A new sidewalk near the Yale School of Management may soon improve traffic safety for New Haven residents and Yale students.
Last Wednesday, the Board of Alders Community Development Committee unanimously supported a proposal for a sidewalk on the section of Pearl Street between Lincoln and Orange. According to Ward 7 Alder Abigail Roth ’90 LAW ’94, a $50,000 donation offered by Yale to partly fund the construction is pending approval by the full Board of Alders on Oct. 19.
New Haveners have been calling the intersection unsafe for several years, particularly after a Yale graduate student, Katherine Cattanach SOM ’20, was hit and concussed by a car last February. Roth has been leading proposals for greater traffic safety at the intersection for over a year now. She explained that the design of the streets is part of the problem.
“This section of Pearl Street is a major cut-through for people heading from East Rock to Yale SOM and that end of the Yale campus more generally, so there are lots of pedestrians and cyclists,” Roth told the News in an email. “The sidewalk will be really helpful for improving traffic safety, as pedestrians will have a safe route from Orange Street to the SOM driveway.”
The intersection of Pearl Street and Lincoln Street currently has a partial sidewalk which only covers the south side. The proposed sidewalk would be installed on the north side of Pearl Street, where cyclists and students often walk on the road.
Roth, who is also a communications officer at the Yale School of Medicine, said the main stumbling block for the sidewalk proposal was its $90,000 cost. According to Roth, the city also has multiple other sites in need of sidewalks and repairs –– for example, Ella T. Grasso Boulevard. While the University is proposing to cover over half of the cost, the remaining $40,000 will come out of the Elm City’s capital budget.
Representatives from the SOM and the Office of New Haven Affairs helped secure the donation from Yale. Anjani Jain, a deputy dean at the SOM, told the News that Yale’s financial contribution makes sense because the particular stretch of Pearl Street is used heavily by students, staff and faculty. Although it has been more than a year since Cattanach was injured, Jain said the sidewalk proposal had to go through the due process of project planning.
“Though we all wish that the project had commenced sooner, I believe that the decision makers responded in a thorough and swift manner,” said Jain. “The project needed careful engineering assessment, and final approval, by the City of New Haven. We needed to make sure there were no property liens on the designated parcel of land.”
Jain noted that the Office of New Haven Affairs had explored several alternatives to a sidewalk, including making the street one-way and painting additional crosswalks. The office ultimately concluded that the sidewalk was the safest option.
Cattanach, who has since graduated, has been advocating for greater safety at the intersection since her accident. Her efforts partially paid off when a stop sign and a zebra crossing were approved for the intersection in last April, but Cattanach told the News that she feels more is needed to ensure pedestrian safety.
“There are so many students that have had near misses there or close run-ins with cars, whether it be pedestrians or cyclists,” Cattanach told the News. “The stop sign and the zebra crossing have improved the intersection but it’s still not as safe as it could be.”
Transit chief Doug Hausladen opposed the proposal in 2019 for a stop sign. According to the New Haven Independent, he argued the frequency and type of collisions at the intersection did not justify an all-way stop sign but was overruled by commissioners of the Traffic Authority.
“It’s not an acceptable standard of safety to say that we’ve only had one person hit by a car so it doesn’t merit an all-way stop,” said Cattanach, who said she was crossing at the safest part of the intersection when she was hit. “While students would need to comply with that area … the [sidewalk] would at least bifurcate very clearly where pedestrians and auto traffic are meant to go.”
In an email to the News, Hausladen explained that the issue over Pearl Street stretches even further back. He said he requested funding for sidewalks on both sides of Pearl Street from the SOM and the Office of New Haven Affairs in 2013. This was during a final review for the new SOM building before it opened in January the following year. According to Hausladen, his request was not granted for two reasons: sidewalk improvements were not required for approval of the project, and Yale did not own the properties bordering the sidewalks. He said this was despite the fact that “pedestrian traffic on that stretch of Pearl Street is entirely due to the SOM campus.”
SOM Student Body President Julia Frederick SOM ’21 SPH ’21 lives near the intersection. She told the News that she has seen several near-incidents in the area and called the sidewalk a “critical step” in ensuring traffic safety for pedestrians.
“While I have only been on campus for over a year, I know this stretch of Pearl Street has been a concern for several years,” said Frederick. “I’m thrilled to hear Yale has decided to assist in funding the construction of this sidewalk and that the City has agreed to accept the funding.”
Roth also noted that the construction of the sidewalk will only require one unhealthy tree to be cut down.
“It was apparent to me then, as it is now, that sidewalks are the greatest tool for equity in infrastructure,” Hausladen said. “I hope [the sidewalk project includes] both sides of the street for the entire length of Pearl Street for the sake of the pedestrians.”
The Resource Allocation Committee has already approved $40,000 from city funds to cover the remainder of the construction cost.
Natalie Kainz | firstname.lastname@example.org
Correction, Oct. 6: A previous version of this article said Doug Hausladen did not respond to a request for comment. In fact, an incorrect email address was linked under Hausladen’s name on the New Haven Transportation, Traffic & Parking webpage. The article has been updated to include Hausladen’s comments.