Four years after city officials launched an initiative to improve road safety in New Haven, the project is being revamped to emphasize low-cost solutions.
Complete Streets 2.0 is set to kick off in May with renovations on Edgewood Avenue. The original Complete Streets projects, which launched in September 2010, focused on expensive infrastructure changes to New Haven roads with the goal of enhancing safety and usability. Led by Douglas Hausladen ’04, director of the Department of Transportation, Traffic and Parking, and City Engineer Giovanni Zinn ’05, the new Complete Streets project focuses on improving roads quickly using low-cost solutions.
“The real impact will be threefold: better projects, faster projects and more affordable projects,” said Zinn. “Previously, we were able to do about two to four projects a year. We want to bump that up by a factor of 10.”
Hausladen said Mayor Toni Harp has been pushing for more of a “lean urbanism” approach that emphasizes cheap and temporary procedures like painting, signing and planter installations over more resource-heavy procedures like curbing and infrastructure adjustment. Complete Streets 2.0 will follow this model, placing an emphasis on more efficient techniques.
Hausladen said much of this approach is based off its success in other parts of the country, including New York City.
In the original Complete Streets project, fixing an intersection cost $500,000. With Complete Streets 2.0, the same project can be completed for $50,000, according to Hausladen.
Zinn stressed that Complete Streets 2.0 will benefit all road users equally, including pedestrians and cyclists.
“This is a philosophical change,” Zinn said. “Previously, the worst incarnation of traffic engineering was where you’re slave to the car and nothing else was served. In Complete Streets 2.0, you’re not only serving cars — you’re serving pedestrians and cyclists and all the users of the street.”
Like its predecessor, Complete Streets 2.0 will be localized in its impact, according to Hausladen, since projects often involve renovations to a small portion of a street.
Zinn said projects are started by someone in the community sending in an application or suggestion.
Currently, Hausladen and Zinn are working with the Resource Allocation Committee to figure out which applications to work out first. Within a month, they expect to have 10 projects planned. The Edgewood Avenue redesign will replace two-lane traffic in each direction with one travel lane each way, creating more room for a protected bike lane. This project will be completed using cheaper materials than were used for the first Complete Streets program. Whereas the first Complete Streets project involved creating curbs that cost $40 a foot, the new project uses striping which costs 40 cents a foot. Hausladen said he expects that the entire Edgewood Avenue project will cost under $80,000.
Ivonne Gonzales ’16, who regularly cycles on Edgewood Avenue, said she would benefit from the project.
“I have ridden my bike on Edgewood Avenue many times before, and I usually have to use the sidewalk. It can sometimes be a little dangerous — the road winds and bends, and you can’t see the incoming traffic,” she said.
Hausladen said another advantage of Complete Streets 2.0 is how easily projects can be adjusted or even removed. He explained that with low cost approaches, designs can be tested without risk of losing a large investment.
Zinn said Complete Streets 2.0 is not looking to rebuild New Haven, but rather to reconfigure it in subtle but effective ways.
Hausladen admitted that the temporary and cheap nature of the materials used threatens the stability of Complete Streets 2.0.
“I wish I could rebuild New Haven,” he said. “But that would take 100 years. In the interim, we can try to focus on temporary pilot installations, which will last five to 10 years.”
In addition to the Edgewood Avenue project, Complete Streets 2.0 includes plans for renovating Clinton Avenue and Cleveland Road.