Brief: State funds to be provided for renovation of Whalley Ave.

Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell announced in a written statement yesterday that bonds expected to be approved by the state Bond Commission today will provide $6.9 million for road construction on a portion of Whalley Avenue that runs from Emerson Street to Glen View Terrace, near West Rock Park.

Ward 27 Alderman Tom Lehtonen, whose district the avenue straddles, said the road is often congested as drivers wait to turn on the two-lane road. He added that drivers sometimes double up, two to a lane, making for crowded and dangerous conditions.

“There is lots of traffic coming off Route 15, going to the Yale Bowl,” he said. “[Whalley] is always heavily traveled, but more so on a football weekend.”

In the statement, the governor said she is targeting the stretch of road because of the frequent accidents it has witnessed in recent years.

“This stretch of Whalley Avenue has seen more than 400 wrecks between January 2001 and June 2004 resulting in more than 125 injuries,” the statement read. “Our plan is to widen the street and fully rebuild it, as well as replacing the curbs and sidewalks, all with the goal of making this busy street safer for residents and business people.”

Lehtonen estimated that the project has been discussed, on and off, for about 15 years.

“This is probably the closest I’ve heard of it being done,” he said. “It’s been proposed numerous times, and it’s never happened.”

He said this particular project was proposed about three years ago. Preliminary work has already begun over the past couple years, he explained, so residents in the area are hopeful it will be completed this time.

Lehtonen added: “Now it appears this is the time it gets done.”

The road — also CT Route 63 — serves as the main artery from CT Route 15 into New Haven’s downtown, said City Hall Spokeswoman Jessica Mayorga.

“It’s a primary in and out for people who work and live in New Haven,” she said.

The mayor has been in conversation with the state about the project for the last couple years, she added, so the state’s announcement does not come as a surprise.

“Speaking for myself, it will be a headache during construction, but it will make things a bit nicer,” Lehtonen said.

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