A February 10 “Way We Were” column entry from 1992 noted that high speed traffic and pedestrian safety were an issue at the flagpole intersection — an issue that 25 years later continues to be a concern.
While numerous traffic studies have come and gone with few suggestions taken to heart, Flint Ridge Development, LLC, partner Chris Hottois presented a new Main Street concept to the Police Commission in early February. Having invested in the renovation of 33 Main Street, which houses Dere Street Restaurant and Bar, it is not surprising that the developers see personal value in commissioning a study for improved pedestrian safety and traffic flow near the Liberty Pole Building, as it has been renamed. However, a renewed take on resolving a problematic area could have value for the community at large, as well.
This study takes the focus off of the flagpole and awkward West Street intersections, instead suggesting ways to slow traffic and make crossing the street on foot not the “fingers crossed” method currently used, despite signs giving pedestrians the right of way.
With the concept generated by the Fitzgerald & Halliday firm, southbound Main Street traffic that consistently passes vehicles stopped to turn onto Church Hill Road, causing pedestrians to dodge and dash, would be stymied by curbline bumpouts to narrow the street as it approaches the hazardous intersection, and creates “refuge islands” in the center of lighted crosswalks. Realignment of Main Street as it approaches the flagpole from the north would actually cause traffic to adhere to the intended use of this section of road; there is no legal passing lane at this point.
Textured road surfaces, including around the flagpole, would encourage more reasonable speeds — as would, it can be assumed, the placement of speed bumps such as those utilized on various other roads in town, though this is not a suggestion of the Fitzgerald & Halliday proposal.
Additional diagonal parking in front of Dere Street would certainly benefit the restaurant, but also provide additional parking for Meeting House and other Main Street events.
The Police Commission’s initial view of the concept was favorable; but the decision lies in how the Connecticut Department of Transportation views the study, as Main Street is a state road.
The public will have the opportunity April 4 at the next Police Commission meeting (scheduled for 6:30 pm, at Town Hall South, 3 Main Street) for input. Not just residents of the main thoroughfare in Newtown will find the presentation of interest, but anyone who passes through the center of town. Taking time to consider an option for user-friendly changes is time well spent.
Decades of indecision about this intersection has left drivers and pedestrians at risk. If properly installed, these alterations could be as attractive as they are useful. We hope these practical suggestions will be well considered and passed forward to the DOT, for the safety of all who travel and walk our historic Main Street.