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Mayor: Downtown Crossing Can’t Wait

by Melissa Bailey | Feb 2, 2010 9:09 am

(40) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Posted to: Business/ Economic Development, Downtown

Melissa Bailey Photo Recession be damned, Mayor John DeStefano announced he’s moving forward with an ambitious plan to undo urban renewal and re-stitch downtown with the Hill over a highway.

Buoyed by signs of local economic growth amid a global recession, DeStefano announced that he intends to get going this year on the so-called Downtown Crossing project—a plan to redevelop 10 acres of downtown land that was razed 50 years ago during New Haven’s urban renewal heyday to make way for a highway that was never completed.

He emphasized his commitment to the project on and off the dais at his State of the City address Monday in City Hall.

“This project is going to happen. The city will make it happen,” the mayor said after his speech. (He’s pictured above speaking with Fair Haven Heights Alderman Alex Rhodeen Monday night in aldermanic chambers.)

Click here for an in-depth discussion and commentary on his speech in a virtual house party with the Independent writers and readers.

In all, the Downtown Crossing project aims to create over 1 million square feet of offices, stores and homes, generating “millions” in taxes and “thousands” of jobs, DeStefano said. The project aims to double the size of downtown and “build a bigger platform for job and taxbase growth in the city well into the decades ahead.”

Courtesy of City of New Haven DeStefano used the occasion to unveil a proposed building elevation (pictured) for the first phase of the project, dubbed “100 College Street.” The building, undertaken by developer Carter Winstanley, would sit next to the Air Rights Garage, in a space that’s currently used as highway. The new plan shows 400,000 square feet of office, laboratory and retail space. (Click here to read about a previous plan.)

“Instead of a highway to nowhere, we can deliver a project that will create some 900 permanent jobs” and a 1,200 construction jobs, DeStefano said.

The highway, the Route 34 Connector, helped destroy a neighborhood that used to bridge downtown with the Hill.

DeStefano’s announcement at his speech Monday night came as a recession has stalled other ambitious downtown plans, including a condo tower on College Street and Long Wharf Theater’s relocation downtown.

Downtown Crossing/ 100 College Street was one of two major pricey initiatives DeStefano focused on in his address. The other was school reform.

The mayor said he plans to bring a proposal to the Board of Aldermen this year for 100 College Street. He needs the board’s approval to close Exits 2 and 3 of Rt. 34 and start working on major infrastructure changes to make way for the project.

DeStefano aims to close those exits at the end of this year, or at the beginning of 2011. The project has received $5 million in federal funds and initial approval from the state; more approvals and money are needed.

Winstanley’s building will finance itself, DeStefano told reporters outside his office after the speech.

“The hard job we’ve got to deal with is the highway,” which was built in the 1950s and ‘60s, he said. The city is applying for $40 million in federal stimulus money to redo the infrastructure, which would require reconfiguring city streets and shifting the main entrance to the city. Federal funding is a gamble—either it will come through, or it won’t. Either way, DeStefano said he’s determined to get the project moving.

“One way or the other, we will find the resources to deal with rearranging the highway,” he said. “That highway did tremendous damage” to the city when it tore through the Oak Street neighborhood in the ‘50s and ‘60s, he said. It separated downtown from the train station and from the emerging medical district.

At that time, city planners “didn’t know that the fastest-growing part of [Yale] university, the city’s largest employer, would be the medical school and the hospitals,” he said. Yale and the medical industry were vital in allowing the city to grow its grand list by 2.8 percent this year, bucking recession-era trends, he pointed out.

“100 College Street is important not just for the 900 jobs” but “in terms of connecting downtown back together,” he said.

DeStefano declined to address legislative priorities or the budget in his speech.

After his speech, DeStefano was asked how he intends to fund his other major initiative—an ambitious school reform campaign. The mayor has said he aims to raise $100 million in private and public funds to finance the five-year initiative. Monday, he sounded confident in New Haven’s ability to secure federal funds.

But if he can’t raise enough money, the mayor said as a last resort, he would raise taxes to support the initiative.

“School change is so important to the future of the city,” DeStefano said, that he will “make cuts elsewhere” or raise revenues to carry out the school change plan.

DeStefano asked about another hurdle he did not mention at the podium: The exodus of top brass at the police department. He spoke just hours after Assistant Chief Peter Reichard put in retirement papers, after being suspended Friday in due to what the police chief called “numerous” incidents of improper behavior. Police Chief James Lewis and two assistant chiefs are on their way out after short stints in New Haven, helping to re-right what was then a scandal-plagued department.

