City Engineer Dick Miller has seen the “redo” of chopped-up, speeder-plagued Quinnipiac Avenue grow from a longstanding neighborhood wish to a construction project in full swing.
On Tuesday night, he reported on that progress to the Quinnipiac East Management Team at its monthly meeting at Ross/Woodward School.
“There’s an awful lot of work to be done in the spring,” he admitted. “But I think that at the end of the day this section of roadwork is going be a really good example of how you do a job well.”
Heavy traffic, speeding, disrepair and a lack of sidewalks on Quinnipiac Avenue have plagued the community for years. But it wasn’t a lack of initiative on the part of the neighborhood to improve the unsafe thoroughfare – it was a lack of funding. Read about the community’s decade long effort to see change here and here.
“It’s taken almost 10 years to get this project started and implemented,” Miller told the community members gathered Tuesday at the Ross Woodward School. “We were very fortunate last year to get stimulus funds to fund 100 percent of this project.”
Because the community worked together to build a solid plan for reconstruction, said Miller, the initiative was perfect for American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA, aka federal “stimulus”) money. “When the ARRA money came out, because we had designed it, it was in a good position as a shovel-ready project to move forward.”
“I know a lot of you probably were involved with the design of this,” Miller said. “We held a lot of public conversations on it, and you now see a definition of a roadway coming together.”
Miller said he began engaging people 10 years ago. “We said we have an idea. And we used what you’d call a charette.” A charette brings citizens, officials, and experts together in a room to map out ideas for a construction project. “As the engineer,” said Miller, “I asked people, ‘what do you want to see happen?’ We had them help us with the process, gave them tools and restrictions, and this is what came out of it,” he said, pointing to a set of plans he’d brought to the meeting.
“I’ve presented this plan 100 times,” said Miller. “I can’t even tell you how many times. We’ve been at churches, schools, all over the neighborhood.”
The project is broken into two geographical sections. Phase 1, which began April 1 of 2010, includes the section of Quinnipiac Avenue from Clifton Street to Ferry Street. Phase II, which is set to begin this summer, goes from Ferry Street to Judith Terrace.
Empire Paving, which won a bidding process following state and federal guidelines for the project, is carrying out the construction.
CUts & Fills
Miller, with the help of resident engineer Rob Barrett, Tuesday night explained the difficulties that have emerged as construction continues. First, Quinnipiac Avenue is a narrow road, 40 feet wide. Most roads of its kind are 50 feet, he said.
“So we’re working in very tight areas.”
And everything on the avenue slopes towards the river. “When you have the land mass sloping towards the river, you now are into what we refer to as ‘cuts and fills,’” said Miller, describing how earth is removed from certain sections and used to build up others.
Perhaps most concerning: What lies beneath? “This is an area in the of the city that we’ve had little information on the underground stuff. We ran into more stuff underground that was not known.” Miller detailed pipes leading to nowhere and sewer lines the sewer authority didn’t know existed.
There are underground great records for the older, central section of New Haven, Miller explained. “But this was a part of the Annex, and we just didn’t have a lot of good stuff. We’ve been struggling with that.”
Most of that is over, Miller said he hoped, looking to Barrett for confirmation.
“Most of it,” nodded Barrett.
Where They Are
Traffic-calming techniques, meant to improve safety, are a vital part of the Quinnipiac reconstruction. Read about their significance here and here. Roundabouts and separators have been installed, but there’s still work left in this area.
“But if you look out there today you’ll see we’ve already created the curb line, you can see how the road is kind of going to be traveled on and some of the sidewalks are done. Some of the walls rebuilt,” Miller said.
A final paving needs to be done, driveways need to be finished, and the construction company will need to make sure all residential properties have full access to the road.
Miller said neighbors have asked him to look into replacing chain link fences along the avenue with decorative version to match the historic nature of the area. “I’ve gotten a price on that, and it was over $400,000. We don’t have that kind of money in the budget.”
He said he’s looking into alternatives, including possibly changing the fence in only some residential areas.
Despite all the work, Miller was positive. “I think the project is coming along quite well.”
Barrett said construction should start on East Grand and Clifton Streets in “full steam” around April; that section should take about two months. “It should be done before summer, which is much better than the original plan.” The original time line allotted around 400 days for completion of Phase I.
Phase II is a short section that should go more quickly, Miller said.
Momar Ndao (pictured), who lives near the avenue, said he thinks the improvements are necessary. “The main issue is safety, really. And the road itself was so beat up.”
“My one concern is the narrow areas and the detours right now, but construction like this in any city is going to cause those problems.”
David Baker, who’s lived south of Aner Street (part of the Phase I construction) since 2001, had just one complaint.
He has a child; construction starts early. “But there’s nothing they could’ve done about that. So honestly, my only real complaint is completely unfounded,” Baker added.
“Some of us are curious about how we’re going to get the dust off our houses. But otherwise it’s been fairly impressive.”
Baker said he was initially excited about the traffic calming initiatives. “But then I drove down Front Street and realized they’d had to put speed bumps in on top of the traffic-calming measures. So I’m kind of wondering if traffic calming is a myth or not.”
Visually, Baker said it’s already a huge improvement. “You can walk a stroller from one end of the street to another without hitting a hole in the ground,” he said.
“It is inconvenient to have construction in your front yard, but ultimately what they’re doing is wonderful.”