Years ago a Meriden firefighter told me that one of the dismaying issues involving the Meriden triangle was that when people called in an emergency they often had no idea where they were. So an emergency vehicle could wind up on the wrong side of Interstate 691, for example, on the side heading west instead of east, or vice versa.
Because this is home, we’re well familiar with the eccentricities and risks associated with the confluence of interstates 91 and 691 and Route 15. But imagine for a moment that you are from someplace else and traveling through the triangle for the first time. You couldn’t be blamed for thinking that it doesn’t make much sense, or even that it’s insane.
There are features, if you’ll forgive me for putting it that way, that you would avoid when designing a highway system today. You wouldn’t have vehicles exiting or entering in the left lane, the passing lane, for example — but that’s almost a defining characteristic of the Meriden triangle.
It seems quaint to me now, because just about everything that took place before the onset of the coronavirus seems at least to some degree quaint, but late in 2019 I was having a little fun with some of the descriptions by the state Department of Transportation when it came to the troubled triangle:
“Significant weaving maneuvers occurring at closely spaced on/off ramps.”
“Inadequate geometric elements such as shoulder widths, minimum radius, grade and vertical clearances, lane balance, etc.”
Put that in your chamber brochure: Come to the Silver City, home of “significant weaving maneuvers” and “inadequate geometric elements.”
Though trying to fix all this was considered essential, how to pay for it was the X-factor. There was the pursuit of federal funding and, as I put it in Sept. 2019, “continuing debate about how best to fund state transportation, either through bonding or tolls …” You remember tolls, don’t you?
Now just the other day many important people gathered at the commuter parking lot on Bee Street to commit to putting an end to the nonsense that is the Meriden triangle. They included Connecticut’s U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, whose comments, as reported by the Record-Journal, are worth quoting at some length:
“We’re here to say, ‘We’re gonna fight for better transportation in the state of Connecticut. We’re gonna fight to eliminate the choke points and the bottlenecks that create accidents and cost time and money to the people of Connecticut. We’re gonna repave our roads, rebuild our bridges, make sure that our transportation system in Connecticut is second to none — and we’re going to do it without new taxes and new tolls.”
I don’t know about you, but my brain zeroed in on the last six words of that statement. The senator went on to talk about how “the federal government owes us a real infrastructure program” that, significantly, will include jobs.
This all sounds great: new jobs, no tolls, new triangle, no new taxes. Pinch me.
This is all coming from the tippy top, with the administration of President Joe Biden proposing a hunk of “new spending toward modernizing bridges, highways, roads and streets,” as the R-J story put it. Sounds to me like moving the country forward.
The Meriden triangle is part of that.
“Pre-COVID-19 we were seeing upwards of 200,000 people travel through our city on these highways surrounding us each day,” said Meriden Mayor Kevin Scarpati, who was also at the Bee Street parking lot for the press conference. “So, we know the need for investment in infrastructure. It was something city officials have talked about … It’s remarkable to see it’s coming to fruition.”
The project is to come in three phases, and work in the shadow of the Hanging Hills is going to take a while. There’s all sorts of widening and relocating and more widening and relocating and improvements.
While there will be disruption and delays, the DOT’s Kevin Nursick said the disruption and delays “may be less than normal since many of the ramps are being relocated allowing for ‘off-line’ work to be accomplished without impacting the existing traffic patterns.”
I take that to mean that some of the weird stuff will stay while the fix is underway.
Watching it get less weird will be some experience.
Reach Jeffery Kurz at 203-317-2213, or email@example.com.