Under new proposals from City Hall, Edgewood Avenue might be transformed from a high-speed traffic artery into a route where cars share the road with the city’s first protected cycle track.
Those plans were the subject of discussion during a community meeting hosted by the city’s transportation and engineering departments in the Augusta Lewis Troup School Tuesday night. Residents who testified at the hearing were largely supportive of the plans put forth by City Traffic Chief Doug Hausladen ’04 and City Engineer Giovanni Zinn ’05. Some residents, though, were less optimistic, raising concerns about lost or relocated parking and cars’ high speeds on Edgewood Avenue.
“We really want to create a community place here,” Zinn said, noting that the proposal is part of a coherent long-term vision for the city’s infrastructure. “And we also want to create a network for cycling and for transit that is as good as the network that already exists for cars.”
Zinn said while city engineers from a previous era fetishized the automobile, modern principles of city engineering focus on making neighborhoods walkable and easily accessible for bicycles. This proposal, he said, would go a long way towards turning Downtown West — a catch-all term for the areas west of Downtown — into a more accessible neighborhood.
Hausladen said the proposals were only made possible by working with New Haven’s delegation to the Hartford General Assembly to secure $1.2 million in grant funding and change obscure state statutes that would have made the proposals illegal. One of those statutes, Hausladen said, required parked cars’ right wheel bases to be within 12 inches of the curb, a stipulation incompatible with the proposals. This project would be the first use of new cycle tracks in Connecticut, Hausladen said.
Paula Vassell, who lives on Edgewood Avenue, said while she supported the accessibility granted by the cycle tracks, she remains concerned that the plans will force her to park further from her house.
“I was looking at those pictures over there, and if I was living on Edgewood Avenue, I wouldn’t want that bike line to be on the curb, and then my parking to be across the lane,” Vassell said. “If I’m out late at night … I want to park as close to my house as possible to get the heck into my house.”
Vassell added that she would like to see speed bumps added to Edgewood Avenue to force cars to slow down. Other residents concurred, saying cars’ current high speeds makes walking and biking through the area unsafe. One resident described the traffic coming onto Edgewood Avenue from Forest Road as “roaring.”
One of the proposals’ more well-received inclusions was the purchase of a traffic light at the intersection of Edgewood and Winthrop Avenues, where the street diverges from one-way to a two-way on either side of an island. Zinn’s announcement of the purchase made possible by the state grant — at what he described as a “very interesting” intersection — was greeted by applause throughout the auditorium.
Though Edgewood Avenue currently has two lanes of traffic in each direction, except in its one-way section east of Winthrop Avenue, the cycle track proposal would see that reduced to one lane in each direction. Zinn noted there would be no loss of legal parking close to Downtown.
Jacob Wasserman ’16, an intern with the city’s Transportation Department, urged attendees to broaden their horizons, thinking in the long term as well as the immediate future.
“When you build a project like this, it’s not just for this generation, it’s for the next,” Wasserman said. “I’ve talked to people across the city, high school students and college students, and they love to bike and walk, and ideally not have to have a car to get somewhere.”
Dwight Alder Frank Douglass Jr., whose ward would include a portion of the cycle track, said city officials need to remember the possible effects of snowstorms, which have a history of drastically narrowing the city’s thoroughfares.
Wednesday night’s meeting was the second public forum hosted by the city administration regarding the Edgewood cycle track proposal — the first was held at the Edgewood School in March. Public testimony at that meeting focused on possible parking losses effected by the proposal; Hausladen said the revisions put before the public Wednesday night take those concerns into account.
Attendees at the meeting were largely positive on the proposals. When one attendee asked for people opposed to the proposals to raise their hands, only five or six people out of roughly 50 did so. Most people in the audience — also measured by a show of hands — described themselves as “avid cyclists” and either lived or owned a business on the Edgewood corridor.
Edgewood Avenue runs from Forest Road in Westville to Park Street Downtown, traversing the Edgewood and Dwight neighborhoods in between.