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Friday, June 20, 2008

City traffic calming gains momentum

By Mary E. O’Leary
Register Topics Editor
NEW HAVEN
— Traffic calming in New Haven would appear to be shifting to the fast lane as multiple neighborhoods buy into the concept and Fair Haven gets a peek at how it might play out on several of its streets.
Dan Burden, director of Walkable Communities, recently showed examples of things as simple as painting bike lanes with tennis court paint or as complicated as raised intersections with curb extensions and medians to a group of very organized Fair Haveners determined to make their streets safer.
Burden, who has done 600 of these studies, was impressed by the resolve of the residents.
"I have never been to a town that is so prepared and with such a diverse group that gets it," Burden told them at the presentation.
Across town in Westville, the management team there this week got the city to adjust signal controls at Davis Street and Whalley Avenue that were thrown off when repairs were done on Davis. State Rep. Patricia Dillion, D-New Haven, in light of the fatal hit-and-run of 11-year-old Gabrielle Lee June 4 on Whalley Avenue in Westville, has asked that the state Department of Transportation delay going to bid on design work for widening of that street until it talks with residents about safety measures.
The Westville Community Management Team also has signed a safe streets petition that is climbing toward 1,000 signatures from other neighborhood groups, individuals and 20 aldermen.
That petition grew out of an earlier tragedy when Yale medical student Mila Rainof was killed at the intersection of York Street and North Frontage Road in April as she crossed against the light.
Cars routinely blow through the light there as they jockey to get onto two interstates, and heavy vehicular traffic is congested further by construction at Yale-New Haven Hospital.
The petition looks to reduce traffic injuries by 50 percent by 2009, 75 percent by 2012 and 90 percent by 2015, and begins to get at that through strict enforcement of the 25 mph speed limit.
Residents have complained about the lack of enforcement of speeding laws and many are ready to re-petition the state to allow use of red-light cameras to penalize drivers as other states, including New York, already do.
"There is an incredible momentum on this issue. I hope everyone gets on the bandwagon and does something positive," said Mary Faulkner, chairwoman of the Westville management group. She said traffic calming measures not only increase pedestrian safety, they enhance economic development and actually move traffic more efficiently. "We have to have more say in how our streets are designed," Faulkner said.
Burden’s vision for Fair Haven included curb extensions at Ferry Street and Grand Avenue, while neighbors suggested creating a mini-circle by taking part of the parkland at the corner.
He recommended more commercial development at Chapel and Ferry streets on public and private land, mini-circles with landscaping at many of the intersections and medians with clear wide pedestrian crossings in front of neighborhood schools. The city is expected to put the plan on its Web site.
The key to supporting commercial development was more on-street parking, which in itself is a traffic calming element, said Alderwoman Erin Sturgis-Pascale, D-14th, who is the main force behind the movement.
Sturgis-Pascale said a particular problem is the city’s zoning code that is geared to single uses, and parking minimums that import misguided suburban guidelines and imposes them on an urban setting.
She said New Haven has to adopt policies that reverse this and take advantage of the desire by baby-boomers and young professionals to live in dense, walkable cities.
"We need to be doing this or we will be trumped," she said of rural areas recreating these traditional towns out of whole cloth.
Mary E. O’Leary can be reached at 789-5731 or moleary@nhregister.com.

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