Fair Haveners heard some “new urbanist” ideas for slowing down traffic, and suggested the planners should slow down, instead.
They showed interest but also wary skepticism at a roll-out of a draft plan called tje Fair Haven Mobility Study.
Deputy Director of Traffic and Parking Michael Pinto brought the initial recommendations to a gathering of 25 at the regular meeting of the Fair Haven Management Team at the Blatchley Avenue substation this past Thursday night.
Funded by a $60,000 grant from the South Central Regional Council of Governments (SCROGG), the study addressed how local streets in two non-downtown areas of the city — Newhallville/Dixwell and Fair Haven — might be calmed through conversion to two-way and the addition of traffic-calming measures to make them safer, slower, and “friendlier” for cyclists and pedestrians.
The centerpiece of the Fair Haven recommendations:the conversion of Pine, Exchange, and parts of Peck and other streets to two-way. Two-ways are slower and safer, said David Sousa, a senior planner and landscape architect with CDM Smith, the East Hartford based firm whom the city hired to do the study.
The year-long study also calls for creation of “slow streets” that do not alter direction but rather discourage cut-through traffic, reduce speeds, green the streets and render them safer for bicycling and walking.
A third recommendation was to further calm some of those “slow streets” so they become “neighborhood greenways,” thoroughfares designed so cars would move no faster than bicycles.
“If you turn one-way into two-way, people without driveways, still need to park,” objected Fair Haven Alder Ernie Santiago.
He then pointed to one of the maps full of yellow-marked streets, such as Fillmore, which he interpreted as indicating a recommendation for conversion.
“Fillmore, Poplar, Clay,” he said, pointing to them on the map, with alarm.
Sousa reminded him that only the large, orange-marked streets on the provided map were to be slowed through conversion; the many narrow-one ways were marked with ovals or diamonds, indicators of recommended traffic calming measures—such as bump-outs at the corners or neck-downs, which narrow and thereby slow passage.
“We’re not proposing to change [lose] any parking” capacity in Fair Haven, Sousa responded.
Sousa reminded his listeners that the draft study consists of recommendations and community response for the purpose of further refinement.
Santiago remained wary, and he was not alone.
Longtime Fair Haven activist Fran Goekler-Morneau said that while she approves of the study’s thrust and of the “growing, wonderful excitement about” a coming bike-share program , “I think in some ways it’s unfair to the residents who want to use the city.”
“If I’m in upper Westville in order to get home [to Fair Haven], it now takes me forever,” she said.
Coming to defense of the study, Pinto replied: “If you move through the city at a slightly slower pace, you’ll get where you’re going quicker. If you race through Whalley at 40, you’ll hit every light.”
“Calming is not the [sole] answer,” said Goekler-Morneau.
Several members of the audience, such as activist Kenneth Reveiz, who lives on Grafton Street, expressed concern that residents of the streets being discussed had not been sufficiently consulted.
Referencing a “combative” atmosphere in the room, Reveiz said that the “economic analysis is morally tricky,” meaning that if the plan were adopted and became successful, gentrification might follow. “I feel it could push people of color out.”
“The objective is to save lives. That benefits everyone,” Sousa replied.
Then there was the question of cost. Alder Santiago, keenly aware of the tightness of city budgets, asked who will pay for these measures.
“This is where tactical urbanism comes in,” Pinto replied. You can use planters, hay bales, paint.”
“The idea is how can you slow streets down without investing in a lot of granite,” said Fair Haven activist Lee Cruz.
“Instead of spending $100,000, let’s [for example] start with people putting up planters, and the city putting up sticks, and then as money comes in, we’ll know” what works and deserves more investment.
Santiago remained skeptical: “It sounds good, but they have to talk to the people affected. I don’t believe they’re [that is, the streets recommended for conversion] wide enough to be converted without losing parking, although I could be wrong. I’m going to talk to the people in my ward.”
Pinto and the consultants distributed sheets soliciting listeners’ responses. They promised to come back at a future meeting of the management team with more refined plans reflecting the public suggestions.