A vote to change signs on I-95 directing drivers to downtown Mystic from Exit 89 was turned down on Tuesday.
The Department of Transportation is about to spend $9 million upgrading the signs on I-95 between the Goldstar Bridge in Groton to the Rhode Island border.
This isn’t a problem, except for Exit 89 Allyn Street, which is an alternative way to get to downtown Mystic.
The business community wants the Allyn Street sign changed to direct tourists to downtown Mystic, via a residential neighborhood.
In 1989, town councilors voted to prohibit changing the Allyn Street signage after neighbors like Kathleen O’Beirne argued it would drive too much traffic through the neighborhood, a question she even fought in 1970.
"At the time we were able to get the zoning changed, so it became residential only. We were able to narrow the road to two lanes and we were able to establish an historic district,” O’Beirne said.
Some argued that when tourists get off the highway and they're looking for downtown Mystic and they come upon Olde Mistick Village that they're there, but they're not.
The Exit 90 signage directs drivers to downtown Mystic, via Route 127, past Olde Mistick Village and Mystic Seaport.
Before the vote, Groton Town Manager Bruce Flax said he hoped they could push the state deadline back, and maybe do a traffic study because more tourists use GPS.
"The argument that it's going to increase traffic, I think has to be proven,” Flax said.
Christopher and Mary Ellen Powell love living near their quiet Mystic neighborhood because it is close to downtown and peaceful, but they fear their neighborhood could be transformed.
Most people who showed up to a Tuesday night meeting agree that they fear changing the Allyn Street exit sign would dramatically increase traffic in the area.
However, some are in favor.
"If we had a sign that said 'historic downtown Mystic' it would show it as a separate entity," said Courtney Reardon, who owns Seaside Shadows Haunted History Tours.
She said right now, drivers don't always understand they can get downtown through the Allyn Street exit, and it hurts the local economy.
"It is so confusing because people don't realize they drive right past our exit and go to the next one. So it's confusing for them," Reardon said.
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