By West Hartford Editor Ted Glanzer
The I-84 on and off ramps at Park Road and the surrounding area - i.e. Trout Brook and Raymond Roads - has long presented traffic and safety concerns for the town of West Hartford.
Indeed, several residents at a public information meeting at Town Hall concerning the reconfiguration of the interchange at Park Road/I-84 alluded to saying a “Hail Mary” when exiting I-84 at Park Road, where traffic “weaves’ from both the east and west on the ramp.
Furthermore, Town Engineer Duane Martin said that there has been about 150 accidents in the last three years in the area, including 80 on the ramp alone.
The proposed $4.6 million project - 80 percent of which, or $3.67 million, would be funded the Federal Highway Administration, with the state and the town each picking up 10 percent, or $460,000 - calls for the following changes:
the relocation of the Interstate 84 off-ramp about 200 feet to make it adjacent with the existing on-ramp in order to improve traffic flow on and off the highway;
an additional left turn lane will be added to the off ramp to shorten queues and increase time for drivers to make decisions and maneuver their vehicles;
Park Road will be widened on the south side to create an additional travel lane;
and left turn lanes will be established at many of the intersection approaches.
Martin said that currently the off ramp is too close to Trout Brook, creating heavy snarls during peak travel times, when some 1,000 vehicles exit I-84 and another 1,100 vehicles attempt to get on.
Moving the off ramp and will alleviate the wait times in the area from about 2 minutes to 40 to 50 seconds on average during peak hours, Martin said.
A new traffic signal will control both the on and off ramp, with a left-hand turn signal for cars turning left from Park Road onto the I-84 ramp. Vehicles that currently turning left from Park Road onto the I-84 on ramp do not have a signal.
All of which is designed to make the area safer and less congested.
While many of the 15 or so people on hand greeted the plan favorably, several residents of the area said that the project could create even more headaches for them, from reduced property values to more snow to remove to increased pollution from vehicles.
A Raymond Road resident who declined to give her name asked Martin if it were possible to connect the I-84 off ramp to Trout Brook, or if it were possible to move the on ramp closer to the off ramp, instead of vice versa.
Martin responded that he and his department would work with residents, but that cost considerations - the Trout Brook connection, for example, would call for the construction of at least one, if not two, bridges - had to be taken into account.
Raymond Road resident Paul Kellogg inquired if there would be a widening of Park Road at Trout Brook.
Martin said that there was going to be a widening of the turn lane going east, but that the bridge represented a major “pinch point.”
Tad Bistor agreed, saying that the plan was “short sighted” for not including a widening of the Park Road bridge.
Park Road resident Marion McIntosh said that she currently has a difficult time getting in and out of her driveway, and that the new play would likely create even more delays.
Martin said that the new traffic light should create gaps for her to come and go out of her driveway, adding that he would continue to communicate and work with her and the other residents.
“You are a key stakeholder,” Martin said to McIntosh.
Martin and Director of Community Services Mark McGovern said that the plan is merely in its “concept” phase. Construction isn’t set to start until 2017 and won’t be completed until about 36 months after that.
But McGovern said that the meeting overall was a success.“We can’t please everyone 100 percent,” McGovern said. “But we’ve got a good start.