Saturday, October 18, 2014

Malloy Political Stunt? DOT Addresses Accident Prone Route 17 On Ramp in Middletown

On September 24 2014 the Department of Transportation held a meeting with citizens at City Hall to discuss potential design changes to the Route 17 on ramp in Middletown.The state is trying to come up with solutions, mainly lengthening the ramp to alleviate accidents.2010-2012 the DOT reported 379 accidents at this location. From  Further down the stretch of highway the traffic lights on Route 9 have been the site of many some fatal accidents over the last 30 years.

The traffic lights will stay on Route 9 - the deaths will continue: DOT Engineer William Britnell spoke at the beginning of the presentation stating that the currently proposed project will not address the lights on Route 9. Citizens know all too well these lights cause traffic jams. Britnell stated that subsequent exploration of depressing the highway was "off the table indefinitely" because the price would be too extravagant.

Graphic Credit Dan The Tax Man
Middletown, Are Route 9 &
the Riverfront just
  political ploys for Dan Malloy?
Solutions proposed by the DOT included the possible closure of the Union Street on ramp portions of the entry and alterations to Loveland Street. Although vague as to actual allocated funding for such a project, construction of the improved on ramp could begin as early as 2018 at a price tag of $25 million according to the presentation. The DOT wants to hear from citizens with concerns and invites letters. Explored in the discussion was a rotary at the  South Main Street interchange and the introduction of several lights bringing the total to 12 in the 3 mile stretch from Main Street Extension/Saybrook Road area.  The governor's announcement of an allocation of approximately $2 million to construct a boat house at Harbor Park  and the decommissioning of Middletown's sewage treatment facility on River Road is likely to have prompted the investment in on ramp redesign. The DOT's presentation presented a concept that would allow for increased parking at Harbor Park and closure of the Union Street ramp portion to allow more pedestrian access here. Traffic studies have yet to be done. 

 Our friend & videographer Palin Smith came and taped the entire meeting. Candidate for Governor Joe Visconti attended, and asked what the state how the state planned for funding this project & how many similarly scoped projects did the DOT have on its plate at the moment; he received no answer. Palin was gracious enough to video the entire question and answer portion with citizens in four parts. Citizens expressed on concerns for increased High Street traffic, possible changes to the Village neighborhood, and concerns for people walking on the highway on ramp to Stop and Shop. Sumner Brook would have retaining walls along part of its path along River Road, the  DOT engineers emphasizing the need for  making the roadway safer as the driving force for the project. 

A good history of the highway in Middletown is available on the website: by historian Ian Morris. The site boasts diagrams, maps, time line of construction, and long forgotten newspaper articles about highways in Connecticut. Morris quotes former councilman and businessman of Middletown the late Vincent Amato: "I've lived with what the highway projects did to downtown New Britain. If you took out the traffic lights and put up Jersey barriers across the exits, you'd solve the Route 9 problem - and you could say goodbye to Middletown."
 Keep reading...

What has Rep Joe Serra done for Middletown? Anyone? According to Morris's website, roughly every ten years the DOT hosts a meeting with Middletown citizens to revisit the Exit 17 on ramp and or lights on Route 9, however, little has been done. Mayor Drew introduced the DOT traffic engineers, however, ironically silent though present in the front row of the presentation were Representatives for Middletown Matt Lesser (D) and long time incumbent and veteran of the legislature for 25+ years Rep. Joe Serra (D). Serra is also head of the Transportation Committee of the Legislature, however in his tenure, no significant design changes to both treacherous stretches of the highway in his home city of Middletown have taken place.  Serra is is also the secretary-treasurer of CASHO - the Connecticut Association of Streets Highway Officials - a position he has held for the last 33 years! The Route 17 on ramp right in his own backyard but has failed to address the issue. Surely, Rep. Serra is no stranger to the deadly stretch of highway in the area of the lights on Route 9 and the fender-bender ridden Route.   Before the question & answer period of the hearing took place, Rep. Serra left the meeting and declined commenting to news reporters present. 

Some feel the Governor Malloy's impromptu press conference held at the river front on September 30th were mere political stunts for the governor looking to score votes in his bid for re-election in November. Will this much needed ramp-revamp be a reality?

Check out Palin's video and be sure to view the 4 part Q&A

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