Sunday, May 10, 2015

I'll Bet on a Casino to Finish the East Coast Greenway

East Hartford will do pretty much anything to lure developers and tax money into town.  There are plans for outlet malls in the old airfield.  Now they are courting a casino development at the shuttered movie theater. A traffic study was completed to determine if the nearby infrastructure could handle the traffic from adding a casino.  Of course there is capacity.  The streets are designed to handle the rush hour traffic from Pratt & Whitney's heyday.  The streets are capable of funneling hordes of UCONN fans home after the seven home games each year at Rentschler Field.  The issue isn't capacity.  The issue is safety for those in the community using these streets everyday.  Silver Lane and the surrounding streets are the opposite of "Complete Streets".

Can East Hartford turn a gamble into sustainable infrastructure?
Is there a silver lining for Silver Lane?  If you've ever bicycled or walked along Silver Lane (AKA State Route 502) you've found it to be a harrowing experience.  The street is designed with the bygone philosophy to maximize speed and flow of cars, with little consideration of how it impacts the non-vehicular road users.  When the road was repaved about a decade ago there was an opportunity to incorporate a road diet and bike lanes, but the CT DOT decided to maintain the full complement of two lanes in each direction to satisfy the peak usage during UCONN games.  Punishing a neighborhood with a a dangerous road design for traffic volumes that only happen on seven days a year shows that there is something wrong with your priorities.  The hilarious part is that the road is marked out with cones during peak game traffic anyway.  Why not stripe the road for everyday use, and put cones up on game days?  Answer - because CT DOT.

The East Coast Greenway through East Hartford needs to be completed.  This parallel East-West route would provide a safe, convenient, and attractive multi-use path for cyclists, walkers, and the disabled.  The East Coast Greenway is a national route, much of it separated from vehicle traffic, and it is making great strides toward completion in Connecticut.  There are two East Hartford CT DOT Projects that could complete segments in the existing gap between Forbes street and Great River Park.  The holdout is Pratt & Whitney.  Despite up to $500,000,000 in state tax benefits lined up for the construction of a new, sustainable, engineering building on Willow Street, United Technologies / Pratt & Whitney does not support the preferred route of the East Coast Greenway on Willow Street.  As a CT taxpayer and former P&W employee, I'm rather confused by the corporate stand on this great project?  There are so many benefits that it isn't worth recounting them here.

A multi-use path parallel to Willow Street is the best route.
Pratt & Whitney has a growing group of bicycle commuters that wish they had safer streets surrounding their large campus.  Main Street and Silver Lane are barriers to increasing sustainable commuting further than grizzled vehicular cyclists.  Pratt & Whitney was awarded a Bronze Bicycle Friendly Business recognition in 2014.  In order to take it to the next level, both P&W and the Town of East Hartford need to start addressing Complete Streets design, safety, and connectivity for all road users.

In the interest of promoting bike commuting in Hartford metro, there are a bevy of Bike to Work Breakfast events in the coming weeks.  One of them right across Main Street from Pratt and Whitney.  You can "Pledge" to ride to work in May with Bike Walk Connecticut.

  • Friday, 5/15. Hartford:  Hosted by Bike Walk Connecticut.  7:30AM to 9:00AM.  Old State House.  Open to public.  This one is specific to bike commuters.
  • Thursday, 5/21. East Hartford:  Hosted by Pratt & Whitney and Goodwin College. 6:30AM to 9:00AM.  339 Main Street. Open to public.  The East Hartford event is welcoming bike commuters, walkers, transit users, car pool.  Pretty much anyone but single occupancy vehicle travelers.  Try something different -
  • Bike to Work Meetups - Groups riding in together to the breakfast events.
Now what?  Take some action.
  • Contact Mayor Leclerc and the East Hartford Town Council.  Let them know you are interested in Complete Streets and the completion of the East Coast Greenway route.
  • Get involved with the Pratt & Whitney Cycling Club and see what you can do to convince Pratt & Whitney executives that the East Coast Greenway route on Willow Street is an amazing opportunity for the company, the community, and the region.
  • Contact the CT DOT and ask how Silver Lane and Main Street are being redesigned as Complete Streets?  There is a Complete Streets policy on the books now at the DOT, and the next time they repave there is an opportunity to make real improvements for the safety of all road users.
Bonus Material - Got a couple minutes?  Fill out this Transit Oriented Development (TOD) survey and note the lack of bike racks and bike lanes.  Also note the lack of blue collar and manufacturing development.

No comments: