New Haven Open to Additional Traffic Calming as Route 34 Project Advances

New Haven’s plans for Downtown Crossing have been criticized for replacing the highway with boulevards that will be too wide and dangerous to cross. The design of Phase 1 of the project includes roads with as many as 5 traffic lanes at intersections. Team members expressed a willingness to revisit this and other decisions in subsequent phases of the project (compare the Phase 1 rendering of a frontage road with a possible future design, for example). | Image: TSTC composite using images from City of New Haven.

New Haven’s Downtown Crossing project is moving forward. Earlier this month, the City received a $2.2 million grant to advance design work on the project, which aims to replace the Route 34 stub highway — a barrier between downtown New Haven and the Medical District — with two boulevards, while freeing up developable space in the current highway footprint. The Downtown Crossing project will also add north-south connections to the street grid by reconnecting Temple and Orange Streets.

Downtown Crossing is also purported to make the area friendlier for pedestrians and cyclists, but the first phase of the project, which primarily makes changes to the boulevards that are currently North and South Frontage Roads, does not go far enough and has come under fire from community members. One criticism of the frontage roads is that they will be too wide, with as many as five traffic lanes at some intersections. At a November 14 meeting, City staffers and project consultants expressed some willingness to revisit decisions made during this phase, namely making further pedestrian- and bike-friendly improvements to the wide boulevards, as advocates have suggested.

New Haven is exploring several options to extend Temple Street across Route 34 and into the Medical District, including a connection to Washington Avenue. | Image: City of New Haven.

“We’re working with the state to get that down to three [traffic lanes],” said Alan Mountjoy of NBBJ, the project’s urban design consultant. Mountjoy said that the city could add permanent parking to the frontage roads, allowing for curb extensions and shorter crossing distances at intersections. However, he said the city might implement this gradually as traffic levels stabilize; for example, the city might at first allow parking at off-peak times only.

The timing of the changes described in November will depend on funding. The first phase of Downtown Crossing has been put out for bid, according to the city, and construction could begin by February.  Funding has not been identified for construction of future phases.

See the project team’s presentation from the November 14 meeting here.

4 Comments on "New Haven Open to Additional Traffic Calming as Route 34 Project Advances"

  1. How is that bike box in Phase 1 supposed to work for a cyclist if he approaches the intersection and the light is already green? Is he supposed to cut across 4 lanes of traffic in 10′ in order to make a left turn? Or is he supposed to wait for the light to turn red, then move to the left, then wait for the next green?

  2. Good question, Max. The answer is it won’t work.

    This plan is not bike friendly, or ped friendly, or city friendly, or economic development friendly. What it is is the beautification of a highway in a downtown area and a land give-away to a wealthy developer who is closely connected with our city hall.

    TSTC and other groups have not been particularly helpful in getting the message across. They write misleading headlines like “additional traffic calming”, which pretends that, somehow, a 4 & 5 lane configuration will be “calm”.

    This isn’t a case of an area that needs a “little” rehab. This is a poorly conceived and poorly implemented project, start to finish, and if TSTC wishes to be relevant and behave morally they will rightfully criticize this project.

    I’ve unsubscribed from their email lists and am encouraging others here in New Haven to disregard them. As an organization, they are merely sharing propaganda for New Haven and the CT DOT: ranked one of the worst and least progressive DOTs in the nation.

    Why should anyone donate to TSTC or care what they think about other projects if they can’t be intellectually honest about this project?

  3. Sorry you feel that way, David. As I wrote (and as we have written in the past), Phase 1 of Downtown Crossing includes boulevards that are too wide and dangerous to cross. With construction of Phase 1 imminent, Tri-State believes it’s important to track and encourage opportunities to improve the project. For example, Mountjoy’s comment that “we’re working with the state to get that down to three [traffic lanes],” implies to me that the city hopes to narrow the boulevards but that the state is not necessarily on board and may need convincing. This is a bit of bureaucratic euphemism that, in retrospect, could have been explained better.

  4. Mike (IBEW local 90) | September 24, 2013 at 5:17 pm |

    This project, though I don’t know much about it, will clear traffic issues, bring new businesses to the city (tax revenue), enhance the community… There will always be political issues and politics that decide what gets done and what doesn’t get done, all we can do is hope the city of new haven will do right by its people. I’m a union electrician, and we (all construction unions) are looking forward to the work it will bring and put food on our plates. People need to not be so critical, not 100% of everyone will be happy with the project and what will be done, but it is an improvement that has been carefully considered.

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