MERIDEN — Business owners and motorists downtown will need to adjust to downtown roadwork and disrupted traffic flows over the next several weeks, with contractors repaving West Main and Hanover streets along with intersecting roads.
City Engineer Brian Ennis, during a presentation to the City Council Monday night, described that endeavor as one of two simultaneous projects. In addition to West Main and Hanover streets, intersecting roads — Butler Street and South Grove Street, along with sections of Colony, State and Church streets — will be similarly repaved. Some of that work, Ennis noted, has already been completed.
The other ongoing project is the replacement of 10 traffic signals throughout downtown, which would reroute traffic flows along several downtown roadways.
For example, South Grove Street, which currently runs one way northbound, will become a two-way road. Butler Street, which now flows one way south, will continue to be a one-way road, except it will run north. The stretch of Hanover between Cook Avenue and South Grove will allow two-way traffic, as will Cook Avenue.
Another forthcoming change affects motorists heading southbound on Pratt Street toward East Main Street. Those drivers, by the completion of the project will be able to take a left turn onto East Main. whereas they are not currently able to do so.
The intersections where hardware for new traffic signals have been installed include four on Hanover Street — at Cook Avenue, at Butler Street, at South Grove Street and at the joint intersection Perkins Street and Colony Street.
The intersections along West Main at Grove, Butler and Cook Avenue also have new traffic signal equipment. Similar equipment has also been installed at the Perkins and Crown streets intersection, and where East Main meets Pratt and Perkins, as well as where East Main and West Main intersect with Colony Street.
Along West Main, where that road intersects with Grove Street, Butler Street and Cook Avenue, has also seen recently installed hardware.
In addition to the new traffic signals, the ongoing work includes the modifications of three other traffic signals. They include the signal at the East Main and State street intersection, as well as the signals along the pedestrian crossings on West Main Street near the police station and on Hanover Street at the Meriden Senior Center.
The newly installed hardware includes mast arms, signal heads and underground electric conduits. Other work that has been undertaken includes the reconstruction of several pedestrian sidewalk ramps.
Ennis explained the milling and repaving work should be complete by mid-November. But the completion of the traffic signal project hinges upon the delivery of traffic controllers, which has been impacted by ongoing supply chain issues. So the new traffic lights will be activated in sets. Officials plan to activate the first six signals, along West Main and Hanover between South Grove Street and Cook Avenue, this fall. The remaining four signals, including East Main, Pratt and Perkins will be activated in early 2023.West Main stays one-way
City councilors and Mayor Kevin Scarpati had a series of questions and comments for Ennis and Public Works Director John Lawlor regarding the project.
Councilor Ray Ouellet asked whether the city would lose on street parking along South Grove when the road becomes two-way.
Ennis responded if there is parking along the roadway currently, he believes that parking spaces would remain after the new traffic flows become effective.
Council Majority Leader Sonya Jelks asked Ennis whether the traffic changes would impact the railroad crossings in the area.
Ennis responded they would not. He noted if the city wanted to change over the traffic signals in the areas along the railroad crossings, a new communications conduit would need to be installed across the entire railroad stretch from Wallingford to Berlin.
“For obvious reasons we didn’t want to do that,” Ennis said.
Minority leader Dan Brunet noted that earlier downtown traffic plans had called for the addition of two-way traffic on West Main.
“It's still one way, in a westerly direction. When did that change?” Brunet asked.
Ennis responded the change had been made when Amtrak notified the city that the railroad crossings could not be switched.
“Without being able to do the railroad crossings we could not do West Main and we could not do the eastbound section of Hanover Street from the police station to the tracks. We couldn't make it work without changing the intersections of the crossings to two-way,” Ennis said. “So not being able to change those intersections we couldn't do the traffic change over.”Daytime disruption
Scarpati in his questioning, asked Ennis and Lawlor about when during the day the planned work would take place for the area, pointing out West Main.
“You talked about you will alternate traffic so there’s never a complete shutdown of the road,” Scarpati said. “Am I to assume that the milling and paving will take place during business hours?”
Ennis responded it is scheduled to be done during the day. The city received a communication from its contractor Tilcon, that the firm is looking to do it as evening work as well. “They’re not committed to anything. They’re looking into how much money they have available — because it’s contracted work. So they couldn't charge us any extra by doing it at night. So they have to determine if they want to eat that extra cost of working after hours,” Ennis said.
“Why wouldn't we as a city have determined if that's in the best interest of our businesses downtown that are struggling to begin with as well as the motorists traveling through downtown that regardless of cost it needs to be done at night?” Scarpati asked in response.
The mayor later followed, that the city needs to be “very sensitive around the impact this will have on our business community, albeit small, in and around the downtown area.” Scarpati added he did not recall having received a request from city staff saying more funds would be needed to make the project more convenient for downtown businesses.
“I don't recall that request coming through the council. So if it's strictly about cost, I feel as though that request should have come before this body for us to determine whether that’s in the best interest of the city or not — not for staff to determine,” Scarpati said.
Ennis responded the city can continue its conversations with the contractor, Tilcon, to determine what those costs would be.
“If it's something that is in fact an increased cost we can bring it to the city manager,” Ennis said. “... We'll get that information as soon as possible. If action needs to be taken... you will do it with knowledgeable information on what the cost will be.”