MERIDEN — An engineering firm is expected to deliver a report next month outlining recommendations on making a highly traveled quarter-mile stretch of the East Main Street commercial corridor safer for vehicles and pedestrians.
The city requested the study of East Main Street, from Gravel Street to the Interstate 691 ramp, to improve traffic flow and make it safer for vehicles to pull out of businesses, including Wendy’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, CVS, Nardelli’s, Comfort Inn & Suites, and a few gas stations.
“If you asked anybody, ‘What’s the worst section of road in the city for traffic?’ Everyone’s going to tell you this section at 5 p.m. or noon,” Public Works Director Howard Weissberg said.
He added that students from nearby Maloney High School often try to cross East Main Street when walking to restaurants, making traffic safety more of a concern.
Approximately 25,500 vehicles travel the quarter-mile stretch daily, with many coming off the highway and stopping at one of the businesses along the stretch and then getting back on the highway, according to the firm conducting the study, Manchester-based Fuss & O’Neill.
The stretch averages 36 motor vehicle accidents per year and has seen a total of 111 in the last three years.
Fuss & O’Neill began the study last year and held a second public meeting at the public library Wednesday night to present ideas and receive feedback from about 10 residents who attended. Concerns raised by the public at the December meeting included making left-hand turns more safe, improving pedestrian safety, and slowing the speed of vehicles.
The firm took those concerns into consideration in coming up with “concept designs” presented Wednesday.
The firm will issue its final report next month, but currently plans to recommend closing some unnecessary curb cuts, or “access points” along the corridor and eliminating or narrowing some driveways leading out onto side streets from businesses.
“We’re not trying to say close every driveway down. We’re trying to make sensible recommendations,” said Matthew Skelly of Fuss & O’Neill, who has met with each affected business to discuss the possible changes.
The firm also presented an idea for a one-way “connector road” that would come out of the Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot and connect with Paddock Avenue, eliminating a need for Dunkin’ Donuts customers to turn left on East Main Street. Under the current plan, left turns would still be allowed out of Dunkin’ Donuts.
To alleviate backup that often occurs in the left-hand turning lane on Paddock Avenue, the city is working to change the traffic signals to allow more turning time. Traffic in the turning lane occasionally gets so backed up that it blocks the through lane.
The study is being funded through a grant from the South Central Regional Council of Governments. Weissberg said the city will take the firm’s recommendations to “help guide planning and development” moving forward.
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