By Jeffery Kurz
I’ve covered the Meriden highway triangle for so long, both as a reporter and opinion writer, that the project to fix it up seems like a no-brainer. Yet I completely agree with state Rep. Michael Quinn that residents who are going to be affected by the project are going to need information and help with strategies to deal with the construction.
The triangle is interstates 691 and 91 and Route 15. It was described in Mary Ellen Godin’s recent R-J story as “a convoluted traffic triangle of the three highways that is often the site of crashes due to speeding and weaving.” Residents who travel the triangle on a routine basis are familiar with its challenges, but you have to assume that a lot of drivers aren’t, and to them it must seem harrowing.
I’ve been told you wouldn’t design a modern highway system with features of the triangle. For example, you wouldn’t have traffic exiting and entering from the left lane, the passing lane. That seems obvious, but it’s almost a defining triangle characteristic.
Let’s say you’re heading from Meriden to Hartford, and get on to I-691 from Broad Street. You have precious little time and distance to get from the right lane to the left lane exit on to I-91, and if you’re doing it in the morning you’ve got the rising sun in the east to contend with as well. Not a formula for safety.
Fixing it is going to cost a lot of money, and the recent story announced the approval of $31.7 million for the second phase of the reconstruction project.
You really could use a map here, but Josh Morgan, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, described it this way in talking about how the state funding does not cover the entire construction project: “Rather, it complements the federal funding of $220 million for Phase 2 of the project,” he said. “That project is a reconstruction and realignment on I-91 northbound, I-691 westbound and Route 15 northbound which will address operational and safety concerns that will improve safety and decrease congestion.”
On the downside, Phase 2 is expected to take four years to finish. That is quite a long time, and while you can say it’s worth it it’s easier to say that if you’re not living nearby. The DOT is “working to expedite the timeline,” as the recent story put it. While “environmental mitigation strategies” will be employed to protect water sources, there’s also a recognition people are going to need help with noise.
Quinn, a Democrat whose 82nd District includes Meriden and Middlefield, had met with residents during a paving project on I-691, as the R-J reported. “I could hear the noise as soon as I got out of the car,” he said.
“I’d like to see (DOT) do another forum in person to go over the project,” he said. “The first one was virtual during the pandemic.” Residents could get help with dealing with noise and other elements of the project.
My take is that information sessions could prove essential over the course of a project that is going to take years. Most, you imagine, would support an effort that holds the promise of saving lives. But construction noise is hardly a trivial consideration.
People will need all the help they can get.
Reach Jeffery Kurz at firstname.lastname@example.org.