Westville neighbors saw traffic tamed on Whalley Avenue — in charts. And they heard about how it will soon happen for real.
City Engineer Giovanni Zinn and transit chief Doug Hausladen presented the plans Monday night as they tag-teamed a meeting at Mauro-Sheridan School, where they solicited feedback from about 15 neighbors in attendance.
People speeding down Whalley Avenue, the main thoroughfare through the heart of Westville Village, have long been a concern of neighbors and business owners. A proposed plan long in the works to fix that, which has finally been approved by the state Department of Transportation (DOT), allows the city to install new crosswalks and medians, narrow roads and add visual improvements to the gateways of the village. Those gateways will be prominently established at West Park Avenue and Harrison Street.
The bulk of the $560,000 project — about $420,000 — comes from the state. The rest will come from city funds designated for “complete streets” projects.
Zinn and Hausladen sought feedback from neighbors because the project could go out for bid as early as next month.
The plan does not include two sought-after traffic-calming measures: There will be no improvements to merging traffic where Fountain Street and Whalley Avenue merge. And no bike lanes are planned for this stretch of road — at least not yet.
Hausladen said that DOT decided that it needed to wait until a second phase of the project to tackle the merge.
Zinn said that the city is still working to convince DOT that protected bike infrastructure could work on Whalley Avenue. They’ve been unsuccessful so far. The city is looking eventually to add bike lanes that run on Whalley Avenue from West Rock Avenue to West Park Avenue.
Those lanes could tie into plans for a $1.2 million “Downtown West” commuting corridor for bikes that aims to connect the west part of the city with downtown.
City officials were able to save about seven feet of shoulder on either side of Whalley Avenue that they hope to one day use for bike lanes, Zinn said.
“The fight is not over,” he said.
Kim Stoner, who lives on Roydon Road, said she’s happy with what has been presented so far. She lives in Beaver Hills, not Westville, but she walks through the area often. She applauded the idea of slowing down traffic and adding more crosswalks. A member of the Whalley-Edgewood-Beaver Hills (WEB) management team, she said she hopes eventually to see similar improvements further east up the avenue.
Lyric Hall owner John Cavaliere is especially looking forward to the new crosswalk that will stretch across Whalley Avenue from Edgewood Park to his front door. The crosswalk will stop all traffic in either direction to allow pedestrians to cross safely. He said he also looks forward to the “Tree-chi” of a tree-lined Whalley Avenue. The city has been cleared to put in about six trees in a median that will be built at the east end of Whalley Avenue near West Park Avenue, and another three in a median at the Harrison Street gateway.
A neighbor who requested anonymity said he’d much rather have the merging problems at Whalley Avenue and Fountain Street fixed before any of the other improvements are made. “That’s where the real safety problem is,” he said.
New Haven State Rep. Pat Dillon, who began fighting for the traffic-calming money six years ago, reassured neighbors that the state’s current financial woes will not impact funding for the project. The state is facing a more than $900 million shortfall in the next years budget. While that could mean draconian cuts in other areas, Dillon said this money can’t be touched; it is state bond money, already approved.
“It’s late,” Dillon said of how long it has taken to finally get to this phase. “But they can’t take it away like some other things.”