Hall Lane Residents Feel Traffic Pressure From 84 Backups
UPDATE (9:19 am): Scott Cicciari is the newly appointed Police Commission Vice Chair. His title was not clear in the initial publication of this story.
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When traffic backs up on Interstate 84 between exits 9 and 11, many drivers utilizing GPS systems such as Google Maps or Waze find the systems diverting them onto the main and secondary roads of Newtown. This causes frustrations for many residents who find the roads they frequent or even live on clogged with traffic attempting to find alternate routes than the highway.
Among the roads seeing this spillover traffic is Hall Lane, and the Police Commission at its December 5 meeting looked at possible means to redress the issue.
Hall Lane resident Scott Baggett attended the meeting, thanking Chief of Police David Kullgren and the commission for recognizing the situation on Hall Lane as “pretty bad.”
Baggett noted that one of the biggest complaints of residents is traffic, and it has come up time and again, such as during public feedback for the Plan of Conservation & Development. He said the interstate “cuts the town in half,” and then four major state roads also cross the town.
“I’m not sure what the answer is,” said Baggett, who asked the commission if speed bumps had been considered as a traffic calming effort. He hoped the commission would find some way to “relieve some of the pressure of people diverting through town.”
Newly appointed Police Commission Vice Chair Scott Cicciari noted the town usually preferred to avoid speed bumps as a method of traffic calming. Kullgren said the town preferred to look at “legislative means.”
First Selectman Jeff Capeci said he and several other town officials such as Kullgren recently attended a meeting with the State Department of Transportation concerning traffic issues, and “Hall Lane came up.”
“The problem with 84, is that as soon as it backs up between exits 9 and 11, all the apps send traffic through Newtown,” said Capeci. “Google and Waze make it easy to find alternate routes. We need to talk to our state representatives about legislation to force Google and other apps to direct people only to state roads.”
Capeci noted such legislation could not be done at the municipal level, but must be done by the state government.
Kullgren said that the police department had done traffic counts on Hall Lane and found approximately 650 cars per day were passing over the narrow road, where there were only about 12 residents. Those numbers indicate, he said, the road and its residents are seeing “a lot of transient traffic.”
Another problem faced was that a topography change after a downhill where Hall Lane crosses Hanover Road, larger vehicles “bottom out” and get “hung up on their chassis.”
The idea of making the road one-way as a temporary measure was floated. Kullgren said making the road a one-way had helped on Nettleton Road a few years ago, when it was seeing similar problems. Baggett and several commissioners expressed concerns about diverting Hall Lane’s problem onto another nearby road, however.
“Like water, traffic finds its way,” said Baggett.
Cicciari said it was “a struggle” to find balance and the best solution.
“It’s a moving target for us,” he said.
Police Commission members decided, short-term, to go with signage indicating it was a narrow road — parts are only the state minimum of ten feet wide and at its widest it is 13.5 feet — and signs prohibiting trucks. The narrow road signs the commission can order on its own but it needs to put in a DOT request for “no through trucks.”
Commissioners also asked the department to do traffic counts and monitor nearby roads such as Sealand Drive.
Editor Jim Taylor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.