WHPBC Recommendations for New Park Ave Complete Streets Project

At its July 2022 meeting, the West Hartford Pedestrian and Bicycle Commission voted to send a letter to Town Engineer regarding the current proposed plans for the New Park Avenue Complete Streets Project. Here is the text of their July 25th letter from WHPBC Chair Ed Pawlak. Bike West Hartford encourages everyone to send more feedback to Town Engineer Greg Sommer and Assistant Engineer James Brennan, and to share a copy for public distribution with us at BikeWestHartfordInc@gmail.com.

West Hartford Pedestrian and Bicycle Commission
Edward Pawlak, Chair (ecosys88@gmail.com)
July 25, 2022

Mr. Gregg Sommer, Town Engineer

Dear Gregg:

I am writing to you on behalf of the West Hartford Pedestrian and Bicycle Commission. The commission has reviewed the “New Park Avenue Complete Streets Improvements” site plans dated March 2022, and discussed them at our July monthly meeting. Additionally, I participated in a Walk Audit of this road corridor on July 7.

We strongly support the overall concept of bringing Complete Streets improvements to New Park Avenue. In its current configuration New Park Avenue presents an unsafe environment to both pedestrians and bicyclists. The Complete Streets project offers the promise of a safer and more accessible New Park Avenue, which boasts two CTfastrak stations (and a possible future Hartford Line rail station), the southern terminus of the Trout Brook Trail, new residential buildings supported by the West Hartford Housing Authority, and a diverse mix of retail and dining choices.

We would like to offer the following comments, which we believe will increase the Complete Streets benefits of the project.

1. The total project road length is approximately 3,925 feet. A portion of New Park Avenue will receive a Road Diet consisting of two travel lanes, a Two-Way Center Turning Lane, and bicycle facilities. The Road Diet is approximately 2,275 long (from road station 5+00 to 27+75). This represents only approximately 58 percent of the road project. We recommend that the Road Diet be extended as far north and south as possible within the project limits. This would bring a greater traffic calming benefit to New Park Avenue, which currently is a stressful environment for pedestrians due to the close proximity of the sidewalks to the fast-moving traffic.  

2. The site plans show buffered bicycle lanes extending from the north end of the Trout Brook bridge to Talcott Road. Between Talcott Road and the northern project terminus is an 8-foot wide bituminous pathway on the western side of New Park Avenue. For continuity, and especially for bicyclist safety, we recommend that a 10-foot wide multi-use pathway, physically separated from on-street infrastructure by bollards or similar, be installed along the entirety of the western side of the project corridor (i.e., from New Britain Avenue to the Chick-fil-A driveway). This would eliminate the need for bicycle lanes, and would allow a connection between the New Park Avenue Complete Streets bicycle and pedestrian improvements to any future Complete Streets improvements along New Britain Avenue, and the bicycle lanes on Oakwood Avenue (discussed below).

3. The northern terminus of this Complete Streets project is the Chick-fil-A driveway. This significantly limits the benefits to bicyclists, because it does not provide a connection to the bicycle lanes that will be extended to the intersection of Oakwood Avenue and Flatbush Avenue this summer. While we recognize it is beyond the scope of the current New Park Avenue project, we strongly recommend that you investigate the feasibility of eventually upgrading the existing sidewalk that runs from Flatbush Avenue to the West Hartford Place driveway to a 10-foot wide multi-use pathway in the near future. With this connection in place, a bicyclist could travel along bicycle lanes on Oakwood Avenue between Park Road and Flatbush Avenue, a multi-use pathway from Flatbush Avenue to the New Park Avenue bridge, as well as the entire length of the Trout Brook Trail. This would represent a significant improvement in bicycle connectivity for the town.

4. We recommend that you design the project to provide connections, where possible, to existing and potential future bicycle facilities in neighboring municipalities (e.g., Hartford, Newington, etc.).

5. We respectfully request an in-person work session, to be held in the near future during business hours with you and your staff to review the site plans together and discuss the recommendations contained within this letter.

Very truly yours,

Edward M. Pawlak, Chair West Hartford Pedestrian and Bicycle Commission

cc:       Mr. Jim Brennan, Assistant Town Engineer

            West Hartford Pedestrian and Bicycle Commissioners