“Speed Table” Headed To Edwards Street

Thomas MacMillan PhotoWith a multicolored, multi-level intersection redesign in the works, City Engineer Dick Miller is setting the “table” for safer streets in East Rock.

After months of design and study, Miller is prepping to send New Haven’s first “speed table” intersection improvement plan out for construction bids. As soon as next summer, the T intersection at Edwards and Livingston Streets will be raised about six inches. That “table” will—like one big speed hump—effectively force drivers to step on the brakes.

The intersection will also feature planted medians, textured and multicolored crosswalks, and yellow-patterned paving, all of which are designed to send a message to drivers: Slow Down.

Miller said that’s an important message for Edwards Street, a heavily used artery in East Rock. Despite bumpy, cracked pavement, cars often fly down Edwards on their way to and from Yale. During a recent visit to the corner in question, Miller pointed out several cars that he estimated were going at least 10 miles per hour over the posted speed limit of 25 miles per hour.

Miller estimates the project will cost $300,000, paid for through municipal bonding. Work is expected to begin this spring and take about three months to complete.

Miller said he doesn’t know if the speed table is the first in Connecticut. Kevin Nursick, spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, said he doesn’t know of any state-owned speed tables in Connecticut.

The speed table project also includes the installation of two speed humps on Edwards between Orange and Livingston Streets and between Whitney Avenue and Livingston Street. That’s so drivers on Edwards will have to slow down even before they hit Livingston, Miller said.

In addition to physical changes, it’s also important to have visual cues to slow down, Miller said. That’s where the plants and change in colors in the intersection comes in. The new crosswalks will be similar to the textured crosswalks recently installed on Whalley Avenue, Miller said.

What’s more, the intersection plan calls for the planting of several new trees along Edwards. Those will also have a traffic-calming effect, Miller said.

Plus, there will be curb “bump-outs” at the two corners. That will create room to improve the relationship between the street and an ancient tree, which is bursting through the pavement.

Taken all together, the improvements will create a whole new driver “experience” that will decrease speeds, Miller said.

It’s part of the city’s complete streets efforts, which aim to calm traffic and facilitate multi-modal transportation in the city, Miller said.

The city has been working on plans to improve the Edwards/Livingston intersection for about two years, Miller said. The engineering department looked into the possibility of a mini-roundabout there, even marking where it might go with white paint on the asphalt. But the intersection proved too small, Miller said. Still, the speed table will feature a slight mound in the middle. It’ll be high enough to force drivers to curve slightly, shedding more speed, but low enough that school buses will be able to drive over it to take the turn.

On the one stop sign at the corner, someone has stenciled a small “Please” underneath the word “STOP.” Miller said people tend to roll through the stop sign, which can be especially dangerous given the high speed on Edwards.

Rob Smuts, the city’s chief administrative officer, said speeds are so bad on Edwards that years ago, when extensive sewer work left the street lumpy, neighbors asked the city not to repave it. They liked the traffic-calming effect of a bumpy road, Smuts said.

One of those neighbors was Frank Chapman. He lives at 204 Edwards St., just a couple doors away from the intersection. An architect and former deputy head of the City Plan Department, Chapman said he’s wholeheartedly behind the speed table.

Edwards Street is about a mile long, with only two non-T intersections between State and Prospect Streets, Chapman said. “The blocks are long,” and drivers take advantage of that to step on the gas, Chapman said. “It’s an invitation for cars to go fast.”

From his living room on Edwards Street, where he and his wife have lived since 1978, Chapman called the speed table a “brilliant plan.” He said he and his neighbors are committed to maintaining flowers or evergreen shrubs planted in the new medians.

“We think it will have a very positive effect on slowing traffic,” he said.

Next, Chapman has his eye on the intersection of Edwards and Orange Streets, where he said a roundabout should be installed. “I laid it out and I know it would work.”

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posted by: Cedarhillresident on December 9, 2010  9:50am

Dick we need traffic calming on State Street in Cedar Hill…we call it frogger lane.

posted by: anon on December 9, 2010  10:08am

Traffic calming is needed elsewhere too.

Although this is a great project, in general, the city should start with lower cost solutions (such as temporary speed tables instead of permanent ones) in order to roll out traffic calming throughout the entire city.  This is what London and many other cities did, and once those are in place then start making them permanent as budgets allow. 

The increase in real estate taxes alone, from the temporary infrastructure, would more than pay for the permanent stuff down the road.

posted by: robn on December 9, 2010  10:47am

Roundabouts which cut corners in East Rock neighborhood will be a non starter for two reasons.

