Daytime – Notably Norwich: Give the planned Franklin Square roundabout a chance to work
Ah, summer! It’s when we go to the beach and golf courses, baseball games, barbecues and outdoor concerts …
Those orange cones, however, and the work crews and heavy equipment that often accompany them on streets and highways of all shapes and sizes are a necessary evil because the job has to be done at some point.
In Norwich, the current traffic pattern at the bottom of town is replaced with a roundabout at Franklin Square which I think will make traffic flow more smoothly in this often congested area.
Many people may not be familiar with roundabouts, which are designed to streamline traffic without the annoyance and delays of stop signs and traffic lights.
Truth be told, I had my doubts when two single lane roundabouts were built between Howard Street and Pequot Avenue in New London over 20 years ago to facilitate traffic when hundreds of more cars entered and exited. of that part of town every day. when Pfizer established its new global research and development headquarters there (the property has since been acquired by General Dynamics-Electric Boat, which generates even more daily traffic).
The whole brought back nightmarish memories of the giant roundabout in Paris, the Place Charles-de-Gaulle which encircles the famous Arc de Triomphe of this city. While driving a tiny rental car on a tour in 1983, I found myself stranded in the inner lanes of the circle by inflexible drivers, forcing me to drive around the monument half a dozen times before I left. ” accelerate and recklessly cross several lanes of heavy traffic to escape.
This bold move resulted in several near-misses and elicited angry gestures and honking from some of the other drivers, but that is to be expected in big cities. When in Paris, I said to myself, do like the Parisians.
To my surprise, New London’s single lane roundabouts improved the flow of traffic, and as long as everyone was watching the signs at the roundabout entry points, everything was fine. Yes, at first the drivers navigated the new circles cautiously, but today it’s a cinch. Even at the busiest hours, cars speed through roundabouts and barely slow down.
Years later, the Connecticut Department of Transportation replaced the old Salem Four Corners and its traffic lights at the intersections of Highways 82 and 85 with a two-lane roundabout. Again, after a period of adjusting to the new traffic system, drivers seem able to negotiate everything quite easily these days.
Over the years, Norwich city center has been plagued by a number of challenges, including a variety of traffic flow changes that have done more harm than good, both for drivers and traders. downtown. A half-baked plan that converted many downtown streets to one way was probably the worst.
It took a long time for drivers and pedestrians to get used to the map, and slower, heavier traffic was about all it seemed to accomplish. Already at a disadvantage compared to building shopping malls in other parts of Norwich, downtown merchants were further crippled by the one-way traffic system.
Norwich was not alone in experiencing unorthodox traffic patterns which, while well intentioned, had disastrous results for people who drive, work and / or live in central business districts.
We all remember New London closed most of State Street to vehicular traffic as part of an ambitious but short-sighted redevelopment initiative in the 1960s. State Street became an abomination called Captain’s Walk, a catwalk pedestrianized which was the beginning of the end for many businesses on either side.
Combined with the subsequent opening of the Crystal Mall in Waterford, it devastated long-standing businesses that had been staples of the city’s commercial district for years. Today, State Street has long been reopened to two-way traffic, which has improved access to shops, restaurants and other establishments.
This latest Norwich plan seems to have been better thought out than those that preceded it.
First, Norwich Public Utilities and the city’s Department of Public Works coordinated NPU’s replacement of a century-old gas line in the city center with the roundabout construction project. The coordinated project schedule will save on paving costs and shorten periods of traffic disruption in and around Franklin Square. This will open up the region’s main arteries to two-way traffic, making it easier for vehicles previously on stilts to move.
While there may be some skepticism about the new Franklin Square roundabout, those passing through Norwich should give the plan a chance and reserve their judgment until they have had a chance to cross it. . After a few tries, they will find that roundabouts work quite well in high traffic areas. It won’t solve all of the city’s challenges, but unlike traffic plans of the past, this one will ultimately encourage people to venture into Franklin Square and maybe even stay in town for a while to ride. shopping, dining or doing other business.
Bill Stanley, former vice president of L + M Hospital, grew up in Norwich.