DeStefano said Reichard’s departure is “disappointing,” but “his behavior was frankly unacceptable.”

The mayor said his focus moving forward will be to find a new police chief.

In the meantime, he said Assistant Chief Stephanie Redding—the only one of four assistant chiefs who’s sticking around—will likely serve as acting chief once Lewis leaves on Feb. 28. Redding appeared with Lewis at the speech Monday night in formal police attire.

“You’re the last one standing,” an alderman said as he shook her hand.

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posted by: Our Town on February 2, 2010  10:29am

To all of you who may think this is a good idea (removing Rt. 34), good luck to you getting around in New Haven in the future. This “re-knit the city” jargon is crap. Johnny is blindly pushing ahead without a care about how it will work. Even with the highway in place and without the development, there is gridlock in this area daily. Now we’re building more in this tight corridor adding thousands of trips, and we’re going to reduce capacity to serve it. Gateway College alone will overwhelm the street system. There is no transit component to this. There will be MORE cars on WIDER streets around the hospital. I just hope some of the “traffic calming” groups see through this and realize that conditions around the hospital will get worse, not better. Build over the highway. DO NOT REMOVE IT. You will regret this if it is built as planned.

posted by: JP on February 2, 2010  11:00am

Our Town,
gateway students would take exit 1 with or without this project. The gridlock as you put it is only at exit 3 where the highway merges with frontage and that would be gone. Heres a map of your town so you can see for yourself http://maps.google.com/maps?q=new+haven&ie=UTF8&hq;=&hnear=New+Haven,+Connecticut&gl=us&ei=rTxoS_2QNYmm8QaVroHABw&ved=0CA8Q8gEwAA&ll=41.302571,-72.926023&spn=0.008012,0.019205&z=16 The real point though is that in a town where 60% of the land is non-profit and pilot funds keep going down the only way to grow the grand list is to create more large scale taxable properties.

posted by: nfjanette on February 2, 2010  11:12am

“The hard job we’ve got to deal with is the highway,” which was built in the 1950s and ‘60s, he said. The city is applying for $40 million in federal stimulus money to redo the infrastructure, which would require reconfiguring city streets and shifting the main entrance to the city. Federal funding is a gamble—either it will come through, or it won’t. Either way, DeStefano said he’s determined to get the project moving.

With what funds and at what impact to downtown as many hundreds of vehicles clog the streets having been evicted from the access highway?  If the mayor wants to cut off the city from anyone outside who would consider commuting to a job (gasp), this would be the way to do it.  New urbanists will dance, but the city may plunge further into economic disaster.

posted by: Walt on February 2, 2010  11:16am

Dick Lee must be spinning in his grave.

Is anything left from the massive changes in New Haven during Dick’s nationally- celebrated terms as Mayor?

posted by: sjbj on February 2, 2010  11:19am

Do we really need this? What about all of the unoccupied office, retail and residential space we have already? 360 State St. hasn’t even come on line yet.
About raising taxes to fund school reform, forget it! We are already overburdened by taxes in this city. The schools are a bottomless money pit…how is pouring more in going to help? How about this—CUT SOME ADMINISTRATORS. The NHPS is incredibly top heavy.

posted by: Pioneer on February 2, 2010  12:08pm

It is not wise at all, as Our Town said to remove Rt. 34. This isn’t so much of a highway to nowhere as everyone thinks. It connects downtown and the highway to Westville, Edgewood, Whalley, yadyyadyaya. It is always crowded, it cannot be removed.

This road must stay, somehow. So while we are tearing up the highway and we’ve got a big hole, lets fill it! Lets put a tunnel going from where Rt. 34 will leave off, going to the other end, towards the other end where it will leave off.

posted by: anon on February 2, 2010  1:06pm

The road can stay, but as a boulevard with major development along it (Frontage Road), instead of a highway scar with dozens of acres of non-taxable land along it. Boulevards can carry just as much traffic as Route 34.  When speeds slow down, as they do on city streets like Church and Chapel, you can carry more traffic because cars can be closer together.

The city should also tear down I-91 and replace it with a boulevard.

posted by: The Count on February 2, 2010  1:07pm

That rumbling in New Haven is NOT an earthquake: It’s just former mayor Lee spinning in his grave.

posted by: anon on February 2, 2010  1:10pm

NFJ, do you really think that Frontage between Church and Temple is operating at capacity?  There are a bunch of empty lanes there, even at rush hour, as theonly cars I see there are the ones coming out of the garage. 

