Home Business Residents oppose plan to reopen Vergason Avenue in Norwich to business park traffic

Residents oppose plan to reopen Vergason Avenue in Norwich to business park traffic

Residents oppose plan to reopen Vergason Avenue in Norwich to business park traffic

Sep. 20—NORWICH — Several residents of Vergason Avenue appealed to the City Council Monday to cancel an experiment to reopen a long-closed intersection with Connecticut Avenue that would connect the residential road to the Norwich business park.

The city Public Works Department presented the idea to the City Council in August to remove, on a trial basis, a barrier at the end of Connecticut Avenue that blocks through traffic from the business park to Vergason Avenue. At the time, Public Works Director Patrick McLaughlin said the move would ease snow removal on the narrow, hilly Vergason Avenue.

Public Works officials presented an update on the issue to the City Council Public Works and Capital Improvements Committee prior to the council meeting Monday.

City Engineer Brian Long said Tuesday the department plans to take traffic counts for one week to measure current traffic on Vergason Avenue, then remove the gate at Connecticut Avenue and take traffic counts for several weeks to assess any change in use.

Long said he expects it would take a while before drivers realize the road is open, so the testing would be for an extended time after reopening the road.

The council has not voted on any proposal to permanently open the Connecticut-Vergason gate. Long said the department planned to go ahead with the temporary opening and would only seek council approval if a plan to permanently open the road is proposed.

Mayor Peter Nystrom, however, on Tuesday said he believes any reopening, even a temporary one, would need council approval. Nystrom said he wants to know if Public Works plans to cut back brush on the narrow road and improve sight lines before reopening the road.

Several Vergason Avenue residents who spoke during public comment Monday objected to opening the connection to the business park. They cited safety concerns, increased traffic and speeding. The City Council closed the road in 1986 to steer business traffic to lower Connecticut Avenue and a traffic light at the West Town Street intersection at the park entrance.

Residents said in some spots, the road it too narrow for a car and a school bus to pass in opposite directions. Residents say they know the road and the blind spots, but new drivers getting out of work looking for a quicker route to West Town Street would not be familiar with the hazardous spots.

“It’s a road that has many children,” said Earl Colella of 130 Vergason Avenue. “A lot of people walk up and down that road. The road is very narrow. There are a couple of points in the road where you cannot get two cars through. Somebody has to stop.”

He said opening the road would increase the chance of a child or pet getting hit by a car. He said before the city could reopen the road, it would need to paint yellow stripe down the center to delineate the lanes and the road would have to be widened in spots. Colella said he goes to the VFW post on Connecticut Avenue and to the Veterans Rally Point on Stott Avenue, so opening the road would be more convenient for him, but he still opposed the move.

Jim Langan of 185 Vergason Avenue, said the road was closed in 1986, “for very well thought out reasons,” because of accidents and hazards. He said if it would help the city to plow snow, Public Works Department could install a larger gate that could be opened in winter for pending storms.

Rebecca Pryor of 58 Vergason Avenue, said she was speaking for herself and several neighbors who oppose the road reopening.

“We have a very narrow road, there’s a lot of curves, it’s hard enough to see pulling out of my driveway, I always have to be very cautious,” she said. “To have more through traffic, I feel, is dangerous.”

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