Taking down the Oak Street Connector
(11/19/2010) (From The Yale Herald)
It’s not every day that a city has the chance to fix mistakes of the past and effect change that will affect generations to come. But the City of New Haven is attempting to do just that with its plans to replace Route 34 with a new urban development and revitalize the area between downtown New Haven and the Yale-New Haven hospital complex.
Earlier this year, the federal Department of Transportation awarded New Haven a 16 million dollars Tiger II grant for the Downtown Crossing Project, one of 41 winners chosen from thousands of projects submitted from across the nation.
The Downtown Crossing Project, according to the grant proposal, “is the city’s master plan to convert CT Route 34 from a limited access highway to urban boulevards from Union Ave. to College St.” The project aims to create a continuous urban fabric by reconnecting neighborhoods that were divided during the urban renewal period.
To create Route 34 in the 1950s, Mayor Dick Lee’s administration destroyed the Oak St neighborhood, forcing 881 households to relocate and clearing 350 businesses. The Route 34 connector was meant to connect New Haven and the two rock valley communities, channeling traffic in and out of the city. Partially because of community opposition, this urban renewal project was permanently abandoned in the 1970s, but the completed construction still separated residential neighborhoods, Union Station, and the downtown area in a way that has since hindered a sense of community in the area. Anne Haynes, CEO of the Economic Development Corporation of New Haven, believes that the construction of Route 34 “made a huge gash in the city.”
The limited access highway linking I-91/I-95 and downtown New Haven carries 75,000 vehicles per day. According to the grant proposal, “Route 34 east of the hospital represents an intimidating physical and visual barrier isolating downtown from city neighborhoods as well as the Yale University School of Medicine from a growing cluster of spin-off research and development firms.”
According to Bob Brooks, the Project Manager for Parsons Brinckerhoff, the firm leading the planning and design of Downtown Crossing, this is “an incredible opportunity to reconnect the street network that was bisected.” He explained that, with the new grant, construction may begin later this year or early next year.
The project has four major components. First, North and South Frontage Rds. will be converted to urban boulevards by narrowing car lanes and adding bike-specific lanes. Landscaping, street lighting, signs, added traffic signals, and other enhancements are also planned with the aim of making the area more pedestrian-friendly. These new boulevards will create a zone to facilitate the transition from highway to city streets by reducing travel speed.
Second, the local street connections will be changed, some off-ramps replaced with streetscape, and crossings upgraded in anticipation of the high volume of pedestrians.
These changes are aimed at greatly improving traffic flow and safety, especially for pedestrians and bicycles. The project’s grant proposal suggests that the new area “will also define a signature gateway entry to the City from the regional highway network.”
Third, the College St. Bridge, which currently crosses over Route 34 and is in need of repair, will be reconstructed. A tunnel beneath College St. will be constructed to allow vehicles to access Yale-New Haven Hospital parking and the Air Rights Garage.
... (see the rest of the article at: Yale Herald
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