Let’s consider the enormous benefit of dozens of acres of land that can be redeveloped for job- and tax-producing uses (like what was there before Dick Lee) if the highway is turned into a boulevard, and let traffic and city planners work out the details.

posted by: Our Town on February 2, 2010  1:34pm

JP

Think about what you said. Now EVERYONE will have to get off at Exit 1. All the traffic you see at Exit 3 will be at Exit 1. All the traffic at Exit 2 will all get off at Exit 1.
All three exits will be at one intersection, North Frontage Rd and Church Street.. Exit 1 is already a bottleneck in the AM. And in case you forgot, students going to Gateway also come from the west, and Legion Avenue-South Frontage is a mess at times every day.

And to Mr. ANON, they are going to WIDEN North frontage road, and you already feel there are too many cars going too fast there. The fact that the through traffic is separated from the local traffic via the expressway section, at least at this point, is a very good thing. Pedestrians beware; you will have to cross wider streets with more cars in gridlock.
.

posted by: Pioneer on February 2, 2010  1:36pm

Very true , anon. Between Church and Temple on Frontage, no cars can be found. Lets shift up the road to the exit right by York Street, thats where every car is. A million cars pack out of Exit 1 onto a crowded street. So, get rid of Exits 2 or 3, or simply have them lead somewhere. And as for Exit 1, have a Lower Frontage Road Tunnel that is directly under the road, which leads to the Boulevard, and keep the current street to serve as a connector to Yale, downtown, etc.

posted by: Scot on February 2, 2010  1:43pm

I love the idea of reconnecting those parts of the city and having a nice-looking, pedestrian friendly way for people to walk around.  Also love the idea of building some new office space and residential to increase tax revenue and make it more vibrant. First and foremost I want the city to be walkable and safe.  That said, I’m also realistic and realize many people commute, and we need to accommodate cars, bikes, and buses too.  The idea of building over the corridor, and creating a tunnel sounds logical, as long as it could be done attractively. You could build almost anything you want over the tunnel -walkways, a park, condos, offices, etc. People needing to drive from across town to the interstate can zip through without endangering any pedestrians. A tunnel would actually remove a lot of cars from the walkable parts, rather than just slowing them down.  Does anyone know if the city is looking into that? Of course if they have other plans that could truly accommodate the traffic without a tunnel, even better. But definitely dont want more gridlock, which creates more smog, etc.

posted by: City Hall Watch on February 2, 2010  1:55pm

Before we get too orgasmic over all those jobs and property taxes - the most growth in construction in New Haven has been by non-profits who pay no property taxes. I get confused with the mayor’s endless flip flopping on this like a fish on a hook. He was against the non profits before he was for the non-profits. And PILOT? He is against the reimbursement rate of PILOT but he is positively gleeful over building more PILOT eligible buildings. Go figure. That said, his next big dig is Gateway on prime real estate, no property taxes.  By my calculaton, Gateway should be paying about $10M in property taxes - what are they going to contribute in terms of a payment in lieu of agreement; and what’s the PILOT REALISTICALLY going to be? Taxpayer Towers at 360 State has a very long fuse on paying FULL property taxes and building permit fees. By the way, I appreciate the payments from Yale and YNHH. Do we get PILOT on their projects? Is the combination of them equal to or less than property taxes? Either way is fine, I just hope somebody is looking at the fine print and not just listening to the Happy Talk Express. If not, the mayor will be back with his “last option - LOL” sooner rather than later.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on February 2, 2010  2:27pm

Hopefully I don’t get in trouble for releasing these images, but they are important for people who don’t know what they’re talking about to look at

This is Legion Ave before it was demolished:
http://photos-f.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc3/hs194.snc3/20155_1226732063531_1085910074_30557686_3688172_n.jpg
This is it today:
http://photos-d.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc3/hs194.snc3/20155_1226732103532_1085910074_30557687_1150909_n.jpg
This is the city’s preferred plan:
http://hphotos-snc3.fbcdn.net/hs174.snc3/20155_1226732183534_1085910074_30557688_7686898_n.jpg
This is the neighborhood’s preferred plan, which is realizable in probably about 25 years:
http://photos-h.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc3/hs194.snc3/20155_1226732023530_1085910074_30557685_2086678_n.jpg
These are some modifications I’ve made that are realizable in about 50 years:
http://photos-b.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc3/hs194.snc3/20155_1226729503467_1085910074_30557684_4501674_n.jpg

A boulevard:
http://photos-h.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc3/hs066.snc3/13354_1173493612603_1085910074_30446321_5717203_n.jpg
A highway:
http://hphotos-snc3.fbcdn.net/hs174.snc3/20155_1226733383564_1085910074_30557689_4441138_n.jpg

Traffic capacity hits peak at 27 mph. Look it up. The problem has never been the old roads, the problem has been how we use them. Road widening, curb reduction and constant upkeep of asphalt roads for the accommodation of cars is an unending process that has already cost our country billions (trillions, if you include all automobile oriented development costs), and will continue to do so at annually increasing rates. Traffic changes to fill capacity every time, adding lanes only attracts more cars, it doesn’t make the trips faster for the cars that had already been using the road.
People will have to do 1 or 2 things, either get up earlier to accommodate for more commuting time, or live closer to where you work, shop, and public places you use.

