State to remove traffic lights, raise Route 9 in Middletown - WFSB 3 Connecticut

State to remove traffic lights, raise Route 9 in Middletown

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DOT plans for changes to Route 9 in Middletown. (DOT Photo) DOT plans for changes to Route 9 in Middletown. (DOT Photo)

Connecticut's governor and Department of Transportation officials held a news conference on Tuesday to address a new plan meant to alleviate traffic along a busy stretch of Route 9. 

Officials met in Middletown at noon and provided a plan to eliminate two traffic signals that slow down commuters through the city.

“The traffic signals on Route 9 in Middletown for decades have been a source of major frustration, not to mention significant congestion," said Gov. Dannel Malloy. "We’re doing something about it. I want to thank the DOT for its work on this."

While plans in the past have been a bust, officials said the current proposal makes sense.

The Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce said the $75 million plan is the best its seen in years.

The signals, which have been in place since the 1950s, would be removed. In their place, a series of ramps, bridges and a roundabout would take their place. 

The plan also calls for improvements to Main Street and better access to Harbor Park.

“Our engineers have come up with innovative concepts to address complex issues that have confounded drivers for decades,” said James Redeker, commissioner, DOT. “Everyone – drivers, pedestrians, and the business community – wins. We will be refining plans over the coming months and years, and we welcome community involvement and input. But from the reaction so far, people are excited about these proposals.”

The plans are still in the conceptual stage, according to Malloy. They call for Route 9 southbound to be raise to cross the existing intersections at Hartford Avenue/St. John's Square and Washington Street by two new bridges.

There will also be a few changes in access that include the removal of the existing Exit 16 northbound off-ramp onto Hartford Avenue/St. John’s Square and the existing Exit 15 southbound off-ramp onto Washington Street.

Route 9 Southbound traffic will enter  the city using Exit 16 and/or Exit 14 and northbound traffic will use Exit 15. Consolidating these exit ramps and raising Route 9 Southbound eliminates all the conflicting movements at the two intersections and allows the signals on Route 9 to be removed, Malloy said.

Traffic operations at Washington Street and DeKoven Drive will also be improved by installing a roundabout allowing traffic to flow freely without a signal.

Improvements will be included along Main Street to address additional traffic that is expected due to the traffic pattern changes associated with the work on Route 9. Sidewalk “bump-outs” will be installed at all the crosswalks to extend the existing sidewalks out to the edge of the existing angled parking along Main Street. 

Also, connection for pedestrians and bicyclists between downtown Middletown and the park along the Connecticut River will be provided by installing a new pedestrian bridge over Route 9 and DeKoven Drive. This new bridge will be aligned and connected with the existing Riverview Plaza walkway providing an attractive direct connection between Main Street and the riverfront.

“This will fundamentally alter, for the better, the quality of life and the economy in Middletown for generations to come,” said Mayor Daniel Drew.  “It will mean that downtown Middletown will be easier to access for the city and the entire region.”

This isn't the first attempt to rework Route 9, which connects Farmington to Old Saybrook.

Past proposals have failed. They were criticized for their price tag, expanding the highway too much and relocating exits too far outside of the downtown Middletown area. One proposal cost $400 million.

The chamber's president believes the new proposal would boost an already thriving downtown.

"When people come to our restaurants we don't want them sitting in traffic for a half-an-hour before they get to their place where they want to go," said Larry McHugh, president, Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce. "So just attitude wise, it will help out from that point of view."

“Transportation is holding back our economy and our ability to grow jobs," Malloy said. "We want a best-in-class transit system for Connecticut, and we are moving forward with projects and plans that will improve lives and draw businesses. These are the kinds of investments to modernize our infrastructure that will advance our economy.”

Brian O'Rourke owns a diner right where people get on and off Route 9. The highway has proven to be dangerous causing traffic jams and numerous accidents.

"Right now on the weekends it backs up from these lights all the way to I-91. And if you are going to the beach, and you know anything about Route 9, you don't go down route," O'Rourke said.

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