Edwards St. Raises The Bar For Traffic-Calming

Thomas MacMillan PhotoAs cops investigated a high-speed crash across town that left a teen in critical condition, city officials unveiled a new raised East Rock intersection designed to specifically to slow cars down.

The re-done T intersection, at the corner of Livingston and Edwards streets, is the first of its kind in the city and maybe the state.

It’s known as a raised intersection. The surface of the intersection itself has been raised slightly, creating a kind of “speed table” that will force cars to slow down.

In addition, the new intersection includes a variety of other traffic-calming measures, including textured crosswalks in a contrasting color, a honeycomb pattern of injected yellow plastic, new traffic islands, curb bump-outs, and two new speed humps.

With that list of improvements, the new intersection is primed to be a darling of the traffic-calming movement, which has gained steam in recent years and led to the passage of a law and a creation of a new road design manual.

The intersection is expected to open in the next couple of weeks, once striping is done and new signs are put in. The project cost a total of $310,000, paid for with municipal bonding.

Meanwhile, police Thursday morning were investigating a serious car accident in Westville. In what may have been an early morning drag race, two cars were crashed. Emergency responders found an unconscious teen with a serious head injury.

At 11 a.m., Mayor John DeStefano and East Rock Alderman Matt Smith met other city officials at the new intersection for a brief press conference. It’s a spot where neighbors have for years complained about cars traveling at excessive speeds. Motorists often use it as part of a cut-through to get from East Rock to Newhallville and beyond without going through town.

City Engineer Dick Miller explained how the new infrastructure will work to slow traffic. First, cars coming from either direction on Edwards Street will encounter new speed humps halfway down the block. As they come to the intersection itself, drivers will sense several shift in the streetscape that will cause them to put on the brakes. The street narrows with new bump-outs and traffic islands. A honeycombed pattern of “aggregate reinforced thermal plastic” in eye-catching yellow indicates the slight elevation of the road as it enters the intersection. A red brick-like crosswalk further demarcates the space, and marks it as a pedestrian zone. A brick-like circle in the middle of the intersection suggests a subtle roundabout.

A full roundabout was the original idea for the intersection, but it turned out there wasn’t room for it, Miller said.

Smith pronounced himself excited about the neighborhood being at the “forefront of the traffic calming.”

“It’s the 360 State of Edwards Street,” said DeStefano. “It’s a game changer.”

“We’ve just had so many accidents here,” said Billie Ladd, who’s lived one house down from the intersection since 1972. She said she’s “delighted” and “thrilled” about the new intersection. She suggested the city could do one better, however, by shutting down the street entirely and making a “pedestrian park” out of the intersection. The circle in the middle could be a fountain, she said with a laugh.

Ladd, a past president of the New Haven Garden Club, said she and her neighbors will be tending to the plantings the city puts into the new traffic islands.

Other neighbors were not as enthusiastic. Kay Petraiuolo, who owns a large apartment building at the corner, said she’s waiting to see if the new improvements actually improve anything.

She wondered why the city couldn’t have put in a simple traffic light. Miller said traffic signals are not generally well suited for three-way intersections like Edwards/Livingston. With a straightaway on Edwards, a raised intersection has more power to cause drivers to pay attention and slow down. A traffic light wouldn’t necessarily have been cheaper, Miller said. Many of the street and sidewalk improvements would still have had to happen.

In an email, Mark Abraham of the New Haven Safe Streets Coalition hailed the new intersection and called for similar measures to be a part of other big street projects in the city.

“Other than a limited number of improvements like this one, the city has largely ignored the clear public mandate for slower residential streets throughout all neighborhoods,” he wrote. “Many streets, like Route 34, are being reconstructed without the proper attention paid to the city’s own Complete Streets Legislation.  The administration must redouble its efforts to address the public interest, look into lower-cost and more rapidly-deployed solutions like those used in other cities, and ensure all new projects meet the city’s own standards.”

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posted by: James on August 18, 2011  3:47pm

Great, East Rock is safe from speeders. How many people have been shot in Newhallville in the past few months?

I full understand that this is a good thing, but we need to start putting more resources into the areas that need them.

posted by: anon on August 18, 2011  4:01pm

I agree with James, it would be nice to see these improvements distributed fairly across the city. Newhallville lacks crosswalks altogether at many intersections, even on busy streets like Dixwell Avenue (to say nothing about measures like this one). 