Since the 1930s, American cities have been suffocated by automobiles, in the 50s and 60s, changes were made to road systems to accommodate more cars at faster speeds, those roads have been continually changed and will continue to be changed so long as we continue to accept traffic engineers as the solution to our traffic problems. Even cities designed entirely around cars have traffic (Los Angeles), so what hope does a city that was not designed for cars, like New Haven, have? What we’ve been trying for the last 60 years has not worked and isn’t going to work.
There are two sides to this argument, the right side and the wrong side. Destefano is on the right side. On the right side there are two positions, the smart position and the dumb position, Destefano is on the dumb position. Planning is a system of principles, observations and circumstances that guide decisions, not a series of numbers like what is taught in engineering programs.

posted by: Pedro on February 2, 2010  3:49pm

I’m a strong supporter of Downtown Crossing, and it should be a very exciting project. From what I have heard of the project, Winstanley has a tenant just waiting for the building to be put up, so once things are moving the building should follow.

And to the traffic worriers, even if traffic increases, we are talking about 3 blocks. Is a 5 minute difference of your commute or travel time worth vastly increasing the amount of buildable downtown real estate?

Look at lower State Street it was widened for traffic flow in the late 80’s. It’s probably one of the best moving downtown streets - and it’s a wasteland of parking lots and garages. If anything narrowing state street so that buildings can be brought back to the east side of the street at the expense of slower traffic flow would bring the street back from its current state.

I think that a lot can be done with traffic flow to help it move smoothly once you are in the city, and hopefully with the new traffic management system coming online later this year, we’ll start to see the benefits of that.

But making new haven a city where you can speed 50 mph down the road to get to your parking garage does not make New Haven a better city. If that were the case, then the areas which allow that would be the most thriving in the city, and they are not.

posted by: funky chicken on February 2, 2010  4:19pm

The Mayor should take his heads out of the clouds and realize that we are not going to get all of that money from Washington for either the schools or downtown. Folks, we need to wake up to the fact that OUR TAXES are going UP with the implementation of these plans. What is there to cut in the city budget? Not much. Do you want less cops of firemen on the street? No. I am looking to the BOA for some strong leadership in standing up for the taxpayers of New Haven and making hard choices that will keep our taxes stable.

posted by: Anderson Scooper on February 2, 2010  4:41pm

Hey, this was all my idea!

No, not really sure if I was the first, but way back when I was at a public meeting discussing possible locations for the new Arts High School. (the one that was originally proposed for Howe Street, but finally built on College.)

There was an architect from Cesar Pelli, and she presented the Route 34 location, now being considered for 100 College, as a possible site for the new school. Anyway, she went on and on about the costs of building above the Route 34 highway, and how it wasn’t practical.

Knowing that the Pfizer building had just been built on the other side of Air Rights Garage, thereby putting to an end the idea of continuing the highway out to the Boulevard, I raised by hand and said, “Hey, can we stop floating things in New Haven? Why not plant it on the ground, and just bring the highway traffic out to the Frontage roads at College or even Church Street?”

Several months later the Register ran a nice op-ed piece on the topic, and the idea became lodged in the public realm. Too bad it didn’t take root earlier, as the parcel between Church and Temple would have been a much better site for the new “Gateway” College.

fwiw. And don’t let me tell you how I was the first one to suggest an IKEA for New Haven…. Quote from Henry Fernandez, “IKEA, what’s an IKEA?”

posted by: City Hall Watch on February 2, 2010  4:42pm

Pedro:
It’s not about getting anywhere faster, it’s about gridlock. When you have gridlock, nothing moves and it takes a lot longer than 5 minutes. Already, ambulances have a hard time getting through the bottleneck so it’s a problem.

Jonathan:
Loved the pics. The neighborhood version wins with me.

