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CHAPTER 9- THE CIRCULATION PLAN

The Circulation Plan in Middletown is coordinated with the State's system of expressways, including Interstate Route 91 about to be completed, Route 9 in the Connecticut valley and the future Route 6A across the State. Middletown needs a thoroughfare between Route I-91 near Country Club Road and the center. The Circulation Plan is also coordinated with the development of downtown Middletown, already described, including the circumferential "ring road" around the center.

Regional Expressways
The plan which the State Highway Department has made for a state-wide expressway system includes three such routes which traverse Middletown. Interstate Route 91 is under construction from New Haven northward and crosses the western part of the City. Meeting the Connecticut Turnpike at New Haven, this will be the principal approach to Middletown from the southwest, including metropolitan New York. This is scheduled to be completed by the end of 1965.

Route 9 is the principal north-south artery of the Connecticut Valley. It passes through Middletown center as an at-grade boulevard along the riverfront mixing local and through traffic. South of the center, it has been improved as a four-lane expressway to a point near the Haddam town line. Its rebuilding as an expressway to the Connecticut Turnpike at Old Saybrook will be undertaken shortly.

North of Middletown Route 9 will soon be relocated and rebuilt as an expressway, turning westerly from its present line to join I-91 in the western part of Cromwell. Thus traffic to Middletown from Hartford and the north will start on I-91 and transfer to the new Route 9 a few miles north of the City. This route will also be used by an increasingly large number of people in the shore and lower valley towns to get to Middletown for shopping and business.

When Route 9 becomes completely an expressway, the volume of traffic and the achievement of expressway standards will require the elimination of local traffic on the present Acheson Drive, with its traffic lights and left turn movements. The future volume of through traffic on Acheson Drive itself will eventually require a six-lane expressway instead of the existing four lanes.

Acheson Drive now is much used by local traffic since it is part of a route connecting the eastern end of Washington Street with the South Main Street area, as well as the section along Main Street Extension and the vicinity of the State Hospital on Eastern Drive. The amount of this local traffic is readily observed from the large numbers of vehicles turning from or entering Acheson Drive at Washington Street. When local traffic can no longer use Acheson Drive, there must be an alternative facility. Therefore the Plan provides the "ring road" or circumferential boulevard around the entire downtown area, paralleling Acheson Drive in its easterly section, where it occupies the line of the present DeKoven Drive.

It is most important to Middletown to have good interchanges between the new Route 9 expressway and the downtown area. For motorists coming from the north, the Plan shows an off-ramp following approximately the line of the present Hartford Avenue, connecting with the "ring road." It will be necessary to construct an overpass or "fly-over" just south of Hartford Avenue, in order to reach the north-bound lanes of the expressway. A second "fly-over" can be provided to permit vehicles coming from the south to leave Route 9 at this point and reach the "ring road." There may also be an on-ramp for southbound traffic onto the expressway. It is also most important to provide a convenient approach for motorists coming on Route 9 from the south to reach the "ring road" and downtown area. For this purpose the Plan indicates a ramp from Route 9 onto River Road and the improved Main Street. This will make a very attractive entrance into the center of Middletown in a park-like setting by the Connecticut River. There is also an access ramp onto Route 9 southbound directly from the "ring road" at Union Street. These traffic facilities will encourage shoppers from the communities to the south to come to Middletown's retail areas. For the convenience of motorists at Union Street to or from the north an on-and an off-ramp may also be located here.

The third major artery is Route 6A, a cross-state highway. This now traverses Middletown via Washington Street and the Middletown-Portland Bridge. This road is now being relocated and reconstructed as an expressway in Meriden, where it is part of an interchange complex which will connect Middletown with both I-91 and the Wilbur Cross Parkway. The present 6A expressway construction ends near the Meriden-Middlefield line, west of the Mount Highby Reservoir, where it connects with the existing Route 6A leading into Washington Street.

Extension of the expressway eastward through Middletown and across the Connecticut into eastern Connecticut is most important to the economic future of the City. It will give Middletown its third important to the economic future of the City. It will give Middletown its third important regional traffic artery. Continuation of the Route 6A expressway will be undertaken when funds become available, but under the present schedule this may not occur for several years. However, Middletown must be ready with its ideas for the best location to serve the City when the State Highway Department starts planning for actual construction.

It becomes evident that the present Middletown-Portland Bridge will be insufficient to carry both the traffic of the new expressway and that of the growing local communities. A second bridge in this area will be needed. It will be logical to locate this at some distance from the existing bridge, presumably to the south of the center. Since the new Route 6A will be the principal traffic generator, it follows that the new expressway should be as close to the center as possible. Otherwise a long connection would have to be provided, and Middletown's commercial center would not benefit as much from the new artery.

There is a good location for a bridge near the end of Eastern Drive, at the northwest corner of state hospital property. The land near the river is at an elevation of about 100 feet sea level. The land near the river is at an elevation of the 100 feet above sea level. The deepest part of the channel is on the Middletown side, so that it would be possible for the bridge to slope towards that opposite shore, where the land is at a lower elevation. Map 9 shows the recommended location of the new Route 6A in the central area and of its interchange with Route 9. It also shows proposed interchanges between the expressway and the "ring road" surrounding the center. Map 8 shows the recommended location of the proposed expressway in the rest of the City's area. It has been planned so as to meet the standards of the State Highway Department.

The Central District
The importance of Middletown's downtown area as a regional center has already been stressed. Combining a growing retail and office center with the expanding activities connected with Wesleyan University, it will be growing generator of traffic. The Plan shows that Main Street should be the retail and commercial focus and as such it should be primarily an "access street" and "parking lot" to serve the businesses along it. Fortunately, it is very wide and can handle a considerable amount of parking, if it does not have to accommodate an appreciable through traffic. Therefore, the chief element of the downtown area plan is the "ring road" or circumferential boulevard, which will take traffic around the central district and feed it into parking facilities by numerous side streets.

