Road construction causing headaches in downtown Meriden

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MERIDEN — It’s been a rough week for people traveling downtown with signal changes and repaving operations clogging West Main Street and over the railroad tracks.

“The traffic is pretty bad,” said John Benigni, executive director of the YMCA. “They’re not coming down. They’re avoiding downtown. Our numbers are dropping because people are skipping their workouts because it’s too congested. And parking (on Butler Street) is a nightmare.”

The repaving project has closed one lane of traffic along West Main Street and side roads allowing motorists to crawl along West Main from East Main to Cook Avenue. The repaving work began last Wednesday and West Main could be completed as early as Wednesday, according to the city.

“Obviously it’s congested like any paving project,” said Meriden Public Information Officer Darrin McKay. “We were having issues with people stopping on the railroad tracks.”

McKay said the city worked with Amtrak and its Engineering Department to hire an additional flag person to clear the tracks when the trains approach Meriden Station.

McKay said motorists were trying to get as far up as they could on West Main Street but not leaving a gap for the trains. Some out-of-towners can be unaware of the frequent train traffic in the area.

“Obviously, you’ve got to keep that gap,” McKay said. “We anticipate West Main being completed (Tuesday) or (Wednesday). Anytime you do a major paving project, you’re going to have congestion.”

Mayor Kevin Scarpati said he’s heard a few complaints about the overall inconvenience of traveling downtown, but more people are glad the roads “are finally being paved.”

Two-way traffic

Scarpati is more concerned about the proposed two-way traffic plan that will follow the repaving work.

“There’s confusion,” Scarpati said. “We’re going to have to do a lot more educating on what it’s going to look like and what the final result will be. It’s more confusing to explain it than to drive it. It’s certainly going to be a learning curve for people getting downtown.”

Scarpati said the city will begin an informational campaign that he hopes will encourage people to return.

“The more we can get people to come downtown the better for our businesses,” Scarpati said. “We want to show we’re trying to make it easier to navigate downtown but it’s only going to work if people know what to expect.”

That project will converge with another project, which has been ongoing — the installation and activation of the first set of six new traffic signals along the spans of West Main and Hanover, according to Associate City Engineer Emile Pierides.

New signals will be activated at those streets’ intersections with Cook, Butler, and South Grove.

The lights will first be activated under the existing traffic configuration. Then they will be converted to new traffic flows.

Pierides told the Record-Journal earlier this month the work is a two-step process, first to ensure that the traffic signals are operational. The lights won’t be turned on until Eversource activates power to them.

“Once they make sure all the signals are working, then they will start turning over to the two-way conversion,” Pierides said.

Easier, eventually

Pierides outlined the planned redirection of traffic.

“So Cook Avenue is going to be a two-way. Butler Street is going to still be a one-way, but will be a reverse direction — one way heading north,” Pierides said. Traffic on that road currently travels southbound.

“South Grove is going to be changed to two-way,” he said. “Hanover from South Grove to Cook is going to be two-way as well. So when we’re done it should be a lot easier to get through downtown.”

Benigni, of the YMCA, said that while he appreciates the final result, the work has taken a toll on downtown businesses.

“It forces a business like the Y in a difficult position,” Benigni said. “I understand this is a process. Ultimately at the end, I endorse where they want to go. But it’s very inconvenient for our members and our business.”

Even before the change in traffic patterns it’s not unusual to see motorists going the wrong way on Butler or West Main streets, Benigni said. He said he agreed with Scarpati that the new traffic pattern will mean a re-education for everyone.

When informed that West Main Street could be completed by Wednesday, Benigni quipped, “Great, you got any more good news for me?”


Twitter: @Cconnbiz

A map shows the streets where traffic flows will be altered following the completion of projects to repave downtown and replace traffic signals at 10 intersections. (Contributed)

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