The Count:
Off topic but I finally found a flight that worked out of Tweed. I’ve been paying for the damn airport for 7 years and I finally got to use it, could pay for my ticket and didn’t have to sell any of my children. Amazing…

posted by: streever on February 2, 2010  4:54pm

I try to be nice to everyone here, but I can’t really take any of you seriously who think this is a bad idea.

As Pedro points out, look at lower vs upper state street. Wow, yea, I want more of lower state in MY city.

“Our town”, I can’t imagine you actually are a new haven resident. If so, you’d be able to ride a bike into downtown, much like Alderman Carl Goldfield, who is no spring chicken but very capable of maneuvering around gridlock in the city.

Seriously, it’s like those of you who are flipping out never heard of walking 2 blocks or taking the occasional bus. When I’m with friends and they drive, the total number of times we have been unable to park within 1 block of our destination is roughly 0.

that’s the only stat I need to know that downtown has too many roadways & too many parking spots/lots. It takes 15 minutes to get downtown from East Rock off peak & 16 minutes on peak. What traffic problem?

People in any other city in North America would be SCREAMING for our traffic problems, literally begging for it. We have no traffic problems, except impatient people who would be happier in the suburbs, where everything you want to do is 20 minutes away no matter how bad traffic is.

If you spend time biking or walking the city, you see the literally seething drivers at every red light. I’m not even kidding, I see on a daily basis someone who is losing their cool over being behind a red light. People in New Haven need to learn patience.

posted by: chris on February 2, 2010  5:26pm

Did anyone tell him we have a highway cluster… right now that needs fixing? Did anyone tell him we have one of the dirtiest cities when it comes to air quality and that part of the reason is because for hours everyday we have thousands of cars practically sitting idling on I-91 polluting the air we breathe? Because we have a major highway interchange where on major interstate highway goes from four lanes down to one at the merge with I-95—another major highway? But I guess we all have lots of good friends in the construction industry who need jobs, so a highway should be a priority afterall.

posted by: Carl Goldfield on February 2, 2010  6:09pm

My wife thinks I’m a spring chicken!

posted by: Kevin on February 2, 2010  6:25pm

One useful point in Our Town’s post was the need to incorporate transit into these developments. With Gateway, 360 State, and this development, this would be a very good time for Connecticut Transit and the state DOT to determine how they can take advantage of lots of people living, working, and studying downtown in supporting and expanding the transit system.

posted by: westviller on February 2, 2010  6:25pm

While I appreciate the Utopian sentiments of those who want to do away with rt. 34, we cannot simply ignore the prospect for gridlock that these plans create.  The potential for even more impediments to access to YNHH is not just a philosophical matter about privileging automobiles or bikers/pedestrians.  It is a public safety issue.  Any plan to redesign this corridor must absolutely assure that emergency access to the hospital is not impeded. I have not seen a word in any of these discussions about this public health issue.  Apparently, it is okay for patients to die in ambulances stuck in traffic, as long as we have nice bike lanes and the cars all move slowly, if at all.

posted by: Scot on February 2, 2010  6:39pm

Thanks JH for the boulevard plans.  All of them look like a great improvement from how it is now.  JH I liked your plan the best but am curious why you said it would take 50 yrs when it didn’t look that different from the neighborhood plan? 

In my last post I was referring to the area from Church to College.  I’m not sure building over the road there (creating a tunnel) is cost effective or necessary, I was just curious if it was ever considered (it would create even more land above, the road already exists, the connector is already below street level, etc).  But regardless, I definitely agree with getting rid of the connector there as it is now.  It would provide some prime taxable real estate, an opportunity for medical buildings to expand, connect the Amistad Park/Nursing School area and downtown, and in general look much nicer.  The downtown crossing project looks great too especially considering there is already a developer lined up (I assume he will be purchasing the land from the city?).  Traffic should definitely be a consideration but I agree removing the connector won’t delay anybody that much since we are only talking about 3 blocks, or 1/6 of a mile.  They do need to make sure the roads can handle any new traffic caused by Gateway/downtown crossing/etc.  (I realize a number of people on here are completely anti-car, which I agree is nice in theory; cars don’t need to be encouraged but they need to be accommodated- traffic congestion is a really bad stigma for a city to get a reputation for.  I realize we don’t have that problem now, but let’s keep it that way).

Chris, I agree the 91 to 95 interchange is a problem, but I think that will be fixed as part of the Q bridge rebuild.

posted by: Our Town on February 2, 2010  6:47pm

I sure hope Carl Goldfield doesn’t mind being characterized as not being in the ‘spring chicken’ category. You’ll probably be booted of the board….

