New Haven Register (New Haven, CT)
Project transforming part of New Haven
New infrastructure will expand business district
NEW HAVEN — The new construction will make it clear you are now in an urban center.
And, among other things, the new intersection there will feature the first protected bicycle/ pedestrian intersection in the state, said Donna Hall, project manager for Phases 2 and 3 of the massive infrastructure undertaking.
The changes also mean there
will be a connection to the Hill from downtown on South Orange Street for the first time in an estimated 60 years.
Phase 2 of the Downtown Crossing, which is reclaiming multiple acres of developable land, is transforming the area.
The work will take the very busy highway traffic flowing from Interstates 91 and 95 into the city, with a high priority for protection of its pedestrians and cyclists.
Hall said this transition zone will be marked by a “robust program of landscaping and lighting” — visual clues that traffic is entering an urban grid.
There are very wide crosswalks adjacent to clearly marked bike lanes with multiple safety islands at the intersection itself. Pedestrians will push the button for a walk signal to the first island and then push a second button for a signal to finish crossing.
Hall said the new infrastructure will allow the growth of the business district to include the medical district, as well as the harbor, Long Wharf and Union Station.
Phase 1 was the buildout of 100 College Street, while Phase 2, in addition to upgrading the intersection, paves the way for construction of 101 College Street, another major biotech building with space for startups and programs to prepare students for jobs emanating from the research there.
Hall said the revamped roadways also will enhance and enable development of the former Coliseum site at the corner of South Orange Street and South Frontage Road.
The new crossing will have the same number of lanes that residents are used to at such major arteries as Elm Street and Church Street, she said.
The project manager said the new intersection is expected to become the main pedestrian connection to Union Station, which is a major train and bus hub.
Another important element is creation of bioswales at the intersection that will deal with the stormwater runoff for the area, much of which was visible this week, with more extensive landscaping in the near future.
Members of the New Haven Development Commission toured the intersection with South Frontage this week. Hall said the last of the pavement markers are being put down and the last traffic signal needed is on its way. The progress report was given to the commission as it is one of the entities that approves projects that are part of the Downtown Municipal Development District.
The new route to Union Station at the site goes past the art installation by Sheila de Bretteville on Union Avenue. The underside of a bridge is painted blue, evocative of the water, while spotlights shine on the sidewalk at night, triggered as pedestrians walk by.
Called “Lighting Your Way,” passersby become, in a sense, part of a performance, Hall said. It also plays up urban infrastructure as art.
Across Union Avenue on the other side of the overpass there was a chain-link fence that has been pulled back to reveal landscaping and granite cobblestones.
Hall said the changes have transformed the space, particularly at night.
There is a new addition to Columbus Avenue with its wide bikeway, but most noticeable is its direct connection to the train station.
The previous abrupt ending of the street added to the isolation of the former Church Street South housing complex, razed after decades of deterioration and now awaiting a new chapter.
“This will be well discovered once the intersection is open,” Economic Development Administrator Mike Piscitelli said.
Hall said the traffic analysis of extending Columbus Avenue showed much heavy traffic will be removed from other congested streets downtown. She said it is also another way to get on the highways rather than South Frontage Road.
Piscitelli said the next big piece of infrastructure the city hopes will qualify for federal funding is a pipeline to take the pressure off stormwater runoff at Temple Street to the Metro North railyard.
A new neighborhood is growing up around the area with 587 apartments finished or in progress in developments by Randy Salvatore, all of which are starting to rival the new density at Wooster
There also has been work done on Phase 3, which is construction of 101 College Street by developer Carter Winstanley, who also built 100 College Street.
Hall said South Frontage Road has been raised about 7.5 feet, which sets the elevation for a bridge that will go over the service drives to Temple Street on the other side. The actual construction of the bridge and raising Martin Luther King Boulevard will be Phase 4.
The recent work has created some stress for motorists, as, in order to raise South Frontage Road for future construction of the bridge, a detour was set up in June. Drivers coming down South Frontage must turn right onto College Street, then left onto Congress Avenue and right onto Lafayette Street.
On Phase 3, Hall said the contractor, Manafort Brothers Inc., was ready to put the pavement down at the site, but United Illuminating decided at the last minute to put in a duct bank so it won’t have to dig up the area in the spring.
She added that despite this, Manafort is expected to stay on schedule, paving the service roads and opening them and South Frontage Road around
“It is remarkable. Manafort has been an outstanding contractor to deal with. This has been a real challenge and they have met that challenge,” Hall said.
The Phase 2 contract is valued at $19.6 million with $4 million left to spend; Phase 3 will cost $14.8 million with $4.7 million in remaining work, Hall said.
City Engineer Robert Ellis, project manager for 101 College Street, said the main foundation slab for the building has been poured for the 525,000square-foot facility.
Ellis said 101 College is expected to be a huge job generator for Greater New Haven.
Piscitelli said it is projected to bring more than 3,000 people from throughout the state, taking into consideration supply chain investments, hotels, hospitality and the residential developments, as well as the science employment.
The economic development administrator also commented beyond job numbers.
He reflected on the “meaningful nature of the work that will happen in these buildings and the quality of the science both coming out of the Yale School of Medicine and other innovation portals in our community, changing health outcomes around the world.”
Piscitelli said “Robert, Donna and our Traffic Department are like part of an orchestra on this.
“It starts with safety, maintaining safety given it is live traffic, (in the ) middle of a city and then moving from piece to piece,” he said.