Monday, July 16, 2007

A kingdom of pavement

The long (some would say too long - who ever wished for a history of the DOT?) editorial in Sunday's Courant is illuminating, though not surprising. One would have to be blind to miss the point that the DOT, and their contractors, rule Connecticut. Why else would the highways continue to get wider as oil becomes scarcer?

For my home town, and likely yours, the most salient paragraphs were these:

Then there is town planning. Sometimes, the DOT will come in and fix an intersection to resolve traffic congestion, then the town will allow a mall to be built, creating a new traffic problem. Conversely, local officials and residents have ended up battling the department over the design of road projects, in some cases regretting the day they asked the department for help. "Many towns hate the DOT; they own the right of way and insist on maintaining traffic flow as if there was no town there," said Ms. Gold, the Hartford consultant who has worked with highway designers in several states. In the 1990s, there was a movement across the country to better blend road design into communities; to balance the needs of vehicle movement with those of pedestrians, bicyclists, bus riders, shop owners and others. This concept, which in planning jargon is called "context-sensitive design" or "context-sensitive solutions," envisions a community planning process that takes all needs into account... "They came in with a design to move traffic from point A to point B. That wasn't what we had in mind. Going through Elmwood, we wanted to make it pedestrian-friendly, with crosswalks, some cutouts for buses, barriers separating direction flows, street trees, maybe bring back some elm trees," said town manager Jim Francis. "They want it wide; we'd prefer more sidewalk space." Here, as in most of the other cases, the department has been responsive and made some modifications to its design. The goal would be a planning process that avoids the problem in the first place.

With Middletown about to face a highway and interchange re-design, it's important to know that the fight for changes will be monumental.

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