But, I’m not against the development…I like density and big buildings. It’s just that New Haven and any thriving city is bigger than its boundaries. We will not survive on only catering to people who live within its limits. Neither Yale nor Gateway serves only New Haven residents. They are regional facilities. In the absence of real transit, which is NOT a part of this plan, the result will be gridlock. Not for me, but for people in ambulances, many of them our friends and/or relatives, who will be delayed on their way to the hospital.

And to others here who suggest that you move more vehicles at 27 MPH than at 50 or 60 MPH, that’s a load of misinformation. That is under ideal free flow conditions without stoplights and parking vehicles and buses that stop in lane and pedestrians that jaywalk. In real life, free flow on a city street does not happen, and the highway is capable of much higher volume. But, that’s not the point…the point is that all the traffic in the area will be on the service roads that already do not function well, and will function even more poorly with additional traffic.  Not to mention that all the traffic will be on a widened surface street right next to pedestrians. This does not encourage walking, it makes walking more dangerous.

Without a true transit element, there is too much in one spot. So yes, this is a bad idea.

posted by: anon on February 2, 2010  8:41pm

Downtown should be designed for people and transit, not for elitist drivers to speed through.  The vast majority of the city’s population (including children) does not drive in a car every day to work.

Unless you are in an ambulance, top speeds should be 15 miles per hour, like in the centers of many European cities.  On a main road like Frontage, you can bring speeds up to about 20-25 miles per hour.

Anything else severely degrades our city and limits its potential to be a growing, economically vibrant, and healthy place that can provide for all of its citizens. 

The designed road speed should be set based on what gets buses through most efficiently, what makes pedestrians comfortable and safe, and what enables reasonable traffic flow (due to cars being spaced closer together at low speeds, lower speeds are actually better than higher speeds at moving vehicles). 

The design speed should NOT be based on what allows suburbanites and city engineers/workers (almost all of whom are paid much higher than the NH average, and hence, drive to work) to maximize their speed at 2 AM.

posted by: Charlie O'Keefe on February 2, 2010  10:17pm

Which Alderpersons are on the committee to convince Hiz Honor that BUILD IT AND THEY WILL COME is complete fiction. It looks like Ms Whelley couldn’t do it.

posted by: Chris O on February 2, 2010  10:22pm

Boston downtown (I93?)  works fantastically well in the tunnels exiting onto pedestrian oriented streets with ground level retail.  Keep 34, fill the side, build over it and give us a tunnel. Tunnels, bridges and cities go together.  We need higher density in the city and this is the right place. 

Over the next century the city will probably grow in two directions from downtown; South to the Harbor( Longwarf)  and North of YNHH along 34 to and along the Boulevard. We need to build a smart network of roads to handle traffic volume and easy and expensive parking.

posted by: Joe H on February 2, 2010  10:47pm

What is it?  New Haven doesn’t have enough vacant land, so it’s forced to incur expensive projects and build over an existing highway?????

What about the former site of the Colosseum?

I think it’s a major mistake messing with the current Route 34.  It will tighten a major artery into the city and limit options in the future.  The city should have continued the highway under the air rights garage and under the Pizer building.  It would have alleviated some of the traffic congestion.  But it’s too late for that now.  Don’t make another mistake.

Bridge to the Hill neighborhood?  Big woop-de-doo?!

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on February 2, 2010  11:11pm

Westviller and Our Town,
The only viable solution to traffic congestion is mixed use planning. Automobile oriented development is a long term budgetary blackhole. I am continually amazed by people who bring up emergency vehicles as evidence against planning and traffic engineering reformers. The existence of an abundance of cars slows emergency vehicles, nothing else. We can deliver our traffic congestion at 2 lanes, or at 4 lanes, or 8 lanes, we can even attempt to deliver our traffic congestion at 12 lanes if we can find the money to demolish more neighborhoods. The connector isn’t going to disappear over night. However, once it is established that it is coming down, people will adapt-they will use existing transit, they will move closer to their job, they will carpool, they will bike, and the pattern of development and transit quality will change based on that.
Highways do not belong in urban areas. They don’t even belong in existence, really. The boulevard, as Anon pointed out, is the urban highway and the parkway is the rural highway and a highway is that stupid hunk of concrete we used to build until we realized that they don’t work and remembered all that abandoned, underused rail we have.
Here are the only street systems that should exist:
http://photos-a.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc3/hs174.snc3/20155_1227099632720_1085910074_30558283_3437926_n.jpg
Suburbs really screwed themselves over by developing their entire living arrangement around the assumption that they can use cities as their driveways, garage and dumping ground for the rest of time. Can you say “oopsy doopsy”? If suburbs want to continue having a relationship with their neighboring urban center, they can request federal redevelopment money to do one of two things.
http://photos-f.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc3/hs194.snc3/20155_1227099712722_1085910074_30558285_3441777_n.jpg
They can reclaim their historic small town centers and rebuild them and expand them to provide employment, shopping, recreation and civic amenities to their residents through traditional neighborhood design. Then they can connect to urban centers, like New Haven, Waterbury and Bridgeport through the use of parkways that turn into boulevards once within the city. Or second, they can agree to become absorbed by the city of New Haven either flatly or as a borough, in which case they work with New Haven to secure federal grants to take existing Main Streets (Whalley, Kimberly, Dixwell, Whitney, State, etc) and development them as neighborhood centers and thoroughfares in the suburbs for transit lines and for walkable neighborhoods to intersect. If neither option is chosen, New Haven should pull a Hamden and fence off our borders to people who don’t feel like contributing.