Several children have died in traffic crashes in the Dixwell Avenue area just in the past few years so clearly the city’s engineering policies are not working… although I hear that Dixwell Avenue is scheduled for a major reconstruction starting next year thanks to Obama’s stimulus funding.

posted by: Noteworthy on August 18, 2011  4:02pm

$310K for traffic calming. How about a speed bump? Works great in Westville. It cost maybe $1,000 with signs and striping and labor. This little luxury will cost $500K by the time we pay for it in 20 years. You wonder why this city is broke? It’s akin to buying a big screen television with surround sound at the same time you don’t have any food in the fridge. Or $46 million schools when they can be built for $35 million and in either case, the students have poor educational outcomes. Amazing.

posted by: Yaakov on August 18, 2011  4:10pm

Yet again, East Rock sneezes and the city is all over it.  Newhallville and the Hill are war zones and city hall hardly notices.

posted by: anon on August 18, 2011  4:12pm

“She suggested the city could do one better, however, by shutting down the street entirely and making a “pedestrian park” out of the intersection.”

Ms. Ladd is right on.  This is done in front of elementary schools and apartment buildings in places like Minneapolis, Berkeley and Portland—hopefully someday soon in New Haven.  Things like that pay for themselves many times over in a few short years. 

Bottom line is, if we design our cities as our children would—instead of to cater to adults cutting through from North Haven at 50 miles per hour—everyone wins.

posted by: streever on August 18, 2011  4:15pm

310k also included (necessary) re-surfacing of the crater-like 3 blocks, Noteworthy.

I agree with Mark—this is great, but I hope to see this done all throughout the city in the future. I also would really like to see some transparent, public schedule to let citizens know when road improvements are being done.

posted by: Jon Doe on August 18, 2011  4:15pm

$310,000, paid for with municipal bonding. I want two on my street too for Traffic Calming. I also know a lot more people will want them on there streets also around New Haven. Cant wait to see what the final bill will be and Who is going to pay for it.

I got an Idea with that $310,000 and all the other Intersections in New Haven that need this kind of Traffic Calming. Why don’t we have a Department inside NHPD call the Traffic Dept. They can hit the area’s that they receive complaint about speeding driver’s all across the city, not just throw $310,000 into one intersection. They can also be responsible for parking violation across the city, like on Grand Ave. That would raise some cash for the city and not take cop off patrol.

posted by: anon on August 18, 2011  4:36pm

I agree with Noteworthy - we might not need to spend $310K for each of these.

Streever is correct, though, that most of the $310K did not go to the “traffic calming” aspects.  Much of it went into repairing the road itself, which was cratered and almost completely destroyed.  That would have been done anyways last year or the year before if it weren’t for the changes that the community request.  The city needs to do a much better job selling this point.

New Haven has much to learn from cities like Seattle, a place whose economy was completely in the tank 30 years ago, but now has become one of the nation’s most prosperous cities for all demographic groups. New Haven’s population density is the same as Seattle’s.

“Over the last 30 years, the City of Seattle has installed over 1,000 traffic circles on city streets.”


Seattle: “It generally costs $15,000 to completely construct a traffic circle.”

So it appears that for the price of re-doing this one street & intersection, we could have fixed many other intersections across New Haven by installing $15K traffic circles.  Also, in Seattle, you can’t drive right over the center of their traffic circles, like you might at this one. Seattle puts a giant community flower box in the middle of each of its 1,000 circles.

Let’s keep up the good work and keep innovating, New Haven!

posted by: Our Town on August 18, 2011  4:41pm

So glad you’ve found yet another way to spend my tax dollars. (This has been a recorded announcement.)

posted by: meta on August 18, 2011  5:01pm

HOORAY for infrastructure improvements! Anywhere they happen, they positively effects quality of life.

posted by: DIY on August 18, 2011  5:07pm

These crosswalks are a joke. And very bad for the earth. Laydon puts them in at rip-off costs. I believe they payed 30,000 for the one on whalley for a 5,000 job. They justify it because they say there the only ones that do it which is bull.

posted by: Progress on August 18, 2011  5:39pm

Great job Alder Smith addressing the needs of his Ward.

This is another example, along with speed bumps, cross walk signs, bike lanes, roundabouts, etc. of what can work to calm traffic and increase public safety.

Different solutions can work for different streets or neighborhoods.  No need to apologize for Progress.

Matt is also an active Block Watch member for more than one block and supporter of Education programs to help provide a safe neighborhoods and a path to success for the kids in his ward and beyond. 

Perhaps all ... should stop hating progress and start recognizing that proactive representation and proactive problem solvers are a good thing.  If we had more people stepping up like Matt to solve problems in their neighborhoods we would all be better off.

Thanks Matt (and City).

posted by: what??? on August 18, 2011  6:05pm

And we weigh this against the cost of a police officer stationed at this intersection for how many years. hmmm 31,000 annually goes into 310,000 how many times ??

so axx backwards is this city. Spend instead of enforce.

