NEWINGTON - A roadway project set to take place in town next summer drew support and faced criticism at a public information meeting last week.
Close to 50 residents gathered in the auditorium of the Senior & Disabled Center to learn more about the Complete Streets project planned for a 1.6-mile corridor along Maple Hill and Robbins avenues. Town Engineer Gary Fuerstenberg detailed improvements while attendees raised questions and made comments.
In addition to road milling and resurfacing, plans include the addition of a bicycle lane, along with drainage, curb and sidewalk upgrades. Between Maple Hill and Willard avenues lanes will be reduced from the current four to two.
The town recently received a $2 million state grant to fund the project in its entirety. However, this corridor is in line for milling and overlay work with or without funding assistance, Fuerstenberg pointed out.
“If we take the do-nothing approach now then we’re going to have to rebuild the road at a much higher price in the near future,” he explained. “This is the lowest-cost option.”
If the town has to do the work itself there won’t be new curbs, sidewalks or drainage improvements, he added.
Many who attended the meeting live in homes along the corridor. Some are opposed to the bike lane and others simply hope the improvements will slow down drivers in the area.
A bone of contention among some is the fact that once construction is complete, on-street parking will be prohibited along Robbins Avenue.
“What about people who rely on on-street parking, because they have teenagers who are driving now?” asked Dana Havens. “Maybe we can make them double-wide driveways while we’re doing this.”
Brothers Clarence and Gerry Cook raised the same concern in the hallway after leaving the meeting.
“There are 12 to 15 cars that park on Robbins Avenue every day,” Gerry said. “When this happens, where are they going to park? On side streets?”
Clarence objected to the bicycle lane.
“I don’t see a need for that,” he said. “We’ve got extra-wide sidewalks as it is. The amount of bikes that travel on there now, I don’t think it would warrant it.”
Nearby New Britain, West Hartford and Farmington are among nine towns in Connecticut that the League of American Bicyclists designated Bicycle-Friendly Communities. Each has trails or road lanes to accommodate bicyclists.
This could be the first of more bike lanes in Newington, Fuerstenberg pointed out.
“Once we have established a bike network through Newington I think it will be used not only by commuters but also more recreationally,” he said.
Courtney and David Gasior live in the neighborhood and just happen to be bicyclists.
“I take my bike to West Hartford now,” David said. “If I could bike down to Mill Pond Park I totally would.”
“The road work needs to be done anyway,” Courtney added. “Either we get a grant to pay for it or we pay for it.”
The couple said they came to the meeting because there was confusion on the “What’s Happening in Newington’ Facebook” page.
“I think there are a lot of mistruths out there,” David pointed out. “We came to get the facts.”
After learning them, he is in favor of the project.
“I’m for it,” David said. “It needs to be done. It’s a no-brainer.”
The next step is for the town to hire a consultant to complete the design work before the project goes out to bid.
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at 860-801-5097 or firstname.lastname@example.org.