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Design Planning Underway for Branford Main Street Reconstruction
In addition to a recent survey, additional input on the design for Branford's Main Street Reconstruction Project is being gathered at public events such as an Open House, shown here, held on the Branford green July 22. At left, Branford Economic Development Commission chair Perry Maresca discusses some of the elements of the design plan with interested guests as Branford Town Clerk Lisa Arpin listens in. (Photo by Pam Johnson/The Sound)
With design planning well underway, Branford's Main Street Reconstruction Project has been gathering input from residents, businesses and other stakeholders. The full-depth construction project, currently pegged at $2.472 million, is focused in the heart of downtown Branford; including the segment of Main Street running alongside the picturesque town green. Work is targeted to begin in spring 2022 and finish in winter 2022.
Temporary construction funding was approved by Branford's Representative Town Meeting in February, 2020. In late 2020, the reconstruction project was approved by the South Central Regional Council of Governments (SCRCOG) for Local Transportation Capital Improvement Program (LoTCIP) funding, which will reimburse the Town for the project's $2,472,000 construction cost. In addition, Branford is currently seeking additional funding to possibly replace damaged brick sidewalks in the area, so that work would take place at same time as the Main Street reconstruction project, said Branford Town Engineer John Hoefferle. Along the same lines, Branford is hoping the LoTCIP grant can also be expanded to replace high pressure sodium light bulbs in the downtown light posts installed some 30 years ago; switching them over to energy-saving LEDs of similar wattage, said Hoefferle.
Branford's downtown Main Street area was last reconstructed in the early 1990's. The road has now reached the end of its useful life, contending with abandoned trolley tracks, utility cuts, age, and local drainage issues which have led to the increasing street deterioration. Through the Town Engineers Office, the Town of Branford recently began the process of designing improvements to Main Street, working with project design consultant Weston & Sampson Inc. (Rocky Hill). The design proposal for the project is being funded with $239,000 from the Town's capital budget.
Project updates are available at https://www.branford-ct.gov/departments/engineering-department/main-street-reconstruction. Public input can be submitted via email to MainStRecon@branford-ct.gov">MainStRecon@branford-ct.gov The Town also recently promoted an online survey to gather input for the design proposal, drawing 233 responses. Survey respondents liked the atmosphere and aesthetics of the area, the gathering place created by the town green, the green itself, and the area's small businesses. Dislikes included traffic issues, poor pedestrian safety, and parking. A response showing a call for more diversity among downtown business was also recorded; but falls out of the scope of the project. Additional input is being gathered at public events such as the Main Street Reconstruction Project Open House held on the Branford green July 22. The final design is expected to be completed in winter 2021.
The reconstruction project corridor stretches along Main Street between its intersection with South Main Street (Route 146) and Chestnut Street. Plans for project are to work within the existing roadway width (curb to curb). However, improvements to sidewalks and crosswalks will be updated where needed, as will ADA accessibility. Goals for the reconstruction include enhancing connectivity and public safety through "complete streets," improving support for every mode of transportation, and ensuring equitable access for all; while also considering the historical context of the area and supporting local businesses.
Some traffic calming measures will be incorporated into the design, created by slightly narrowing areas of the roadway at points where some pedestrian crosswalk entries bump out from the sidewalk.
"Narrowing the amount of length that the pedestrian has to cross the street is one of the primary reasons for bump outs. They have less distance to walk across traffic," said Hoefferele. "And some of the bump-outs that we currently have will be adjusted a little bit, just to bring things into uniformity and the standards of today."
A couple of new bump outs are also in the planning in response to feedback about traffic concerns and pedestrian safety at areas of Main Street intersecting with Laurel Street as well as its intersection with Montowese Street.
Based on parking safety standards of today vs. those of 30 years ago; the design currently proposes a street parking count of 92 parallel parking spaces, down from the current 100. However, as Branford Economic Development Commission chairman Perry Maresca pointed out, more parking exists in the downtown area than what can be seen along Main Street. One such example is a large parking lot backing Main Street businesses between Harrison Avenue and Park Place.
Recent construction crews digging in along Main Street this summer had many residents wondering if the Main Street reconstruction project was getting underway. That work was undertaken by Southern CT Gas and Regional Water Authority crews to complete underground infrastructure upgrades which had to be done in anticipation of the Main Street reconstruction project, said Hoefferle.
Supporting Businesses During Reconstruction Work
Maresca said he's visited personally with many businesses along the Main Street construction corridor to gather input and ideas to help support them during the reconstruction work period.
Branford First Selectman Jamie Cosgrove said the Town has made supporting the local businesses a priority from the start of the project effort.
"Certainly, looking at the road, we know that it needs to be reconstructed; but we also want to ensure that we are able to keep pushing forward [in] the local economy; and that's where it's going to take a lot of coordination and outreach," said Cosgrove. "From the very beginning, when we were going through the process of soliciting [a] consultant to design this project; one thing that was very important to the Town was to ensure that there was communication and information-sharing with the local businesses that are impacted here on the green."