Even with minimal traffic enforcement I know that if there MIGHT be a cop at that intersection/street every so often at random I’m going to drive slower.

posted by: robn on August 18, 2011  6:21pm


Wow! I’ve never seen traffic circles that don’t alter the existing curbs (which would be next to impossible in many New Haven neighborhoods. Very interesting. And very dramatic drop in accidents.


posted by: Gewzeppi on August 18, 2011  6:36pm

Genius. A launching ramp for cars to hurl over , not touching the sacree en pierre.The church lost out on a few precious parking spaces , but University Properties and the local Gendmarmsto has been offering them and infiltrating them over condo conversion for quite some time…The kitchen tiles at Edwards & Orange will be scraped into J.P Dempseys come winter..Your taxpayers doggie bone has been thrown to east Rock , a little taste of what the plate at East Shore/Westville has had…Right there is for the Yale Admin walking to and from PAC house.

posted by: Joe Hill on August 18, 2011  6:42pm

“New Haven has much to learn from cities like Seattle, a place whose economy was completely in the tank 30 years ago, but now has become one of the nation’s most prosperous cities for all demographic groups”

Yeah, sure. 30 years ago, Seattle didn’t have Microsoft or Starbucks (although it still had an, at the time, ailing Boeing). I rather think that all those traffic/pedestrian/bike enhancements followed the prosperity that industry brought to Seattle not the other way around. I doubt that these companies located in Seattle because it was easy to bike to work.

The ascent of these companies preceded the ascent of Seattle.

In New Haven, as much as I hate to admit it, the prosperity of our community is dependent on Yale and the possibility of industrial/tech/health spinoffs because of Yale.

It will have nothing to do with traffic calming.

posted by: ADS on August 18, 2011  8:37pm

I’m happy for those who live in East Rock, but it’s amazing how things get done so quickly in that neighborhood. In Fair Haven, the intersection of Quinnipiac and Grand has been under construction for weeks. Work was started, but it appears to have been completely forgotten.  That would never happen in East Rock. As many people have commented, it would be nice if other parts of the city were taken care of as well as East Rock is.  I guess we in Fair Haven don’t have the same clout.

posted by: Charlie O'Keefe on August 18, 2011  8:43pm

$310,000 for a campaign photo opp that only attracted 5 citizens is a great bargain. I’m really glad I helped pay for this. Surely this is bullshit campaigning? There’s no way in hell a few cans of spray paint and that red duck tape that’s going on the cross walk cost that much.

posted by: Goatville mom on August 18, 2011  9:12pm

It is insane how people drive in this city.
Anything that slows the traffic down is good.
Also noticed on Canner (between Whitney and Orange) they’ve put several speed bumps.

posted by: anon on August 19, 2011  12:16am

Charlie, the $310K was to dig up and rebuild the whole street, something that would have had to be done irregardless.  Only a small % was added on to do the crosswalks and curbs that make the street worth living on.

If you want to talk about costs, just look at the long term cost increases involved when the city defers basic street maintenance. It is many times cheaper to spend and keep things in order than to try to ressurect destroyed streets that the city has allowed to completely decay.  Not doing this project would have been like letting your roof leak for a few years before fixing it.

Let’s stop mortgaging the future of our city, and do more projects like this one.

posted by: pdh on August 19, 2011  7:50am

With New Haven in dire fiscal straits, do we really need to be squandering borrowed money on amenities for one of the most privileged neighborhoods in the city?! Given the choice, most East Rock residents would prefer to see Engine 8 kept in place.

posted by: Gretchen Pritchard on August 19, 2011  8:51am

Fake brick.  What’s the stuff made of and how is it adhered, and what will it look like the next time it has to get dug out for utility work, and how will it stand up when the snow plow goes over it a few times next winter?

posted by: anon on August 19, 2011  9:15am

Very good question. On Quinnipiac Ave, the city engineers have just used “fake stone” to rebuild a retaining wall, and it is one of the ugliest things I have ever laid eyes on. Look at the condition of fake stone downtown after the winter hits and you can see how things can go horribly wrong but I suspect it has to do with the specific technology used.

posted by: Pedro Soto on August 19, 2011  9:40am

GEEZ! The amount of cheapskate sentiments on this article are astounding. This is basic infrastructure improvement folks! Do any of you remember how Edwards has been for YEARS?

Is it a bad thing that the street is now built BETTER than before, at a fractional increase of what it would have cost to just throw more blacktop down?

This is the basic civics class DEFINITION of a government service. It’s basic infrastructure! The city did it smartly by actually improving it! Should we have just left edwards street to be a cratered mess for another 15 years? Should we not have tried to improve this intersection?

