6 things to know about the Route 5 traffic study in Meriden-Wallingford

6 things to know about the Route 5 traffic study in Meriden-Wallingford

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MERIDEN — Results of a traffic study being done along a 5-mile stretch of Route 5 in Meriden and Wallingford will be presented at a public information meeting next week. 

The study, which began earlier this year, is taking a comprehensive look at traffic conditions along Route 5, including volume and flow, intersection capacity, accident rates, pedestrian safety, bus network conditions, and other variables, according to Public Works Director Howard Weissberg. The study is examining traffic from the Wilbur Cross Parkway interchange in north Wallingford to the Berlin Turnpike interchange in north Meriden.

At the request of Meriden and Wallingford officials, the South Central Regional Council of Governments agreed to fund the study and hired Wethersfield-based engineering firm Vanasse Hangen Brustlin Inc. to complete it.

“This project is intended to provide an assessment of existing conditions and recommend short- and long-term improvements to improve traffic operations and safety through this area,” said Stephen Dudley, director of transportation for SCRCOG.

Data collected for the study will be presented at an informational meeting on Tuesday.

“They want to share their findings of existing conditions with the public and make sure they’re not missing anything,” Weissberg said.

The meeting will be held at 6 p.m at Maloney High School. 

Here are some things to know about the study. 

1. Why the need? 

A comprehensive traffic study hasn’t been done along Route 5 since 2008, when SCRCOG funded a study of Route 5 from Ann Street in Meriden to Cedar Lane in
Wallingford, according to Weissberg. 

A good amount of development and changes have occurred along Route 5 since 2008, necessitating an update, Weissberg said. 

Motorists often complain about the levels of congestion along Route 5 in Meriden, however, Weissberg said that because it is a state road, it’s up to the state to make improvements. 

“We can't go in and change Route 5, but by us calling it out as a priority, we can give information to the state about what the concerns are,” Weissberg said. 

2. Problem intersections 

The presentation Tuesday will highlight a number of intersections along Route 5 that the study identifies as having a “poor level of service,” which is qualitatively measured to define how well an intersection operates, and takes into account user comfort and convenience.

The troublesome intersections include five in Meriden —  the intersections of Route 5 and Britannia St. and Westfield Road; I-691 Exit 9 and Pratt Street in Meriden; East Main Street in Meriden; Ann Street; and Gypsy Lane, as well as one in Wallingford, the intersection of Route 5 and Exit 66. 

The study also identified intersections with the highest number of crashes over the past three years based on data. Along the roughly 5-mile stretch, 10 intersections had 20 or more crashes in the three-year period and six intersections had more than 30.

3. Solutions

Residents will have a chance at the meeting to voice what they feel are issues along Route 5, but Weissberg said the intent isn’t to make it a “solutions-oriented meeting.”

“There’s so much information that if you tried to come up with solutions while introducing the problems it tends to get muddled. So what they want to do is really have everybody focus in on what the issues are and come to a consensus on the issues and then the next meeting will be, ‘OK, here’s what we agreed the issues are, here’s how we believe we can tackle them.’ ”

The firm will take about three to four months after the meeting to come up with recommendations, which will be presented at a separate meeting in the spring. 

4. Pedestrian and bus transportation 

The traffic study, Weissberg said, is also looking at multimodal transportation along Route 5, including bus, biking and pedestrian networks. 

A number of bus stops along Route 5 don’t have an adequate designated area for pedestrians to wait and aren’t the safest for pedestrians to access by foot, Weissberg said.

Ideally, Weissberg said that Route 5, the major transportation artery that runs through the city, would complement the city’s nearby transit-oriented development zone surrounding the new train station by allowing easy pedestrian and bike access.

“Ideally, it’d be a place where you could bike from point A to point B and pedestrians could safely walk from point A to point B,” Weissberg said. “... You want people to be able to use Route 5 as a corridor from the transient centers.”

Economic Development Director Joe Feest noted that improving accessibility will help businesses along Broad Street. 

5. Volume or flow? 

There have been some examples in recent years of residents pushing back on new development proposals along Route 5 because they fear development will exacerbate congestion and accidents. Most recently, residents have voiced concerns about the new Dunkin’ Donuts at 950 Broad St. and a new car wash being proposed for parcels at 1015, 1025, and 1043 Broad St.

While residents are concerned about new businesses attracting more traffic, Feest and Weissberg said the study results indicate the problem in many areas is traffic flow, not traffic volume. 

“People are always concerned about traffic when it comes to development. Dunkin’ was an issue, the car wash they’re concerned about, but when we look at the study and we see the flows on paper, it’s not necessarily a concern in the numbers,” Feest said. 

“It’s really coordinating and making sure that your signals are operating as effectively as possible,” Weissberg said. 

As an example, he pointed to the stretch of Broad Street between the intersections with East Main and South Curtis — the small stretch of road includes several consecutive traffic lights that often are not in sync.

“There’s not a traffic problem but with the timing, you end up stopping and going and stopping and going. If we can make it so that once you hit the green you can get through, then traffic is going to move right along,” Feest said. 

6. Guiding future 

Feest said the new study and its recommendations will serve as a working document and picture of traffic conditions that town departments can reference in the future when new businesses apply to open along Route 5.

“From the economic development side, the idea is to continue the growth what they’ve had in Wallingford along Route 5 all the way up. So that’s why we’re concerned about traffic flowing perfectly,” he said.

Feest believes Route 5 still has room for growth and said one strategy developers are taking is buying existing commercial lots that have non-conforming residential homes, and then knocking the homes down for new development. 

Most recently, a developer razed two 19th Century homes at 60 and 66 Broad St. to build a new Dollar General.

A multi-family home was also razed at 944 Broad. St. to make way for the new Dunkin’ Donuts.

The challenge Meriden faces in attracting development, Feest said, is that the lots along Route 5 are more narrow and shallow than the lots along Route 5 in Wallingford, meaning developers often have to purchase two or three parcels to have sufficient space. 

Twitter: @MatthewZabierek