MERIDEN — City officials say two simultaneous projects intended to improve the flow of traffic around downtown are on schedule and expected to be largely complete before the end of this month.
For a week-long stretch, there will be some traffic disruptions, but no anticipated road closures, while the repaving of several roadways is underway.
Beginning the evening of Wednesday, Nov. 9, and continuing through the following Wednesday, contractors are scheduled to begin that work with the milling down of pavement along West Main, Hanover, Butler and South Grove streets, explained Associate City Engineer Emile Pierides.
That work, to be carried out by crews from the contractor Tilcon, is expected to be completed over two evenings and nights.
The reason for the evening and night work is so that there is less disruption for businesses in the area, Pierides explained.
Meanwhile, the repaving will be completed during the day, starting on the 10th.
“Unfortunately, we can’t do the repaving of roads at night,” Pierides said, explaining that temperatures would be too low.
The roads will still be driveable while they are being repaved, Pierides said.
“The good thing about Hanover and West Main at the moment is they’re one-way streets,” Pierides said. So crews and police managing traffic will be able to close one travel lane and one parking lane at a time.
“And they can pave that, then reopen that side of the road,” Pierides said. After that, crews can flip over to the other side of the road, to complete that portion of the project, with the paved lanes open.
“There will always be a lane of travel going through those two roads — Hanover and West Main,” Pierides said.
Several of the roadways will receive dual layers of pavement, Pierides explained. That work will be completed over multiple days.
For example, on Nov. 10, contractors will lay down the first two inches of new pavement along West Main, Pierides said. The following day will follow with what Pierides called a “two-inch lift” on Butler and Hanover.
On Nov. 14, crews are scheduled to put the top layer of pavement down on West Main and South Grove.
“On the 15th, we will put the final pavement layer on Butler and the final pavement lift on Hanover,” Pierides said.
That project will converge with another project, which has been ongoing — the installation of and activation of the first set of six new traffic signals along the spans of West Main and Hanover. New signals will be activated at those streets’ intersections with Cook, Butler, and South Grove.
“So it’s going to be a little busy around here,” Pierides said.
The lights will first be activated under the existing traffic configuration. Then they will be converted to new traffic flows.
Pierides described it as 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.
“We can’t turn the signals on until we have power,” Pierides said, adding they should be powered up as soon as next week. “We should have power to all the signals while they’re doing the paving, so that the following week we can start going and turning things on.
“Once they make sure all the signals are working, then they will start turning over to the two-way conversion,” Pierides said.
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 presently 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.”
Pierides said the final intersection — at East Main, Pratt and Perkins streets — receiving new traffic controllers wouldn’t be activated until early next spring.
“Because of supply chain issues, we’re having trouble getting traffic controllers. So we can’t finish that last intersection until we get a traffic controller,” Pierides said.
But once that controller is installed, it will make traveling from Pratt to East Main easier — allowing drivers to make a left hand turn at the intersection.
“Right now, they’re forced to make a turn onto West Main. It will mitigate some of the traffic issues in the downtown,” Pierides said.
Another issue that will be alleviated is motorists getting stuck along the light at Crown Street and Perkins, he said.
The projects are largely grant funded. Pierides said the city will receive $2.6 million in state reimbursement for the traffic signal project, which has a total price tag of around $3.45 million.
The city also received a Local Transportation Capital Improvement Project grant from the state for the paving project, which will cost $1.7 million, Pierides said. Excitement, learning curve
City Council Majority Leader Sonya Jelks noted that ongoing national supply chain issues have imposed challenges on this project and on other city projects.
Still, she can’t wait until it’s complete.
“I think it’s exciting that they’re going to have this work done soon. I’m looking forward to seeing the finished work,” Jelks said.
Councilor Bob Williams Jr. said he has received a number of questions from constituents about the new traffic pattern. He said he’s been sharing maps showing those new patterns, including at a few restaurants — “So people can have them.”
“It’s moving ahead pretty quick. Hopefully we’ll have things wrapped up soon,” Williams said, adding he believes there will be a “learning curve” once the new traffic patterns are implemented.
“I would like to think that, in the first few weeks, if possible, we will have public safety stationed there, to monitor traffic. I think there will be a lot of confusion,” Williams said.
City Councilor Dan Brunet, the council’s minority party leader, said, as far as he recalls, the last time there had been a major road improvement project downtown was in the 1990s.
“It was touted as a big economic development mechanism in the ’90s,” Brunet said, adding that by the time he got onto the council more than a decade later, nothing had changed in terms of the area’s economic viability.
“Absolutely it’s needed. Everybody who travels through there knows it’s needed,” he said. “Whether it’s going to have an impact on economic development, that’s doubtful.”