‘There should be a button’ — linear trail safety draws concern in Southington

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SOUTHINGTON — Town officials will be discussing pedestrian safety over the coming weeks after a pedestrian was struck crossing West Main Street along the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail.

Joshua Henriquez, 21, of Seymour, was struck last Wednesday by a Toyota Corolla while in the crosswalk at the linear trail on West Main Street, police Lt. Keith Egan said in a statement Monday. Henriquez sustained injuries to his right arm, shoulder and head. He was taken by ambulance to the hospital and discharged on Friday.

According to police, the Corolla was driven by Daniel Costa, 30, of Plantsville. Anyone with information regarding the incident is asked to contact Officer Deemi Beljean at 860-378-1600, ext. 2454.

“I felt that was a terrible accident,” said Town Councilor Tom Lombardi, adding that the council will be addressing pedestrian safety during upcoming meetings.

Police Chief John Daly is the town’s head traffic authority and would initiate any investigations into roadway safety and possible improvements, Lombardi said. Any potential changes would then pass from the public safety committee to the Town Council.

“The chief of police is the traffic authority in town, so we’d like to hear from him before we take any action,”he said.

Kelsey Yount, a manager at Zingarella Pizzeria, said the intersection of West Main and Summer Street — where the restaurant is located — has always been a concern. Eastbound traffic is often backed up from the intersection with Route 10 through Summer Street, while westbound traffic passes through at a high rate of speed.

“People need to be aware in this area,” she said.

A new state law that went into effect Friday aims to increase pedestrian safety by broadening the circumstances where crossing foot traffic has the right of way. Drivers must now yield to pedestrians who are “within any portion of the crosswalk” or those who use gestures to indicate that they intend to cross the road.

Previously drivers were required to yield to those who were in the process of crossing at a crosswalk. The new provision maintains the existing $500 fine for motorists who fail to properly yield the right of way.

“This new pedestrian safety law is an important step to keep everyone safe, and ultimately save lives,” said Department of Transportation Commissioner Joseph Giulietti in a statement on the new legislation.

Incidents rise

Pedestrian fatalities and injuries have been rising sharply, Giulietti said in the statement, with a 55 percent increase in deaths between 2009 and 2018.

The new law also prohibits the act of “dooring” — when a vehicle occupant opens their door without checking for bicyclists, pedestrians or passing traffic.

Bristol resident Mary Fuller said she already waves to drivers, who mostly stop as they see her approaching the crosswalks along the trail. She regularly goes for four-mile walks along the trail through Southington, where she grew up, and has found that traffic along the roads it intersects seems to be getting busier.

“You have to watch, because if you don’t watch, the drivers aren’t always watching,” she said.

Pedestrian signals

With daylight hours dwindling, Kathi Michalak said she’s concerned about poor visibility on the trail and would like to see more lights installed.

“I feel more dangerous with bikers than the drivers,” she said.

Most of the road crossings are of little concern for Dan and Debby Hruska, who ride their bikes from their home in Wallingford onto the linear trail up through Cheshire and Southington regularly. The busy intersections which lack flashing lights or traffic signals pedestrians can activate, are more intimidating.

Dan Hruska said West Main Street in Southington is one of the busiest intersections. He referenced the crossing at Route 68 in Cheshire as an example of a possible solution.

The HAWK system — high-intensity activated crosswalk — was installed at the Cheshire crossing in 2016, adding an overhead light display similar to those used in roadway intersections. A blinking yellow light is displayed when the system has not been activated by a pedestrian and when a button is pressed by a pedestrian that light switches to a solid yellow, then red to stop traffic.

“The main intersections like this, that’s where there should be a button,” Dan Hruska said.

dleithyessian@record-journal.com203-317-2317Twitter: @leith_yessian


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