A town-financed facelift may be added to the state plans for minor surgery on Main Street.
The Board of Selectmen voted unanimously Wednesday, Sept. 5, to give official town support to the Main Street renovation project that the state has been discussing for two years.
Board members also asked First Selectman Rudy Marconi to look into doing some streetscape beautification — new “street furniture” like benches and lampposts, a little landscaping — in coordination with the state’s project.
“People are going to expect a little bang for the buck,” said Selectman Steve Zemo.
Most of the work on Main Street is scheduled for 2020, but state Department of Transportation officials wanted to be assured of the town’s support before moving ahead with further planning on the project. The state was asking for a letter from the first selectman and — Main Street being Main Street — he brought it to the selectmen for feedback.
“I wanted to at least to talk to the board,” Marconi said. “I don’t want to be the ‘Lone Ranger’ on that.”
Adding some streetscape beautification to the state project was an idea raised by Zemo.
The state is planning a $3.15-million project aimed at improving traffic flow, but the selectmen thought the town might be able to get a separate grant to cover the cost of adding some landscaping touches.
“We can apply for some streetscape money to do that,” said Marconi.
“Why don’t we get proposals from landscape architects, so we know what it’ll cost?” said Zemo.
“If we’re going to do this, we should get a landscape architect and get a grant,” said Selectman Bob Hebert.
The key elements of the state traffic flow project are:
- Realignment of the CVS shopping center driveway’s intersection with Main Street, to make it directly opposite Prospect Street;
- Synchronization of the lights at Main Street three village intersections — at Prospect Street and CVS, the Bailey Avenue and Catoonah Street intersection, and then Governor Street;
- The addition of some formal turning lanes so through traffic can pass on the right as cars stack up waiting to turn left;
- The creation of “bump-outs” to shorten the distance — and pedestrian crossing times — at major crosswalks;
- Some tree removals and replacements with younger, healthier — and, admittedly, smaller — trees. (The number of trees on Main Street, from in front of the library to St. Stephens, is expect to go from 53 today to 61 when the project is done, according to drawings circulated by the state.)
In the Sept. 5 discussion with the selectmen, Marconi said he had some concerns from talking to the state about its plans for synchronizing the three traffic lights at Prospect Street, Bailey and Catoonah, and Governor.
Better synchronization should be possible since the realignment of the currently offset Prospect-CVS intersection would allow elimination of an added “phase” in the cycle at that light, and all three intersections should be on similar cycles.
Marconi is advocating an old-fashioned approach on this.
“These three lights should be synchronized mechanically,” Marconi said. “They’re saying they’ll synchronize it with software. No, no, no!”
The selectmen asked about opponents of the project.
Some didn’t like the changes at the CVS-Prospect intersection — fearing, among other things, that a “straight shot” across from Prospect would result in people speeding into the CVS parking lot.
Concerns were also raised about changes to the parking scheme in front of the block between St. Stephen’s and Catoonah Street, where some spaces would be lost due to changing the angle of parking.
When shown to townspeople at a meeting last winter, the plan had been drawn to keep the number of Main Street parking spaces at 54. But due to objections raised at that meeting by both St. Stephen’s Church and the Historical District Commission, four planned new spaces near the town clock were dropped. Now, the plan would reduce the overall count from 54 to 50 spaces, according to Charles Robbins, who has been representing the town at meetings with the state Department of Transportation officials planning the project.
There’ve been discussions, Marconi said, but some people are still unhappy with the plans.
Marconi was asked if there’s been any more discussion about removing the big cement blocks that prevent cars from going between the upper and lower parking lots behind Main Street on the east side.
“It’s been discussed,” Marconi said. “Everyone we’ve talked to has said we have to create better flow back there.”
But the parking lots are private property, and a number of people need to agree on changes to be made — and talks haven’t produced an agreement.
There’ll be an effort to minimize the Main Street project’s disruption to the downtown commercial district.
The plan is for some utility work in 2019, and the main project to be done in the construction season that starts in April 2020.
“If they start in April, when do they finish?” asked Selectwoman Maureen Kozlark.
“August, September,” said Robbins.
Marconi said the state had agreed to write the contract so the successful bidder will face financial penalties if the project isn’t done on schedule.
“All of it will be done at night,” Marconi said of the work.