New London residents give their opinion on the proposed roundabout on Broad Street

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New London ― Residents gave opinions for and against Thursday evening at a public hearing at City Hall for a proposed roundabout at the intersection of Williams and Broad streets.

Members of Fuss & O’Neill, a Manchester-based civil and environmental engineering firm, showed residents the preliminary design for a four-entrance/exit roundabout ― 110 to 115 feet in diameter ― and spoke of its potential benefits.

Project manager John Guzze said the current intersection was a roundabout at the time. He said the project aims to improve the intersection and return it to what it was in a more modernized version.

The city applied and successfully qualified for the Local Transportation Capital Improvement program in the spring to fund the project. The program is administered by the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments.

Brian Sear, the city’s director of public works, said the state will pay 100% for the project. Based on a conceptual assessment, the construction cost will be approximately $3.2 million, including construction inspection services and contingencies.

As part of the same program, construction of a $4 million road project, including a roundabout, at the intersection of Jefferson Avenue and Chester Street, is starting.

Guzze said the benefits of a roundabout are lower speeds, increased pedestrian safety, better traffic flow, fewer accidents, and reduced operational and environmental impacts. He said there had been 16 accidents at the intersection from 2018 to 2021.

Of the 16 crashes, Guzze said most were property damage, but there were a few serious injuries and one fatal injury.

Sylwia Tanski, designer and civil engineer, showed the design and explained that the roundabout at Williams and Broad streets would have designated sidewalks on the outside edges. She said there would be two level crossings at each stage of the roundabout with a pedestrian shelter between the level crossings. She also pointed out the location of two bus stops.

“Beyond intersection improvements, we want to make the roundabout part of the community,” Tanski said.

Tanski said the team proposes to do this by planting trees and adding signage or artwork.

Guzze said to make all of these improvements would require two street adjustments, including a piece of Williams Park and a slight acquisition of property on the opposite side.

If all goes according to plan, Guzze said construction on the project would begin in the spring of 2024. He said another public hearing will be scheduled when the design is further developed.

Many residents in the room were cyclists or pedestrians using the intersection. While some residents said they would like to see it go back to what it used to be, others said a roundabout was not needed there or should be changed so as not to deter crossings for pedestrians and bicycles.

A resident said she used the crossings every day to take her children to school and worked in the neighborhood. She said she appreciates the lower speeds, and it might increase pedestrian safety, but right now there are signposted stops that allow her children to cross safely.

She said few drivers pay attention to pedestrians and cyclists as they cross the city and fear that they will not stop at roundabout level crossings.

Guzze said rectangular flashing beacons could be added to ensure drivers stop.

Sear said the city is not limited to this project and could cover things outside of the grant.

Another resident asked how cyclists would cross the roundabout and what the island would be made of.

Guzze said that due to the physical constraints of the intersection, there won’t be a dedicated bike lane. He said cyclists would have the right to share the road.

When another resident asked if the roundabout was a done deal, Guzze said no and noted that there are mechanisms in the program to submit changes to the SCCOG and, if necessary, return to the lounge.

After the meeting, Sear said it was a productive meeting. He said the next step is to discuss with the city administration and engineers, taking into account public comments.

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