This conversation reminds me of this political cartoon-

posted by: Josh L. on August 19, 2011  9:48am

Everybody whines about spending tax dollars until it’s in their neighborhood.  Think of this as an experiment: if it works on Edwards Street, maybe it can be used elsewhere.

People are creating a false dichotomy between lowering crime and creating new infrastructure.  The New Haven PD has a ton of openings and even the money to hire, but no new recruits to actually put onto the streets.  To imply that somehow, this project is causing more crime is ridiculous and facetious.

Then again, it’s the Internet.  If people didn’t have something to whine about, they wouldn’t know what to do with themselves.

posted by: roads on August 19, 2011  9:49am

I think this looks great.  However I can see how some would be concerned about the cost of it.  It would be useful if the NHI could provide what the additional cost was, above what is normal.  ie, what would it have cost to simply pave those three blocks, with perhaps a couple speed bumps, versus the $310k it cost with the enhanced features? without that info, makes it tough to have a conversation. Hopefully the additional cost isn’t exorbitant. If we can’t afford it, we can’t afford it. But if the cost is only marginally higher, and we contracted for a dozen or so of them, we could put one at the busiest intersection in each neighborhood so everyone is happy : )

posted by: DIY on August 19, 2011  9:51am

It looks nice. But Not worth the $. Its made out of plastic that has to be melted into the ashpalt. Its very bad for the earth and should not be put in. It will be and should be obsolete like the fake brick concrete sidewalks they put in that flake apart as soon as salt, or ice melt hit it. They could have beautiful stone work that will last forever with these prices. But they listen to what ever there contractor tells them is great then pay for it.

posted by: Josh on August 19, 2011  10:42am

Total waste of money. If you want to slow down traffic, use a speed bump or hump, which costs about 1% of this project. What no one has mentioned is how after one winter all that pretty brick and asphalt will be stripped to the road bed.

And to be honest those speed humps just aren’t a concern unless you’re in a low slung sportscar; I drive over them at 30+ on Edwards and Canner. The stop signs at either end of Canner keep you from going fast anyway; I guess putting Stop signs on Edwards at the Livingston intersection never entered the brilliant administration’s collective mind…

What the article doesn’t mention is who most often is the one speeding: Police cars. Someone with a police grade suspension driving a crown vic they don’t have to maintain or pay for is just going to use Edwards as a jump ramp.

Full disclosure: I *lived* on Edwards until 3 days ago.

posted by: anon on August 19, 2011  11:40am

Josh, the “speed humps” are obviously not adequate if you can drive over them at 30 miles per hour.

It is frustrating to see the city take perfectly good engineering strategies used in 1000s of other cities and water them down.

posted by: goatville mom on August 19, 2011  11:50am

I drive that stretch of Canner every morning and every evening, M-F, and I can tell you that the traffic has slowed considerably from what it used to be.

posted by: R M on August 19, 2011  12:49pm

A raised road is a colossal waste of money in a city that faces crime and budget issues that result in needed Police Officers getting fired. Not to mention police pensions getting slashed left and right. Meanwhile people are doing 50mph down Winchester, right in front of my home, and no one cares. Why? Because it’s the hood and no one cares about the hood.

posted by: anon on August 19, 2011  1:33pm

RM, by organizing your neighbors like the neighbors on Edwards Street have done for the past decade, you can ensure that the next time that your road is reconstructed, the city will fix it correctly.

That is how it has worked on every street throughout the city and Winchester does not have to be an exception.

It is going to be hard to turn Winchester Avenue from a “hood” to a stable neighborhood if people looking at living there feel that the street is completely out of control, as you suggest.

posted by: Roxanne on August 20, 2011  2:23am

Imagine… A world where we don’t need special infrastructure in order for people to act decently and respectfully toward each other (and themselves) while piloting a two-ton hunk of metal.

That said, I’m totally psyched about this.

posted by: janyce murphy on August 20, 2011  8:58pm

Does the city think we citizens have amnesia? Our group of neighbors from Burns Street and “little” Everit approached the city about speed bumps on Burns Street. We have regular cut through traffic from folks avoiding the East Rock/Whitney light. People speed UNBELIEVABLY - if I had a dollar for every driver that screeched around the corner - well, you get the picture.
I find it frustrating to the point of it being laughable: the city turned down the request. They installed a speed check sign for approximately 2 weeks - and that was that.
Our small corner has 7 children alone - all under 13. They are endangered by the level and speed of the traffic.
Well, off to write my alderman and Traffic/Parking folks!

posted by: janyce murphy on August 20, 2011  9:01pm

But it does seem short sighted or even worse to pump this kind of money into one intersection when the city has so many other needs - and presently, so much teenage violence.

posted by: streever on August 22, 2011  8:42am

Beautiful sentiments :)