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.
“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.