George Street Set For 2-Way Switcheroo

Melissa Bailey PhotoWhen the city converts George Street into a two-way road next week, deli owners Sean Saxton and Charles Ingram will be cheering.

The city plans Monday to convert two blocks of George from a one-way to a two-way street, according to Mike Piscitelli, the city’s transit czar-turned-economic development officer.

It will be the first time in years that the city has converted a one-way street into a two-way—something the city plans to start doing a lot more, as it launches a broader redesign of downtown streets.

The George Street change is also part of a broader effort called Downtown Crossing, which aims to transform 10 acres of automotive wasteland in the Route 34 corridor into vibrant new developments.

Work has already begun on the first step of Downtown Crossing, turning a stretch of mini-highway into a new 13-story home for Alexion Pharmaceuticals at 100 College St.

In coming weeks, the city is planning a series of traffic shifts downtown to complement that project and make way for future development.

The first change will take place Monday, or later in the week in case of bad weather. The city will shut down traffic on George Street between State and Church, paint yellow lines, and reopen the street to westbound and eastbound cars.

The following week, on or about June 16, the city plans to close the “hair-pin turn” that drivers currently make to get off of Westbound Route 34 at Exit 1 and make a hard right onto Water Street. A lot of drivers use that route to get to Union Station from out of town, Piscitelli noted. He offered four alternate routes to the train station: Get off at Route 34 Exit 1, take a left onto Church Street, and then another left onto State Street. Get off at Route 34’s Exit 1, take a right onto Orange St., right onto George, and a right onto State. Or avoid downtown by getting off at the Hamilton Street exit on Interstate 91 and taking Water or Chapel streets to State Street. Or take Exit 46 off of I-95, then go over the underutilized Church Street Bridge.

During the week of June 30, the city plans to close Exit 2 on westbound Route 34. Drivers will be able to get off at Exit 1 and choose from three lanes that go toward downtown, or one that turns right onto Orange, Piscitelli said.

The conversion aims to ease traffic congestion caused by cars heading to Route 34 from Orange Street, by giving them an alternate way to get there through George Street, said Piscitelli. It also aims to free up the intersection of Orange and Water to make way for the elimination of the hair-pin turn, said traffic czar Doug Hausladen.

The changes to George Street will be a big deal, Piscitelli said, because the city hasn’t done any such conversion in decades. The last major street conversion took place on College Street between Elm and Chapel, by Yale’s Phelp’s Gate, in the 1990s, he said. (He’s not counting the recent mini-conversion of one block of Church Street, just south of George Street, into a two-way road.)

Some neighbors expressed apprehension about the change.

Ron Bray (pictured) said he’s concerned about the 79 drivers who park their cars at the 1 Church St. office building, where he serves as assistant property manager. They currently exit the parking lot and turn left onto George. As of next week, they’ll have to cross two lanes of oncoming traffic in order to do so.

“I’m a little nervous about how people are going to exit, and the habits they’ve developed over the years,” Bray said.

Hausladen said the city plans to put up temporary signage to remind people leaving George Street parking lots and garages to look both ways.


Saxton and Ingram, meanwhile, applauded the switcheroo. The duo just opened a deli called Ninth Square Market Too at 89 George St. Turning George Street into two directions will bring more eyes on their shop, they figured. Their business partner, Ed Jabbour, owns the building as well as an associated shop around the corner on Orange Street called Ninth Square Market.

Before Saxton and Ingram opened up a few months ago, the shop was vacant for a year, Saxton said. It used to house Coliseum News, which was named after the New Haven Veterans Memorial Coliseum. After the city blew up the legendary monster-truck, hockey and concert venue in 2007, Coliseum News closed. It became a shop named Fat Sandwich, which also subsequently closed.

Saxton and Ingram eyed the vacant space and saw a business opportunity: While the spot was pretty dead at the time, they saw a potential influx of business in the developments planned nearby. Just down the street, Montreal-based developer LiveWorkLearnPlay is planning a 700-unit $395 million mixed-use project on the grave of the Coliseum. The project promises to bring thousands of construction workers to George Street.

Saxton and Ingram plan to greet them with breakfast sandwiches and steak-and-cheese subs.

“We’re specifically coming in because we knew what was going to happen” at the Coliseum lot, Saxton said. “The whole neighborhood’s going to change.”

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posted by: robn on June 4, 2014  3:29pm

Piecemeal incremental change is a BAD idea which will confuse drivers for a prolonged period of time and reflect poorly on what is inherently a good idea. The city should just get it over with in a shock-and-awe conversion of the whole downtown. That way everyone will know to be careful everywhere during the afterward.

posted by: TheMadcap on June 4, 2014  3:30pm

*Insert perfunctory statement demanding a bike lane somewhere in all of this*

posted by: Gretchen Pritchard on June 4, 2014  5:11pm

Around the same time as the stretch of College Street along the Green was made two-way, Grove Street below Church Street also became two-way, as part of the reconfiguration of the Olive Street bridge across the railroad tracks to Wooster Square.  Until then, Grove Street was one-way its whole length, from State Street all the way to Tower Parkway.

posted by: Stephen Harris on June 4, 2014  9:49pm

robn, I disagree. incremental change will give drivers the chance to adapt. Instant change will cause accidents.

posted by: Lars3 on June 5, 2014  1:01am

I think madcap is being snarky, but he is still right, this stretch of road better have some damn bike lanes. In both directions.

posted by: Nashstreeter on June 5, 2014  2:26am

Too bad the maps are so low-res and have no street names on them or even a North-South indicator. Not helpful.

posted by: Bradley on June 5, 2014  6:08am

Robn, if all of the streets are converted at one time, the city will need to pay overtime to the public works employees who do the job. More seriously, in addition to Stephen’s point (1) while there is a consensus that many of the streets downtown should be made two ways, there are disagreements over which streets should be converted (see the comments on the earlier NHI stories), (2) in some cases, conversion will require changes in signalization, which will take time and money, and (3) the conversation has not really started on which streets outside of downtown should be made two-way (although I could suggest some likely candidates).

posted by: robn on June 5, 2014  6:45am


What I’m arguing for is momentary, rather than prolonged confusion. If everyone is on alert as the enter downtown that most all roads have converted it sets a basic assumption with which to navigate. Piecemeal change would be more troublesome for me personally.

posted by: robn on June 5, 2014  6:46am

PS I’m glad Something is happening though wish it was more assertive.

posted by: Stephen Harris on June 5, 2014  12:40pm

A sudden change would cause everyone to crash into each other. A phased change is the safe way to do this.

posted by: Pat from Westville on June 6, 2014  2:14pm

Question: Why is this scheduled the week before the beginning of the annual Arts and Ideas festival? For those 3 weeks the closure on Saturday and Sunday afternoons of Temple Street between Elm and Chapel necessitates substantial rerouting of traffic in downtown as it is. Now the hundreds, maybe thousands of out of town visitors to the festival will be treated to even more disruptive traffic rerouting. Better plan, imho, would have been to start the week of June 30, not next week.
Just a thought.