Officials eye traffic circle as part of Rubber Avenue project

NAUGATUCK — Officials are considering replacing a major four-way intersection with a traffic circle and want to know how the public feels about the idea.

The proposal is to build a traffic circle where Rubber Avenue intersects with Meadow and Cherry streets and do away with the traffic lights at the intersection. The traffic circle concept is part of a larger project to reconstruct Rubber Avenue from Elm Street to Melbourne Street that will include drainage improvements and new sidewalks and landscaping.

“From what I see now, I think it’s a good thing,” Director of Public Works James Stewart said about the traffic circle. “But I still have to see what the public has to say and what businesses have to say.”

The reconstruction project, which will be funded through the state Local Transportation Capital Improvement Program with the borough covering engineering costs, is slated to start next year. Whether the traffic circle is included in the project is to be determined.

Officials will hold a hearing on the traffic circle concept June 25 at 6:30 p.m. at the Board of Education office, 497 Rubber Ave.

“We want everyone to know about it and discuss it before we make a decision,” Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess said.

The preliminary design is for a traffic circle that is 120 feet in diameter, which would require a minor amount of abutting private property to complete, Borough Engineer Wayne Zirolli said.

A memorandum from Weston & Sampson, an engineering firm working on the reconstruction project, states splitter islands will be built where traffic approaches the circle to divide vehicles entering and exiting the circle. The splitter islands will affect three driveways adjacent to the intersection, including the exit only driveway of the Dunkin’ Donuts on Meadow Street and the full access driveway to the Cumberland Farms across the street. The memorandum states that people turning left in or out of the driveways would need to complete a U-turn through the circle to enter or exit the driveways in that direction.

Ultimately, Zirolli said, the goal is to have continuous traffic flow through the intersection and to avoid traffic backups.

The memorandum from Weston & Sampson states that an average of 12,726 vehicles traveled through the intersection daily based on traffic counts taken in December 2018 while school was in session. The memorandum also states that traffic backed up anywhere from 75 feet to 550 feet at times at different parts of the intersection.

The memorandum also states that traffic circles can improve the safety of an intersection, according to the Federal Highway Administration, including reducing the speed of vehicles and the chance for head-on or right-angle collisions.

According to data from the Connecticut Crash Data Repository, there were 23 crashes — four involving injuries — at the intersection from 2016 through 2018, the memorandum states.

If the traffic circle doesn’t move forward, the state Department of Transportation plans to replace the traffic lights at the intersection, officials said. Meadow and Cherry streets are part of Route 63, a state road. The state DOT has reviewed the proposal for the traffic circle.

For now, local officials are weighing their options.

“We’re going to consider it and pick the best option for the town,” Hess said.