City plans for cancer center traffic

Projected congestion in the area of Yale-New Haven Hospital’s proposed cancer center has led a city agency to present the Board of Aldermen with suggestions to consider managing traffic.

The report, submitted this month by Department of Traffic and Parking director Paul Wessel, cautions that the new center would add at least 1,142 additional trips daily to the already-congested hospital area and Hill neighborhood, without taking future residential and commercial development into account. Wessel said his report outlines specific concerns and suggestions that could make the center’s construction an opportunity to streamline commuting while improving urban design.

“Everyone agrees in principle that it’s important to manage traffic and parking,” Wessel said. “But we have not yet figured out, and it is time to try to figure out, what we are specifically going to do.”

Recommendations to mitigate congestion include subsidizing carpoolers who park in the center’s garage while charging single-occupant vehicles full price to park, and providing employees who walk or bike to work with cash incentives and backup transportation for bad weather or family emergencies.

Wessel said funding for the alleviation of traffic and parking problems would come from various sources.

“Clearly the hospital and University have a role to play,” he said. “But the city will also certainly ante up in terms of both time and money.”

Wessel said the city and Yale-New Haven’s traffic consultant agreed that signaling at intersections in the cancer center’s area will need to be overhauled. But some other suggestions, including widening roadways to ease vehicular traffic, are more contentious because of the impact they would have on pedestrians and commercial development.

Hospital spokesman Vin Petrini said although some of the report’s suggestions are consistent with Yale-New Haven’s own proposals to ease traffic problems — including connecting the Air Rights Garage directly to Route 34 — other suggestions conflict with the hospital’s plans.

“It is of significant concern if the suggested widening of roadways might impact the footprint of the cancer center and shrink our ability to deliver care to our patients,” Petrini said. “We need some time to digest the report, since it is relatively unusual in terms of some of the recommendations.”

The atypical suggestions, Petrini said, include proposals that the hospital hire two parking enforcement workers at $100,000 a year to monitor the residential area around the center, in addition to other traffic-planning professionals.

But some of Wessel’s other recommendations, such as offering subsidies to encourage employees to commute via public transportation, are already current policy at Yale-New Haven, Petrini said.

Deputy Dean for Clinical Affairs David Leffell ’77 said the School of Medicine is currently working to improve congestion problems that trouble nearby residents and patients visiting the school’s clinical offices.

“As the medical center campus grows, there will be all sorts of changes for us to make to accommodate our faculty, students and patients,” Leffell said.

Leffell said the cancer center poses less of a traffic concern for the medical school than does the relocation of Gateway Community College to the Temple Street Garage’s current location, which provides parking for the nearby medical center and school.

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