The first stage in the development of this circumferential route will consist of the portion south of Washington Street. Pearl Street in this part should be widened and extended by way of Hubbard Street to reach South Main Street at the present end of the Route 17 expressway link. The latter is used to form the southerly part of the ring. Similarly, DeKoven Drive should be widened and connected to "ring road" as is shown on Map 9. This will involve moving the DeKoven House back from DeKoven Drive, which is a feasible project, economically justified to secure the necessary traffic improvements. Most of the work of the first stage is planned so that it can be accomplished as part of an early urban renewal project. When the State closes Acheson Drive to local traffic, it will be necessary to have the connections at Hartford Avenue to DeKoven Drive, a shown on Map 9. Since exclusive use of Acheson Drive for through traffic is part of the State's expressway project, it is logical to expect the State to pay the cost of the interchange and connections to the "ring road".

The northwesterly part of the "ring" system involves widening Pear Street north of Washington Street and improving the approach of the Middletown-Portland Bridge. The latter is a state highway facility and improvements to the bridge approach will be up to the State Highway Department. The present approach is congested and restricted in space. It will be entirely inadequate to meet future growth of the City and the towns across the River. Map 9 shows the proposed improvements to the bridge approach and the northerly part of the "ring" system, together with its intersection with the proposed thoroughfare described below which is designed to connect with Interstate Route 91 and the industrial area along it. This part of the "ring" system would form the second stage and much of it may be done as parts of one or more urban renewal projects.

Balance of Circulation Plan
Map 8 shows the Circulation Plan for the rest of the City, outside the central area. In addition to the regional expressways which have been described, there are two proposals for principal thoroughfares. The first of these starts at the northwest corner of the "ring road" and extends northwesterly in a line generally parallel to North Main Street. It then crosses the Coginchaug River and follows a westerly line to Country Club Road. At this point there is a projected interchange with Route I-91. We understand the State Highway Department has adequate land for this interchange and will construct it when the traffic volume warrants.

This thoroughfare is most important in the future development of Middletown in providing good circulation between the industrial area along Route I-91 and the center, as well as the Middletown-Portland Bridge. The interchange at Route I-91 is especially important to the full development of the industrial area. In addition, the increasing residential development of this part of the City, (Neighborhoods A, B and C on Map 4), will place a heavy burden on existing roads, such as Westfield and Newfield Streets, which this proposed thoroughfare will relieve. It should be designed as a limited access highway, with as little access to private properties as possible. However, local streets could be connected to this thoroughfare and crossings and interchanges would generally be at grade.

This thoroughfare is not part of any state program, and the City may have to undertake its construction. Its realization could be jeopardized by any subdivision which might block the route. Therefore, we recommend that the Planning Commission immediately take steps to make an engineered layout of this route under the authority of Section 8-19 of the General Statutes. This will force a recognition of the right-of-way by any future subdividers. The City could then proceed by gradual steps to complete the road, but it should acquire the necessary land as soon as possible. If any section of the right-of-way is threatened by a proposed subdivision, the City should take the necessary financial measures to preserve it through purchase or condemnation. This thoroughfare should be laid out so as to permit the construction of a four-lane divided highway, although only two lanes might be built at first. The recommended right-of-way width is 120 feet, although more space may be needed in places where extensive grading will be required. In congested and urban areas, a width of 100 feet may be sufficient.

The second proposed thoroughfare is a circumferential route to provide a better means of circulation between the northern and southern parts of the City. This would lead from an intersection with the other proposed thoroughfare just described, following the Coginchaug River Valley, crossing Washington Street near the railroad overpass southerly along the edge of Long Lane Farm to South Main Street at the Randolph Road corner. It should have an interchange with the proposed Route 6A expressway. Randolph Road would continue the circumferential route to Saybrook Road. This proposed thoroughfare should also be designed with limited access, like the first one. Similarly, it should be officially laid out by the Planning Commission before extensive development takes place in the area which it traverses. As shown on Map 8 a considerable portion of its length lies in land which is either unsuitable for development or already in some form of public ownership.

Certain highways are designated on Map 8 to be secondary thoroughfares next in importance to the principal thoroughfares just described. Some of these are now state highways and therefore maintained by the State. Those which are a city responsibility should gradually be improved to proper standards in accordance with a long-range program.

Secondary thoroughfares shown on the Plan which are now state highways include:

  • Washington Street, the present Route 6A
  • Newfield Street, the present Route 72
  • Randolph Road, the present Route 155
  • Ballfall Road-East Street, the present Route 217
  • South Main Street, the present Route 17

Secondary thoroughfares shown on the Plan which are now City highways include:

  • Middle Street serving the I-91 industrial area. The improvement of this thoroughfare should receive a high priority because of the anticipated high volume of industrial traffic, including truck traffic.
  • Saybrook Road

Another group of highways is designated on the Plan as "Collector Streets", next in importance after thoroughfares. The aim of the Plan is to keep as much traffic as possible on these streets, which create large superblocks in their pattern. Within these superblocks development of residences can take place with minor access streets freed from fast or heavy traffic.

As far as possible the secondary thoroughfares should have a right-of-way width of 70 feet, but in any case, at least 60 feet. The right-of-way for collector streets should be 60 feet wide where possible. Both types should have gradients not exceeding 6 per cent and curves with radii of at least 800 feet. In the case of access streets and other minor roads, the right-of-way should be at least 50 feet wide. Gradients should not exceed 8 per cent, or in very exceptional cases, 10 per cent.

 

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