Facing traffic safety concerns, officials last week approved a $22,000 with a New Haven-based traffic consultant to design a “mini-roundabout” in the “South of the Y” neighborhood.
The Board of Selectmen voted 3-0 during its Sept. 5 meeting to approve the contract with Hardesty & Hanover to design the traffic-calming measure at the intersection of Conrad Road and Whiffle Tree Lane.
The town has been “reviewing this area for quite some time,” Public Works Director Tiger Mann told the selectmen at their regular meeting, held at Town Hall and via videoconference.
“We have increased volume coming through, especially when the Merritt Parkway is closed,” Mann said.
He continued, “And then we have people that Waze will tell them that if they stay on Gerdes, it’ll take them a minute longer. So they’ll shoot down Conrad, try to come up and beat the light at South and Gerdes. Subsequent to that, we have another proposal from Hardesty & Hanover to look at the South and Gerdes light, since we’ve asked the DOT [Connecticut Department of Transportation] probably four or five times to look at it, and they say that there’s no problem with the timing. We’re asking them to look at it independently to try to determine whether or not there’s something to be done there since the queue lengths are very, very long, which then exacerbates the problem on Conrad and Whiffle Tree.”
The traffic engineering company presented three options to the town: stop signs (“we feel that people are rolling through those,” Mann said), a large roundabout or a mini-roundabout, he said.
“We chose the mini one since it would fit within the existing footprint of the pavement structure itself and not be too overwhelming to the area,” Mann said. “But it would then, in essence, slow traffic down, make that intersection safer, make everyone adhere to the traffic measures that are there, and then necessarily keep people from just staying on Gerdes and not having to navigate the circle itself or the roundabout.”
He added, “We have several residents on Conrad and Whiffle Tree that come to us almost daily with concerns about the traffic themselves and this is something that they’ve a measure or something to do in this area they’ve been looking for for quite some time.”
First Selectman Kevin Moynihan and Selectmen Kathleen Corbet and Nick Williams voted in favor of the contract.
Moynihan described the problem as similar to one on Nursery Road. There, residents found that Waze was sending motorists seeking a way around Merritt backups, so the town—against the advice of police and traffic consultants—put in a “no left turn” sign for those drivers.
Mann noted that there’s a difference in that the Nursery problem was created solely by Merritt Parkway traffic, whereas the problem on Conrad is driven by the quick light at Gerdes Road and South Avenue.
“Since there’s a subsequent side street, people think that they can shoot up and then be able to get into the queue and then take the right-hand turn onto the Merritt and save themselves a couple of minutes,” Mann said. “Instead of staying in queue, what they’re doing is they’re just accelerating and driving through Conrad at a higher rate of speed.”
Corbet asked whether the state’s approval was needed for the mini-roundabout solution.
Mann said no, “thankfully,” and part of the reason why the mini-roundabout solution is less costly is the town’s savings on permitting fees and coordination with the DOT.
It wasn’t immediately clear just when the physical work of installing the mini-roundabout would begin or what it will cost.