Neighbors To State: Help Us Fix Forest Road

The state General Assembly’s Transportation Committee heard public testimony Monday on a bill by state Rep. Pat Dillon that would have the state bond $2.5 million to New Haven “replace pipes and improve drainage on the Forest Road portion of Route 122” between Edgewood Avenue and Chapel Street. Westvilleans made a pitch for the bill’s approval.

Hopkins Schools’ Head of School Barbara M. Riley and Chief Financial and Operating Officer David E. Baxter submitted a letter noting the common flooding along that stretch of Forest, which runs by the entrance to their institution. The situation “creates hazardous conditions whenever the area experiences heavy rain,” they wrote.

Susan Papa and David Schatz, who live across Forest Road from Hopkins, submitted testimony about the flash flooding with which they repeatedly contend.

“The issue came to a head last summer,” the wrote.  

“On the afternoon of Friday, August 10, after about 30 minutes of heavy rain, we noticed that there was a river of muddy water flowing down part of our backyard.  Water runs down the driveway of Hopkins, overwhelms the drains on Forest Road, and rushes down our neighbors’ driveway straight into our yard.  As this has happened on several previous occasions, we knew to hasten to our basement to survey the damage and turn on the pump we purchased after a similar incident the previous year.  Shortly after entering the basement, we heard a crash followed by the roar of falling water. Part of the basement wall had given way, and there was, quite literally, a waterfall coming into our basement.  The entire floor was covered in water within 30 seconds, and the water level continued to rise to about 8 inches at it’s deepest point.  The river of water coming down the hill toward our house covered 3/4 of our back yard, and flowed against the exterior of our house from our backdoor, all the way around to the front door.  Had the level risen another inch or two, it would have breeched our backdoor and begun to flood our first floor.  Water continued to flow into our basement long after the rain had ended, and it took hours to pump out as much as possible.  To top it all off, similar flooding happened all over again, to a slightly lesser degree, less than 24 hours later.

“We were then faced with an enormous clean-up job, major repairs, and the very expensive prospect of having to reconfigure our backyard to prevent further damage.  We have since spent thousands and thousands of dollars implementing a drainage system in our own yard in an effort to protect our home from further damage.  As responsible home owners, we are willing to invest the time, energy and money that is necessary to maintain our own property, but we need help to resolve this worsening situation.”

They wrote that the problem goes back decades.

“The dip floods quickly and severely even in only moderate rainstorms, creating foot-deep ponds across the entire roadway and washing waves of water and street debris downhill. To add vehicular insult to water injury, this state highway carries a constant flow of tractor-trailer, commercial, and auto traffic, most moving too fast for the limited sight lines even under good weather conditions. (Rte. 122’s speed limit is 30 mph.) In a storm, when careless drivers smack into the flood zone at their customary 40 or 50 mph, they also propel water down our hill with pounding, destructive force. When we stand in our driveway during a bad storm, we have to brace one another to be sure we aren’t knocked down by the flow racing past our legs, which can be—no lie—shin-deep and chunky,” Papa and Schatz wrote to the committee

“We can count on at least 6 such garbage-filled ‘tidal waves’ on our property each year. The aftermath presents significant cleanup and ever-worsening erosion of our paved driveway and abutting landscape.”

Thomas and Colleen Gill, who have lived downstream on Alston Avenue, also submitted testimony. “In the last 10 years, we have spent thousands of dollars to add a filtration system under our back lawn, and improve the landscape to reducing flooding and damage to our home,” they stated. “This is a longstanding problem that has only worsened over time.”

Dillon submitted the bonding request following neighborhood meetings on the subject.

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