Residents were updated by representatives of the Department of Transportation on the proposed changes coming to re-vitalize the West End via the improvements at the intersection on Route 72 at Route 69.
The project will cover Park, Divinity, and School streets. From the intersection of route 72 and 69, the coverage extends 100 feet to the north on Route 69, 500 feet. to the east on Route 72, 300 feet to the south on Route 69, and 800 feet to the west on Route 72. On Divinity Street, improvements will be made to the intersection of Landry and Pratt Street.
Project engineer Joseph Arsenault said the project will allow for tractor trailers to easily maneuver on the road and also will make enough room for travel by bicyclists.
Landscape designer Sue Fiedler said the goal is to give comfort to public transportation riders and walkers. It will have a sidewalk environment, special scoring patterns, and it will be durable, and easy to clean and repair. Color paving will make it clear to the pedestrians and drivers about where the pedestrian route is.
Arsenault shared traffic statistics over the past three years in the area. From 2015-2017, there were 72 crashes consisting of rear ending, and angle crashes, and 13 injuries. An average of 13,000 vehicles travel on the route daily.
The project does come with some give and take, so as to minimize the impact of the historic buildings. “We want to compliment the historic buildings, not compete,” said Fiedler. There will be 15 utility poles relocations, and Route 72 will shift north – resulting in having to cut into a nearby parking lot. Route 72 will also be widened for left turn lanes, which will add spaces to another parking lot. This was controversial because nearby businesses have limited parking.
There will also be five property acquisitions, which are subject to change. “We help them find a place; no resident can be forced to move,” said Matthew Geanacopoulos, property agent. Geanacopoulos said property owners can acquire a letter of intent, and negotiate. There will be relocation benefits, agent assistance, and reimbursement for moving expenses.
Michael Klosowski attended the informational session with his family. He lives on Divinity Street, and was happy with the project plans.
“Anything would be an improvement to what it is,” said Klosowski. “They did what I would do – take out a lot of lights, make it wider. That’s all you have to do.”
Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu said the project had been monitored for years as part of the state process, and it will change the perception issues of the West End. “Little pain for a lot of gain,” said Zoppo-Sassu.
Council members Peter Kelley and Dave Preleski, who represent the West End were in attendance at the event, along with other council members.
“I think it was very positive; there doesn’t seem to be much opposition,” said Kelley. “People really seem to want it. It’ll be tweaked, but I think it’s going to be great. It will be more business-friendly; it’ll be more pedestrian-friendly. Aesthetically it’s going to be pleasing. Right now the West End is not aesthetically pleasing.”
Preleski not only represents the West End, but he also has a business in the West End as well. “I like shutting down Divinity Street. I like the way traffic will flow,” said Preleski. “My business is 100 yards south of the intersection. They way the left hand turns don’t align; it causes all kinds of problems. This is an opportunity for reinvestment in the West End.”
The West End Association Vice President, Jesse Jablon attended the informational as well, and said that the association supports the goals and outline proposed by the DOT for the improvements to the intersection of routes 69 and 72.
“Part of our mission has been to improve the safety and the appearance of this important and vital neighborhood. The intersection is in desperate need of repair as outlined by the DOT,” said Jablon. “While the presentation talked about the many motor vehicle accidents that have occurred at this intersection, it should also be noted that pedestrian safety is crucial for this area. There is a high density of residents, and you can always see people walking the area. An improved intersection will not only be good for traffic flow and reducing vehicle accidents, but will also be very beneficial to the many people that live, work and walk thru that area as well. The improvements that the DOT have outlined will greatly enhance the safety and appearance for this neighborhood and should help encourage other businesses to possibly opening their business here.”