Scot,
My modifications call for extending the boulevard to State Street/Union Street, in which case North Frontage and South Frontage would need to be entirely demolished along with everything in between them as well as necessary new buildings to be built. It is more work than upper route 34. Those are also just estimates, if there were national motivation to reverse the suburbanization of the country it could all be done in a couple decades.


Here is the original 1950s/60s plan:
http://photos-h.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc3/hs194.snc3/20155_1227086952403_1085910074_30558267_7182383_n.jpg
We could always just built this:
http://hphotos-snc3.fbcdn.net/hs174.snc3/20155_1226733383564_1085910074_30557689_4441138_n.jpg
We could reduce our traffic congestion for a whole 5 years with that, until the suburbs development more cul de sac subdivisions to attract residents that will complain about how a city that they don’t pay taxes for isn’t accommodating for them enough. Actually, Whalley Ave, Kimberly Ave, and Derby Ave commuters would probably just switch routes and give us 4 daily hours of traffic congestion immediately upon opening of a new highway and the routes they used to take would become barely empty and therefore narrowed! Oh wait, that’s right, we only widen roads, we don’t narrow them.

posted by: Brian Tang on February 3, 2010  12:43am

I think the idea is for the new development to bolster the Small Starts application. If NH gets FTA money, they can move ahead with an urban streetcar connection between Science Park, the Medical District, and Union Station. That way, folks can commute in from the suburbs without polluting our air & making such a ruckous on the highway. For those who don’t live in an area served by Metro North or Shoreline East, they’ll at least have fewer cars to contend with downtown. And sooner or later, I’m sure we’ll have commuter rail service along the I-91 corridor toward Hartford as well. That just leaves people to the west, who will probably still have to drive or ride the bus.

posted by: East Rocker on February 3, 2010  8:35am

My comment is on the picture of the planned 100 College Street.  The article describes this drawing as an “elevation”.  I hope that this is just to give us an idea of the general size of the building and that this is not an architectural rendering of what they are thinking of building.  The last thing we need is another bland, nondescript modernist office building (e.g. all of the new buildings associated with the new cancer center).  For such a monumental project, we should have something that is at least attractive.

posted by: Steve on February 3, 2010  11:32am

I really don’t understand the comments that complain that we are “removing” Route 34. They are doing no such thing. Rather, they are mitigating an awful bottleneck (Exit 3) where many lanes merge into very few, and traffic is disastrous because of numerous conflicting movements (traffic merging from the highway crossing three lanes to turn right, traffic from the Frontage Road crossing the exiting highway traffic to turn left, etc).

Realigning Route 34 onto the frontage road back at Exit 1, where there is far less traffic on the frontage road, makes much more sense. There are as many lanes on the Frontage road as there are on the highway. If we feed those lanes off the highway earlier, traffic will move much more smoothly. Period.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on February 3, 2010  11:33am

East Rocker, I hope so too.

Our Town,
“It’s just that New Haven and any thriving city is bigger than its boundaries. We will not survive on only catering to people who live within its limits.”
New Haven did pretty well doing just that for the first 300 years of its existence. It wasn’t until we stopped doing that actually that caused the city to decline. I know, weird, right?
“That is under ideal free flow conditions without stoplights and parking vehicles and buses that stop in lane and pedestrians that jaywalk. In real life, free flow on a city street does not happen, and the highway is capable of much higher volume.”
Right…‘cause this never happened:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GGVoxyt7odc

posted by: anon on February 3, 2010  12:05pm

Sorry, East Rocker - I don’t think Winstanely is in the business of hiring Cesar Pelli or Renzo Piano.  That’s what the building will look like. 

