I was hoping for a rope swing to get over the busway at Flower Street.
The Commissioner requested that we examine the feasibility of several options for maintaining pedestrian access between the two neighborhoods during construction to the extent it can be allowed by ongoing construction activity, as well as maintaining or creating access long term after opening day.
For the construction period he requested us to look for opportunities in the construction schedule when access for pedestrians could be maintained. Any access during construction will definitely require the design and installation of a new crossing with gate protection, and probably will also require relocations of existing sidewalks with clearly defined pathways to the crossings. When the access can be open to pedestrians, the design of the new sidewalks and gates will have to steer pedestrians clear of the active construction zones and lay-down areas so the pathway may well move to different locations at different times during construction. But it is understood that there will be significant periods when access is prohibited during construction.
For the post-construction period, he requested us to do an initial feasibility review for at-grade or grade-separated pathways for pedestrians. If an at-grade crossing cannot be designed to meet the state and federal standards, then a grade-separated option should be examined for feasibility.
One concept that was raised by a party at yesterday’s field trip was to build a switchback ramp beginning at grade on Flower Street and going perpendicular to Flower under the highway viaduct, then crossing the tracks and CTfastrak in roughly the current Flower Street alignment but above-grade. The same kind of ramp and switchback might be required on the south side of the tracks but would not be constrained by the viaduct overhead.
Another option raised was to do a straight ramp/sidewalk that starts on the north side of the highway viaduct by the Aetna driveway and roughly follows the alignment of the current Flower Street sidewalk across the tracks and CTfastrak, returning to grade on the south side along the Courant parking lot and sidewalk. Might the grades in the area make it viable for such a grade-separated ramp/sidewalk to meet allowable ADA grades without switchbacks? Also, bringing the ramp/sidewalk down on the Courant side will have a long run and we need to avoid interfering with the access to the parking lot.
The final option to be examined would be a very quick feasibility of a Flower Street roadway bridge that grade-separates Flower Street from the crossing. This option is no doubt very problematic and very expensive. But if it is not technically feasible, let’s present the details of the analysis which should then allow us to rule it out conclusively. Clearly there are several key issues, any one of which could be a show-stopper. Given that you have to take off from Flower on the north side and elevate the roadway to approximately 22 feet over the Amtrak tracks, is there enough space to reach that elevation over the tracks and still leave adequate vertical clearance for the roadway under the viaduct? As the roadway comes down to grade on the south side, the roadway and retaining walls likely block off access to the Courant building and its loading dock, and for what distance up towards Capitol Avenue does the raised roadway run? What other issues?
Finally, I know we’re already working on the feasibility of several options to keep the roadway and pedestrian pathways open for as long as possible. We should finalize our conclusions for the latest date by which we must close the roadway. And, if, in the event there is no viable, feasible and safe pedestrian option, we should also determine what is the latest date by which we would have to close the pedestrian pathway permanently.
The Commissioner would like these analyses to be done within three weeks, so that should give you some guidance as to the level of detail and effort that is desired or required in order to get these initial feasibility analyses to a point where decisions can be made.
I could summarize, but I thought this email excerpt would not miss points that I might. Feasibility studies are often the start of positive developments with the bike/ped stuff we care about (see Putnam Bridge). None the less, interested parties need to stay on top of this.