be done to slow down traffic and make people want to stop  — and “placemaking,” looking at building styles and sizes, intensity of uses, etc. Three public forums, each taking place at New England Brewing Co., were held to get input and feedback from people who live and work in the area, as well as those who live in the residential parts of Woodbridge.

Conceptual rendering of the intersection of Bradley and Amity roads, one of the most accident-prone intersections in town. Above, a picture of what it is currently; below, a traffic light, crosswalk, and trees make it a more inviting place.

Traffic has long been considered one of the main problems in the bottleneck of the Route 63/69/15 interchange. But contrary to the long-held belief of road widening in order to allow better traffic flow, their recommendation is actually to try and slow things down, allow pedestrians and bicyclists to participate, and improve the overall look through street plantings and creating quiet spots.

Making the sidestreets connecting routes 63 and 69 one-way, for example, will improve traffic flow, said one consultant, David Sullivan, in addressing the audience.  But “it will not accomplish what you are trying to accomplish here.”

Instead, they are suggesting making the roadways narrower, even main roads such as Amity Road, and add trees and green strips, shaded area and quiet spots, sidewalks and sheltered bus stops.

One businessman questioned whether public amenities would attract more crime and litter, mentioning the homeless encampment behind Stop and Shop as the type of issue he would be concerned about. Pirie suggested that typically, the more activity a particular area generates, the less crime it will attract. Williams suggested lighting and policing in areas where issues occur.

“Maybe hire private security officers,” he suggested.

Williams showed accident statistics for the area on a map, and found two spots particularly dangerous, namely the intersection of Bradley and Amity roads and the lower Litchfield Turnpike.

They are suggesting a traffic light at Bradley and Amity, and pedestrian improvements for the whole area. He also suggested studying the signaling intervals on Litchfield Turnpike. “Minor tweaks can sometimes change the flow of traffic,” he said.

Ona Alpert, an owner of the Selden Plaza, asked to tweak the timing of the traffic light on Bank Street to allow for a left- turn up onto Amity Road.

“Each intersection will need to be looked at with a fine comb,” Williams answered. An updated traffic study would be part of their recommendation for Phase 2.

Alpert was also adamant that she would not want any trees on Bank Street. “Please, NO trees,” she said, adding for emphasis, “I would cut them down myself.” Trees block the view of the building, she explained. Lower plantings would be okay in her book.

One feature of the connectivity plan is a new narrow road connecting routes 63 and 69, parallel to the Wilbur Cross Parkway. It would re-direct driveway entrances away from Litchfield Turnpike, and allow customers to access businesses from that connector street, making the traffic flow there much smoother and safer, Pirie said.

Although the land is currently not for sale, this new road is a concept that could be part of a Master Plan.

The consultants are to present their findings at the Board of Selectmen, with Jason Williams introducing the preliminary connectivity plan on Feb. 8 and Laura Pirie presenting a “vision and placemaking” plan on March 8.

This is an opinion not necessarily endorsed by the Woodbridge Town News.

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