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Streetscape Construction on Farmington Avenue Delayed

The long awaited reconstruction of Farmington Avenue did not begin in 2011 due to delays with the Metropolitan District Commissions, water main replacement project. The Commission wants to replace an 1876-era water main beneath Farmington Avenue and put in the sewer pipe connections the District will need when it separates the combined storm and sewer service line over several years in the majority of the West End. It did not make sense to install a beautiful streetscape only to have it dug up shortly after as aging infrastructure fails. Unfortunately, the water main project has run into severe engineering challenges and is not likely to start until next construction season – 2012.

Preliminary Design for Farmington Avenue Improvements Aired at Public Meeting

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They mingled around drawings, asked questions and heard what the design team for Farmington Avenue had to say about how the avenue will change for the better. Some 50 people attended a community meeting on the proposed improvements on June 14, 2006 at the Mark Twain Museum auditorium. The designed covered the area between Marshall St in Asylum Hill and Kenyon Street in the West End.

Kevin Mentz, an engineer from the firm the City hired to improve Farmington Avenue, said the plan tried to achieve a better balance on how a variety of users are accommodated. Now the avenue’s design is heavily weighted towards automobiles. The plan will make the avenue work better for pedestrians and bicyclists.

The proposed design incorporated some of the features of the Farmington Avenue Plan, developed by the Farmington Avenue Alliance in 2001. There will be medians, but they will not be as dominant a feature as in the original plan. Sidewalks will be widened in some locations. There is not enough room for a formal bike lane, but in many areas of the avenue there will be more shoulder room for cyclists that will make riding more comfortable.

Consolidation of bus stops, placing stops on the far side of intersections so traffic flow through intersections won’t be impeded, bus pull outs that will get buses out of the travel lane and bus shelters at all stops will make transit use more appealing.

 Roundabouts will not be built at Woodland or the Sisson Avenue intersections. The FAA design committee reviewed a roundabout study at Woodland Street and decided the funds needed for installation (about $450,000) would be better spent on other elements.

Aging street light poles will be replaced and pairs of pedestrian lights will be placed in between each street pole. Presently there are no pedestrian lights on the avenue.

To create a better pedestrian environment, some driveway openings at the sidewalk will be shrunk or eliminated. 

Bill Richter, who oversaw the landscape design elements, said the avenue is wide and gracious and fortunate not to have overhead wires. The goal of his design was to create a street rhythm, using light poles, large trees, and better defined sidewalks. Sidewalks will be made of brick colored pavers with a tan accent that would compliment the predominant red and tan colors of the buildings on Farmington Avenue.

lightingLight poles will be placed at the edge of the property line, not at the curb where they are now. All sidewalks will be pushed back to use every inch possible as sidewalk within the city-owned right of way, even where property owners may have encroached onto public space with a fence or plantings.

“The overall image of the avenue will be higher quality,” said Bill Richter.

Following the presentation community members asked several questions.

Carlos Hernandez Chavez wanted to know why there weren’t any bike lanes in the design. URS engineer Kevin Mentz responded the avenue was not wide enough to accommodate a full bike lane but that the design team tried to squeeze as much shoulder to ease travel for bicyclists as they could. In some areas were able to find as much as four feet.

Mike McGarry urged the City to test the median concept first using traffic cones. Kevin Burnham, a traffic engineer for the Hartford Department of Public Works, said he didn’t think a test was feasible because the design called for moving curbs. He added the city has experimented with re-configuring lanes on other arteries in Hartford and has overall found the lane changes to be successful.

Kevin Mentz also said the design team used a computer model to “test” the impact of medians on Farmington Avenue. They took a conservative approach, projecting a 25% increase in traffic, despite data that shows the number of vehicles using the avenue has been declining for years. They concluded traffic flow did not worsen in most locations. The use of medians is expected to provide a traffic calming effect, provide pedestrians refuge and improve the appearance of the avenue.

Stephan Thal asked if the team looked at increasing the amount of time pedestrians get to cross the street given the rise in wheelchair users in the neighborhood. The engineers said they had not looked at increasing the length of the pedestrian phase but would be providing better markings for crosswalks.

Stephanie Woodlock wondered if the design team had thought about adding more signalized intersections. They identified two locations, Evergreen Avenue and Owen Street, where the intersections are projected to fail during peak rush hour. However, they did not believe signals were warranted.

Steve Colangelo asked if the engineers would consider making Sherman St one-way southbound. This is something they have thought about but would need more study.

Other questions raised were:

Will there be bus shelters? Yes, there will be one placed at each bus stop.

Where will the snow go? Snow removal will be the same, although there may be a little more storage room when the sidewalks expand.

What will be the impact on Farmington Avenue if Asylum Avenue is shut down (a recent proposal by urban planner Ken Greenberg)? Sally Taylor responded that this was an unlikely scenario. Will there be marked crosswalks mid block (where side streets end at Farmington but there is no signal)? No.

People were encouraged to submit comments directly to the consultant team or via the website, www.farmingtonavenue.org. The public can review drawings of the preliminary plan and track the progress of the plan through updates on the website.
 

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