SOUTHINGTON — Town leaders are considering lights, road crossings and other measures to improve safety on the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail.
Before lights or cameras can be installed along the trail, Town Council members said electricity needs to brought to the area. One of the first areas that might get power is the stretch between downtown Plantsville and downtown Southington.
During discussions on how to prevent thefts, vandalism or accidents at crossings, Town Council member Paul Chaplinsky said any solutions required electricity.
“We need electricity out there,” he said.
Annette Turnquist, Public Works director, walked the trail between the downtown areas with Eversource officials. On Tuesday, she told the Town Council that a trench near the trail could be used to supply electricity.
Town leaders had discussed locations for cameras on the trail, including Fire Headquarters or Mill Street. Turnquist didn’t recommend installing cameras as a first step.
“We feel the cameras are cost prohibitive for what they’d provide,” she said. “Cameras are a reactive sort of thing, we want to be proactive in the beginning.”
Dawn Miceli, a former councilor, said the trail electrification will also make holiday lighting easier. For the past few years she and others have organized a light display along the trail between the downtown areas. This year, she’s planning a reindeer games holiday parade, which will feature 25 hand-crafted reindeer on display.
“We do like to light that trail up,” Miceli said.
The owners of Smokin’ With Chris and Zingarella’s have allowed the town to connect to their power during the holiday displays, Miceli said.Pedestrian safety
There have been near misses between vehicles and pedestrians where the trail crosses roads, according to Chaplinsky. He and other town leaders have discussed making the crossings safer with signs and road crossing systems.
One such system is the called HAWK. It includes lights to stop traffic allowing pedestrians to cross the road. Cheshire has a HAWK system for a major road crossing on its portion of the trail. Southington officials said Tuesday that they’re considering it but that it is expensive and complex.
The town and state Department of Transportation are working on an improvement project for downtown Plantsville that includes crosswalk work in the trail area. The project could go out to bid in the spring.
Val DePaolo, a Town Council member, said a recent state law gives pedestrians right of way when crossing the streets.
“It’s for marked and unmarked crosswalks,” she said. “How do we educate the public on that?”
Sciota said the new law would likely be highlighted on town and police web sites.
Police Chief Jack Daly said most efforts to improve safety have pros and cons. While lighting can deter crime, he said it can also encourage people to use the trail after dark. Cameras too can be useful, but the most useful cameras aren’t cheap.
Daly, who is on the town’s Public Works Committee, agreed with other town leaders that electricity would be needed for any improvements.
“That’s why they made it step one,” he said. “I think it’s a great plan.”Funding
Miceli said she’s gotten $12,500 in private donations and a grant from the Community Foundation of Greater New Britain to help fund the project.
“Once again they came through on this project,” Miceli said of the foundation.
Town Manager Mark Sciota said there’s no firm plan yet. Once town leaders are agreed on the work, Sciota will work with town staff to create cost estimates that will be part of the upcoming budget, he said.
He told council members that he preferred not to use contingency funds for the work.