Most have gotten through the recession, now can they survive the reconstruction of New Britain Avenue?
A State of Connecticut road project more than five years in the planning has resulted in two construction seasons of disaster for Elmwood businesses and the residents of the south end. Inaccessibility to our merchants who provide us many of our sundries and the daily snarl of traffic has gone on too long.
Phase 1: New Park Ave. to Newington Rd. began in the spring of 2011 with final pavement of that section done early summer this year.
Phase 2: Began in early spring on the section between Newington Rd. to Mayflower St.
This portion of Elmwood is the heart of the retail business area. Along this quarter mile stretch are 50 ground level retail or person service businesses, dozens of second floor offices, and a few apartments. Of those 50 only four have their own parking lots.
Forty-six businesses in strip mall settings of various sizes share off street parking areas that can be accessed by only 12 entrances on New Britain Ave.! One plaza alone has 16 store fronts and four driveway cuts and probably has suffered economically the most.
In mid August the sidewalks on both sides of New Britain Ave. between Quaker Lane and Mayflower were removed and have yet to be replaced; neither side is passable in its entirety and there have been no temporary sidewalks or signage to guide the pedestrian.
In their path, in front of all the businesses, lay an unsightly array of construction materials, equipment and construction debris waiting to be disposed.
At the same time most of the parking lot entrance ramps were removed, and replacement of all has yet to be completed. Removal and replacement reduces the number of accessible entrances for days while concrete for new ramps cures, in some cases over busy weekends.
Many of the entrance closings have forced traffic within the lots to travel against normal patterns dissuading drivers. These conditions have caused patrons to turn away.
Should you stop to frequent a merchant during the morning traffic jam it is almost impossible to exit back into traffic! We’re not talking about a few days or a week of this disruption and unsightliness – it’s been two construction seasons!
Pedestrians, joggers and bicyclists cannot navigate this section safely and are forced into the travel portions of the road and parking lots. More importantly these walks are the path for high school students walking to Conard.
A greater safety issue is for the residents of the Elm Grove Senior Housing Complex just a hundred feet off the avenue. Senior residents rely on their safe movement throughout the center and to Elmwood Community Center, where programs and meals are provided, have had their paths turned into obstacle courses.
The contractor appears to be working with as small a crew as possible to meet the specifications of his contract and maximize his profit while jeopardizing the profits and recovery from the recession for businesses along the avenue. As a State of Connecticut project there is probably very little, if any, input by the Town of West Hartford how the project is managed.
As with any major construction project there are always obstacles causing delays in progress and surely there have been several during this project. New Britain Avenue from New Park Avenue to Mayflower Street is littered with loose ends of this project. A new traffic island in front of Puritan Furniture sat months with weeds four feet high, the front of Elmwood Community Center in disrepair, Burgyone/Blanchfield Park is a mess, and many other pieces of the puzzle are missing.
It doesn’t take much effort to keep a construction site safe and orderly, to keep the appearance as neat as possible and still attract patrons to the center. If there is any push or input our State reps. can leverage they should do so because we still have another major project scheduled for the avenue in the form of a busway station and this surely cannot cause more of the same disruption.
David Gabriele said that he was prompted to write this after recently talking with the owner of one of the restaurants who has seen his lunch business all but disappear. Gabriele is a resident of the area and said he frequents many of the businesses and has heard the same from others. Traffic backs up in the morning and in some cases lasts all day until the contractor packs up between 2 and 3 p.m. which has hurt access to many businesses.