Have you seen the Science Park Garage?

posted by: Pedro on February 3, 2010  1:45pm

Anon, I fully agree with your assertions about making the central city more pedestrian friendly, but the saying that “vast majority of the city’s population” walks to work is not accurate.

New Haven has among the highest percentages of people who walk to work in New England, and the amount of people who use the (sadly) traditional method of a single occupant driving a vehicle to work is a minority of all the methods of commuting.

However, according to Wikipedia- 14% of New Haveners walk to work.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._cities_with_most_pedestrian_commuters. This is not a vast majority, and more people still drive to work in New Haven than walk.

We have probably a lot more pedestrians in the city due to Yale’s student population so there are tons more pedestrians around the city, and as a walker who lives close to downtown, I’m 110% behind redesigning intersections and making downtown less of a car wasteland, but the fact of the matter is that there is that there still is a vehicular component that needs to be managed.

We can probably get more aggressive with limiting speeds and curbing behavior (as well as pumping up transit and encouraging people to live downtown), and I think that excessive deference to vehicles should not be the default position, but vehicles DO still exist, and much of the people who work here still use them to get to this great city.

posted by: Westville Mom on February 3, 2010  2:05pm

Perhaps I’m naive, but I’m wondering why there hasn’t been a plan (?) to configure the main entrance to New Haven FROM POINTS WEST of the city onto Church St. off of LONG WHARF.  I have diagrammed it here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/new_haven/4327584223/

The idea would be to have Church St. be another grand, tree-lined “boulevard”—- was this, in fact, part of the overall visionary plan (re: the train station) I’ve seen in prior articles?—haven’t been following this all that closely.

With properly designed exits, this entrance to the city could take virtually all of the traffic coming from the west and maybe quite a bit from the east, also—-substantially relieving Rt. 34 of its burden.

I agree with someone above who talked about the highway “cluster”, which is really a mess.

The real missed opportunity, however, was in re-building the Q-Bridge where it is instead of creating a whole new “signature” long-span across the harbor south of it and re-shaping I-95 in the process, eliminating the big bend.  That would have put New Haven on the map in a big way and freed up quite a bit of waterfront for park use.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on February 3, 2010  2:36pm

Pedro,
I’m pretty sure Anon was talking about the entire city population and how they get around the city, not just adults commuting to work. After 50% of the American public do not own cars, and that numbers shift in favor of non-car owners when we get into central cities and general urban places.

The entire living arrangement in America for that 60 years has been designed around mobile, relatively young, fairly wealthy people. Kids, old folks, and the poor are enormously disadvantaged by the pattern of organization for development and so are parents, because they have to drive everybody else around.

Bottom line, the highways have to come down, the problems that come with this will be solved by having a good plan put in place with the understanding that the specifics will be worked out organically based on demand.

Westville Mom,
Cass Gilbert (who designed Union Station) also designed an overall plan for that area where the Hill transitions into the central business district.
http://photos-b.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc1/hs231.snc1/7823_1137622715853_1085910074_30359218_6625241_n.jpg
The green is to the upper right, and the train station is on the lower left. The viewer is looking west.

posted by: anon on February 3, 2010  6:14pm

Pedro, the Census gives you commute to work information, but that only applies to workers.  Roughly 58% of city residents who commute drive alone to work, the other 42% walk, take transit or use other means (I never said they all walked).  If you consider our enormous population of children, elderly, retirees, unemployed residents, etc., then far more of half of our residents do not drive a car to a job each day.

I agree we need to create a balanced system, which means ending the almost exclusive preference currently given to our peak hour driving population, one that comes at the expense of our community, connectivity, well-being, and health, particularly children and elderly. 

Mayor Bloomberg and many other mayors around the world are taking the right tack on this, recognizing that wide roads don’t solve congestion or promote social equity—Connecticut is just a generation behind.

posted by: anon on February 3, 2010  6:55pm

That’s a brilliant idea, Westville Mom. 

Many people have considered this in the past because doing that would allow the city to remove the Route 34 connector entirely, freeing up over 100 acres of prime developable / taxable land along the southern edge of Wooster Square, the Train Station area, and Downtown… and ensuring that the new high school on Water Street has nicer views.

Unfortunately, it should have been considered before ConnDOT started spending millions of dollars building the 10-story tall flying freeway exits that will lead from a right-hand exit on I95, over the highway, on to Route 34.

The Mayor will be able to remove a few blocks of the Route 34 connector around Exits 2-3, which is a good start, but hopefully we’ll soon be able to use your solution and roll it all the way back to I-95.

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