Support and some questions came up the Branford Main Street Gateway public information meeting, where project consultants described transforming a messy intersection in the town center to include a safe, traffic-calming roundabout.
The proposed traffic roundabout would reorganize intersections of Main, South Main, Laurel, and Eades streets into an oval roundabout at the western end of the Town Green. A link to the The Sound’s previous story on the proposed project can be found with this story here
The public information session was held on July 13 with about 40 citizens turning out. First Selectman James B. Cosgrove explained the current proposal, underway since 2015, incorporates and builds off a study developed in 2008.
“The  study went from West Main Street to the Green, so it’s common sense to start at the Green and work our way down from the Green area, and that’s our primary focus” in the current Main Street Gateway project, said Cosgrove.
He added the original goals of 2008 study are incorporated here, including slowing traffic through Main Street into the center of town, providing a safe and comfortable environment for pedestrians and cyclists, and to provide a more welcoming entrance into town.
“A lot of it is historic along that way, and not only do we have a business district by the Green, but we have a smaller business district over by Kirkham Street [and] in the middle we have the [Blackstone] Library,” said Cosgrove of the gateway area, adding, “I just want to point out that a priority not only to the town, but to many residents as well as business owners, is really how do we make this connection from the Green area to that other business district, which is closer to the Kirkham Street area?”
The Kirkham Street area is also being discussed as part of the town’s transit-oriented development proposal, which seeks to create a welcoming corridor from the Branford rail station into areas surrounding the station as well as those leading to the town center.
Following the July 13 info session, the go-ahead for final design and development of the Main Street Gateway project’s traffic roundabout is awaiting one final piece of the puzzle: positive input from residents and other stakeholders.
As Cosgrove reiterated on July 13, the project’s $3 million construction cost would come from state funding secured in 2015 through the South Central Regional Council of Governments (COG), as part of its work to develop the region’s Local Transportation Capital Improvement Program.
“That program is very specific on where you can use those dollars,” said Cosgrove.
In 2015, the Planning & Zoning Commission, Board of Selectmen, and RTM voted on securing those funds as well as appropriating $300,000 toward the design work, engaging project consultant CDM Smith Design of New Haven.
Branford Town Engineer Janice Plaziak said the public information meeting on July 13 opened a two-week window for public comments on the Main Street Gateway proposal presented that night. While the project would be planned and overseen by the Town of Branford, positive municipal public input is one of the criteria required for state funding before the project could move ahead. If feedback is positive, the project then moves into town planning channels, with more public input to be included as public hearings during that process.
On July 13, one resident said he felt the project was an unnecessary “beautification” and asked how the state could afford to pay for it, given the current state budget deficit. Plaziak answered the funds were already committed and would likely go to another town should Branford back away from the project.
Plaziak added the town feels the project is “warranted” and that the roundabout is needed, in part, because it’s “a safety project for an area that’s going to continue to get more congested.”
The July 13 presentation by CDM Smith Design showed a conceptual overview of the proposed gateway area and roundabout and included considerations for other area alterations, including making Cedar Street a northbound-one way from the intersection of Main Street to the intersection of Laurel Street. Traffic heading down Cedar Street toward the town center from I-95 Exit 53 and Route 1 would be routed to Laurel Street to meet the Main Street intersection at the roundabout.
A resident who said her house aligns with crosswalk proposed for the revised Cedar Street/Laurel Street intersection gave her opinion that it would be dangerous place to locate the walk.
“I would expect there’s going to be a few pedestrian accidents there, because people don’t slow down,” she said. “The only way you’re going to get someone to slow down there is with a stop sign. That’s a terrible place for a crosswalk.”
The project consulting team reiterated the plans being viewed on July 13 were conceptual and more input will help finalize design safety details.
The project concept presented at the July 13 information session has the endorsement of the Town Center Revitalization Review Board. Plaziak said Branford Police also endorse the project. In addition, the Blackstone Library Board of Trustees submitted a letter of recommendation, read into the record by Library Director Karen Jensen. The library board pointed out the roundabout will create safer pedestrian access when crossing Main Street to the library grounds and will also provide some additional parking for the library due to a portion of Cedar Street becoming a one-way.
CDM Smith Design senior planner David Sousa described the new gateway as being one that uses “complete streets” including bike paths, pedestrian walks and crosswalks, traffic lanes, and truck aprons that allow large trucks to navigate the oval. Traffic typically travels at 12 to 15 miles per hour when cycling through. The consultants said roundabouts virtually erase the potential for head-on and “T-bone” accidents, with the most predominant type of accident becoming low-impact, low-speed sideswipes. CDM Smith also determined replacing the current four intersections in the area with the roundabout would reduce the number of potential vehicle “conflict points” from 57 to eight.
The entire July 13 presentation was taped by BCTV and can be viewed here. To send a comment on the proposed Main Street Gateway project, email email@example.com or hand deliver or mail comments to Branford Town Hall, Engineering Dept. 1019 Main St. Branford CT 06405.