The Unionville Traffic Committee hosted Save the Ville members for a second meeting Wednesday night to hear their concerns about traffic in the center and suggestions for how to fix it.
About 75 people, including Town Councilors, the traffic committee and dozens of Save the Ville members, New Horizons residents, state Rep. William Wadsworth and local officials sat in on the meeting to hear the Save the Ville presentation.
William Baker, former Town Council candidate, represented the group, summarizing the concerns shared by more than 2,000 residents as they stopped to sign the petition against the New Britain Avenue relocation plan in November 2011.
The group named eight areas of concern with some suggestions for improvement:
- Rails to Trails crossing is dangerous
- School bus stop at Railroad Avenue blocks the intersection for a minute six times a day; is dangerous
- Truck access at Depot Place is dangerous
- Cut through at AirTool Sales & Service
- Southbound turn onto New Britain Avenue
- Synchronized crosswalks on the north and south sides of the bridge stop traffic unnecessarily
- CVS plaza doesn’t line up with Mill Street
- 5-way intersection
*Click through the to see the presentation and read the group's suggetions.
“We’re not here to present a proposal of how to fix traffic because we haven’t seen the studies the traffic committee has,” Baker said, noting that he had requested them.
He had, however, pored over committee meeting minutes and stressed he was passing on the feedback of the community, as the traffic committee had requested.
The committee, originally charged by the Town Council with involving the public in finding a solution to Unionville’s traffic problems, held several meetings with residents, beginning with the November 2010 charettes, then a rash of meetings with property owners that would be affected by the New Britain Avenue relocation plan, and finally the public hearing Nov. 15.
But though the charettes generated more than 300 ideas, the committee failed to really engage the public until after the New Britain Avenue plan had been approved by the Town Council on a 5-2 vote. That’s when it caught the attention of a handful of residents, who formed Save the Ville.
“It may have taken a resolution of support from the Town to trigger more input but it’s important, should we have a project here,” said Tom Borden, the Department of Transportation member working with the traffic committee.
Many of the ideas Baker presented were the same or similar to the hundreds the committee received at the November 2010 traffic charettes, in their inboxes or from neighbors on the street.
Baker said a roundabout, suggested for the five-way intersection at Lovely Street and Farmington Avenue, is continually brought up by residents.
“The roundabout was a very serious idea that we looked at for a long time,” said John Vibert, traffic committee member and town councilor.
Ted Lindquist particularly favored the idea but the volume of traffic to the area would require the roundabout have two lanes, making it too large for the intersection without removing the Masonic temple. And since the Mill Street/Riversedge intersection would be so close, it too would have to be a roundabout to prevent traffic backup. Finally, a roundabout would make the area impossible for pedestrians to navigate and the idea was eventually rejected, Vibert said.
The traffic committee has considered almost all the ideas, said Police Chief Paul Melanson, who is also a traffic committee member.
Still, the traffic committee will review the ideas Baker presented and bring some options to the public in a meeting Feb. 29. The options will range from doing nothing to constructing a larger bridge, with several plans in between. The committee has also begun to look at making New Britain Avenue one way.
“We need to try to get the community coalescing around one of the plans on the spectrum,” Vibert said. “And people need to understand that the more you do, the more you improve traffic.”
The traffic committee is nearing its 30th meeting but talk about solving Unionville’s traffic problems dates back even farther. This is now the sixth traffic committee to examine the issue.
“This needs to stop. We need to come up with several solutions, then decide what’s the best idea. We keep talking about it, then we get new people to talk about it,” said Matthew Pogson, a resident on the Unionville Historic District Commission. “We need to finally buckle down and make some decisions.”
On Feb. 28, the Town Council will hear a presentation at 7 p.m. at Town Hall from a DOT bridge expert on the safety and expected future of the Unionville bridge.
The Feb. 29 public meeting with the traffic committee will begin at 7 p.m. at the Community and Senior Center.