One reason is that East Rockers value the street as a promenade for walking and jogging and interruptions are unwelcome.

The other reason is that many corners are very close to historic structures it would be unfair to decrease those distances.

posted by: Pedro Soto on December 9, 2010  11:04am

I’m in agreement with Anon, this is a really great project. I was just driving down this section of the street yesterday and noticed how fast people were flying even with it being so pockmarked.

Anon, can you like to pictures of temporary speed tables and maybe links to vendors or ballparks of prices? I think it’s worth getting those into the conversation.

posted by: L on December 9, 2010  11:37am

This is great news, but Fair Haven and the Heights need it too. It’s like a speed zone over here, very dangerous, lots of passers-through who don’t care about our neighborhood.
Isn’t there also something the CT DMV can do - like safety bulletins, safety reminder signage and mailers, or even required safety courses, besides just for new licensees?

posted by: Tom Harned on December 9, 2010  11:37am

This is a great project. Speeding has been a problem on that part of Edwards for a long time. Having safe and pleasant streets is a basic quality of life issue and projects like these, over time, have the potential to dramatically improve our city.

The bump outs are a good add-on. For years, people have been parking on the corners of that intersection, blocking driver’s line of sight and creating a dangerous situation. The bumps will fix that and make the intersection safer for both drivers and pedestrians.

posted by: S on December 9, 2010  11:38am

A big part of the problem is that cars often park on Edwards right up to the intersection with Livingston (on the east side; right in front of that big tree in 3rd photo above). When car is parked there and you are on Livingston trying to turn on to Edwards, it is impossible to see. So you inch into the intersection, praying that some idiot isn’t speeding up Edwards to Whitney. Frequent ticketing would help solve this problem.

posted by: DR on December 9, 2010  11:42am

Chapel St and Alden Ave

posted by: jt75 on December 9, 2010  11:43am

Great idea! Can’t wait to see and experience it in place!

posted by: HMS on December 9, 2010  11:44am

This is a great idea, especially as the type of residents who live in East Rock will help maintain the flower beds and young saplings. People who live in East Rock are generally proud of our neighborhood and are proactive about keeping it safe, clean, and pleasant.

While they’re at it, they might as well completely repave Edwards Street between Orange and Whitney as it’s full of pot holes.

posted by: streever on December 9, 2010  11:45am

I’m excited to see this happening—since they first painted what looked like a roundabout on Livingston/Edwards I’ve been hoping for it! That is easily the most dangerous part of the city I routinely ride in, with the incredibly fast cars flying up and down Edwards (tragically, they tend to spend the next 2 minutes sitting at a red light).

posted by: Cedar Hill on December 9, 2010  12:39pm

I agree with CedarHill Resident.

There are several areas in larger need than Edwards and Livingston which would be a better safety investment.

Are we doing this becasue of Yale or actual New Haven speeding safety. If I am going to foot some of this cost I demand some more explination. !!!!!!!

posted by: Keith Watzl on December 9, 2010  1:52pm

This is great news, and a worthy location. Can we please have a speed table at Trumbull and Lincoln next?

I would wager that cars speed through that intersection at a higher rate of speed than at Edwards and Livingston, as they race on and off the highway. So much so that I will not use the pedestrian crossing there.

Having said that though, I want to point out that speed tables are just one option in a raft of traffic calming measures. Having come from a city that went speed hump and speed table crazy, I can say that they are not appropropriate for every situation.

One alternative measure is a forced chicane that narrows the road to a tight 2 lane turn, that forces drivers to slow, but is not as hard on vehicles as a bump. Roundabouts are another.

Hopefully city planners will take this on a case by case basis.

Great work to all involved.

posted by: William Kurtz on December 9, 2010  1:59pm

Good start, but I agree with Anon that in this case, “more is more.” 

There are a lot of places in the city where the speeds are just as high and the conditions just as treacherous.

It’s encouraging, though, to see the Complete Streets initiative coming into its own.

posted by: Rob Smuts on December 9, 2010  3:41pm

A quick note - the $300,000 includes milling and repaving Edwards between Orange and Whitney.  As per the Complete Streets approach, this location was dictated by both need for traffic calming and the need for regular infrastructure improvements.

