Route 1-East Avenue overhaul slated for completion in August
NORWALK — Motorists and pedestrians may have an easier time navigating two intersections along Route 1 in Norwalk under state construction projects slated for completion in late August. The Connecticut Department of Transportation last November awarded a $2.8 million contract to Waters Construction Co. to rebuild the intersections of Route 1 with Stuart and East avenues.
The company is on schedule to complete both jobs by Aug. 29 as stipulated in the contract, according to Travis Woodward, the DOT project engineer overseeing the work “The Route 53 and Route 1 portion of the project consists of widening U.S. Route 1 to create two lanes of through traffic as well as a dedicated left-turn lane when traveling U.S. Route 1 eastbound,” Woodward wrote in an email explaining the project. “There will also be upgrades to the traffic signals, drainage and sidewalks to meet current standards. Most notably is the installation of a retaining wall at the northeast corner of the intersection that adds character to the roadway while maintaining the historic appeal of the area.” Orange safety cones demarcate the area of the work, which is being done at night so as to not further disrupt traffic on heavily traveled Route 1.
On Monday afternoon, traffic stood choked along northbound Route 1, going uphill toward the East Avenue/Route 53. The roadway has a dedicated turn lane for motorists wishing to turn left onto East Avenue and a single through lane — wholly inadequate for the traffic volume. Peter Libre, a Norwalk resident and bicyclist who sits on the Norwalk Bike/Walk Commission, acknowledges the traffic congestion but described the DOT’s solution as a “waste of money.” He said the department could have restriped Route 1 rather than widened it to accommodate the additional lane.
“You could have made three lanes up the hill without doing any construction whatsoever if you just made that lane narrower and these three lanes the minimum width, also,” said Libre, pointing at the south and northbound lanes.
As the DOT overhaul of intersection continues, the Norwalk Department of Public Works is moving forward with work along and near East Avenue “When they get finished with theirs, we’re going to pave East Avenue, from where they left off down to approximately Wall Street,” said Norwalk Director of Public Works Bruce Chimento.
The Grasso Cos., which has this year’s paving contract with the public works department, has installed an Americans With Disabilities Act-compliant sidewalk along St. Paul’s Place and curb cut into the nearby Norwalk Green.
“Grasso intends to finish ADA sidewalk improvements in the next week and plans to schedule (East Avenue) milling and repaving by the middle of June,” wrote company owner Joe Grasso Jr. in an email Monday. “We plan to reduce traffic to two lanes to allow both directions to pass during construction.” CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE
New, and straight, lanes could ease I-84 bottleneck
The ride on I-84 west through Waterbury could get a little easier.
On Sunday night work was scheduled to move traffic onto new westbound lanes from Scott Road Bridge to the new I-84 bridge over the Mad River. Any remaining work that needs to be performed will be done Monday night.
The opening will allow the closure of the narrow, two lanes that featured a sharp turn near the landmark Nardelli’s grinder shop.
This traffic shift will also allow the contractor to complete demolition of three bridges, and continue construction of Plank Road East, Harper’s Ferry Road, and the new westbound Exit 25 on-ramp.
Last December, new eastbound lanes opened to traffic. The new lanes eliminated the infamous “S” curve near Harper’s Ferry Road.
The $330 million I-84 Waterbury project involves the widening (addition of a third travel lane and full width shoulders in each direction) and safety improvements to a 2.7-mile segment of Interstate 84 from Washington Street, east to Pierpont Road in Waterbury.
Work on the project that required blasting of rock and demolition of bridges began in the spring of 2015. The contract calls for work to end in the summer of 2020.
Of course, during the afternoon/early evening commute, there will still be westbound delays starting around Exit 25.
Part of the problem is high traffic volume, merging traffic from entrance ramps and one less lane near Exit 25.
According to state Department of Transportation data, up to 123,000 a day use this stretch of I-84.
Legislators restore MAT money to budget
MIDDLETOWN — Transit riders won’t face route eliminations and fare increases for the next two years, following the General Assembly’s vote to maintain funding levels last week.
Middletown Area Transit, which provides bus and paratransit service throughout the city, as well as to and from Portland, East Hampton and Meriden, faced a $261,000 cut proposed by the state Department of Transportation.
The DOT funds 90 percent of MAT’s $2.6 million budget and the city of Middletown provides 10 percent of the overall cost. “Thank you to everyone for the amazing work and coming together to prevent the funding cuts,” MAT posted on its Facebook page Friday morning. “Now MAT can focus on service and the needs of its passengers.”
MAT Administrator Lisa Seymour said she was told in late March that 15 percent of the could potentially be trimmed from the district’s budget July 1. A much deeper 50 percent cut was slated to take effect July 1, 2019. Changes would have been implemented in every transit district across the state. “Cuts of this magnitude would have had a devastating effect on the local economy and people who rely on mass transit to get to work, to school or other important places in the Middletown area,” state Rep. Matt Lesser, D-Middletown, said in a release.
During a rally May 3 at the Main Street bus station, about 40 people gathered to listen to elected leaders, community activists and transit authorities who appealed for a call to action. They asked residents and others who used the system to write and call their legislators to demand they restore funding. Among routes at risk of being lost were Saturday services, those bringing passengers to the Westlake area of the city, reduced services to the Portland/East Hampton weekday run, and lines to Walmart in Cromwell. Cost per ride would have risen from $1.75 to $2 for the average rider. Paratransit and Dial A Ride passengers would have been affected as well.
During a public hearing at City Hall April 25 hosted by MAT, dozens of riders, residents, business people and local leaders decried the state’s plan. That session lasted more than two hours.
In getting the funding, Lesser said he worked with Seymour, who feared not only cuts in vital services for residents but also jobs.
The FedEx distribution hub, which broke ground at the site of the former Aetna complex near the Cromwell line two years ago, is expected to hire hundreds of workers, many of which would need transportation to and from work.
“Middletown Transit has been through so much this year. To know that we do not have to cut service is a great relief,” Seymour said in a prepared statement. “Many jobs will be saved and quality of life improved for our passengers by foregoing these cuts.”