- Rob Smuts, Chief Administrative Officer

posted by: Gary Doyens on December 9, 2010  4:09pm

Is this a want or a need? The ONLY solution is a $300,000 table, all of it borrowed? Mercedes are usually bought bt peole who can afford the payments. New Haven’s broke and city gurus still spend like drunken sailors.

posted by: anon on December 9, 2010  4:47pm

Weren’t the temporary speed tables by the Mill River bridge on Chapel Street much cheaper than this?  How many of those could we get for the price of one table? Just curious because, as some of the folks above point out, a lot of neighborhoods have been asking for traffic calming for a long time…

posted by: Tom Harned on December 9, 2010  4:49pm


Mr. Smuts makes a good point. These traffic calming measures are being integrated with routine roadway maintenance. This is one of the major goals of the Complete Streets program, to incorporate traffic calming and other measures into routine work so that the city doesn’t end up wasting money by doing things more than once.

This approach is much more sensible than what a lot of towns and cities do, which is to have a separate “traffic calming” or “streetscape” budget. This means that traffic calming and other improvements are often done haphazardly and can result in costly retrofits because the road is being torn up multiple times instead of just once, the police have to manage traffic multiple times instead of just once, etc.

The drunken sailor comment is not only off-base, it’s factually incorrect. Roads are a lot like cars. If you maintain them regularly rather than waiting for them to fall apart completely, you end up saving money overall.

Keep in mind that these are safety improvements. Traffic accidents are expensive. The police have to come to the scene, meaning either they’re getting more overtime or not spending time on other important matters like solving crime or policing neighborhoods. Then there’s the paperwork associated with each accident. Again this mean either more OT or less police work. A lot accidents involve vehicles damaging city property - knocking down lamp posts for example. These have to be replaced and when the driver is uninsured, as many are in New Haven, this cost can fall to the City. I’m not even going to get into the private costs of traffic accidents, when can be astoundingly high.

I appreciate a lot of your comments on the NHI, and am glad that there are fiscal watchdogs like you out there, but not all spending is reckless and wasteful, and in a lot of cases underfunding necessary maintenance ends up being pennywise and pound foolish, just ask the BP execs.

posted by: anon on December 9, 2010  5:01pm

Tom is correct that letting roads decay is much more costly than keeping them well-maintained, for the simple reason that fixing a completely broken and shattered road is much more expensive than just maintaining a surface. 

When you consider the enormous costs of crashes and wear and tear on vehicles, which we all share in the form of higher insurance payments, the costs are actually even higher.

It would be great if we had a “watchdog” to look into this issue—we could easily save the city millions, and save residents tens of millions.

Many other cities publish information about road surface conditions so that citizens can actively monitor which roads are falling into disrepair.  Does New Haven have such a guide?

This is one area where we may actually need a bigger annual outlay, not a smaller one.

posted by: Gary Doyens on December 9, 2010  5:48pm

Rob Smuts:

Thanks for the clarification. That makes more sense, although I’m interested in the break outs for the calming components. In my neighborhood they put in a couple of speed bumps and some signage. They seem to be working and those that don’t pay attention to them, are in for major repair bills.

posted by: robn on December 10, 2010  9:28am

Road maintenance can be started and stopped on hard lines so a speed table can be installed at any intersection and the surrounding road maintenance done at some later date. I don’t understand why the city doesn’t begin to install speed tables out of sequence with regular road maintenance ...one might argue that the traffic calming effect would reduce the wear and tear on the surrounding roads (a positive ripple effect or maybe the old ditty “a stitch in time..”).

posted by: Thomas on December 11, 2010  6:55pm

Many of the problems on Edwards and other streets are due to having to nudge out to see on coming traffic.

I would like to start a petition to stop using the term “Spending like drunken sailors.” Drunken sailors eventually run out of money and either are thrown out the bar or are arrested by the SP’s. The term “like drunken Congressmen” is more accurate because they seem to have no spending limits nor will anyone ask to see the money up front. Boy I’m sure Mr. Rangel’s wrist was really swollen after his “censure.”

posted by: Josiah Brown on December 14, 2010  8:58am

Thanks to those in the neighborhood and the City who have advocated for such safety measures and are now making them happen.

As others have suggested, this location is one of various spots that could use such attention, and surely one frequently cited in response to the neighborhood quality-of-life survey that Doug Hausladen, Mark Abraham et al. developed.  They personally are among those who deserve credit.

My family and I pass through the Edwards/Livingston/Orange area often
—on foot, by bike, with a stroller, or in a car.  Our observations are consistent with the existing street hazards other neighbors have recognized.  The improvements – as part of a larger integrated plan – are appreciated.