BEACON FALLS — The town is eyeing potential changes to local roads as well as creating new exit and on-ramps for Route 8 in order to make the Pinesbridge Industrial Park more accessible.
Joe Fitzpatrick, vice chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission, came before the Board of Selectmen Jan. 13 to present the possible changes.
Fitzpatrick said the proposed new northbound Route 8 ramps would be on Lopus Road and the new southbound ramps would be just below Lopus Road and connect to Pent Road.
Pent Road would then be connected to Lancaster Drive, which is where the industrial park is located. Ultimately, Lancaster Drive would be extended to meet with Route 63, he said.
“What this will do is this would open up the whole industrial park to Route 8 and would make it a lot more inviting for companies to move into the industrial park,” Fitzpatrick said.
Fitzpatrick said the industrial park is currently not that accessible to its occupants.
“One of the problems is the industrial park is somewhat choked off by the fact that we have two one-lane bridges to get there, and you have to come all the way through town to get there if you are coming from the north. If you are going to the north you have to go all the way back through town to get out,” Fitzpatrick said.
Town Treasurer Michael Krenesky told Fitzpatrick that selling the idea of a new exit ramp to businesses on Main Street might be difficult.
“You are going to get some feedback from businesses that’s not as positive as you want it to be. You’re going to have to sell them on the idea that traffic is now going to bypass Exit 24,” Krenesky said.
Fitzpatrick said he envisions the downtown becoming more of a walking downtown.
The changes were originally proposed as part of the town’s Plan of Conservation and Development, which was updated last July.
Fitzpatrick said he hopes to gain support for the changes from the town’s state legislators as well as its federal representatives in order to obtain funding for the plan.
First Selectman Christopher Bielik recommended emphasizing how this project would impact the entire Valley rather than just Beacon Falls when seeking funding.
“Every time an issue like this comes up it’s always not just how is this going to impact one little municipality here in the state, but what’s going to be the overall impact on an area. And if we can sell this as something that’s going to help multiple municipalities in the Valley area, then it stands a chance of getting support from some of those municipal organizations [such as Council of Governments],” Bielik said.
Fitzpatrick said the town could ultimately connect the new ramps on Route 8 to the Oxford Airport via Route 42, which would make this a regional project.
“It’s pretty feasible that we could connect Route 42 right to the airport someday,” Fitzpatrick said.
Selectman Peter Betkoski said he supports the project. But, he said, he wants to make sure it moves along in a way that ensures the town wasn’t putting a lot of money into it only to have it fail.
Fitzpatrick said he is planning to meet with all of the town boards and commissions to discuss the plan, and hopes to receive a written letter of support from each of them. He said he wants to talk to all the boards and commissions by the end of February.
“Once we get support from our local boards then we’re going to take this town wide and talk to the businesses and get their support. Then hopefully, when we get all that, we have something to go to the state with, and petition them to get what we want,” Fitzpatrick said.
If the town is able to receive the backing from its legislators, it will be able to approach the state Department of Transportation to begin a cost analysis of the project, he said.
The entire process will take at least 10 years if everything goes as planned, Fitzpatrick said.
“It’s not going to happen overnight, and it’s going to take a lot of effort on the town’s part, on the boards’ parts to see this through,” Fitzpatrick said.
The Board of Selectmen gave its approval to the project, allowing it to move forward to the rest of the boards and commissions.
“It’s an ambitious plan. I think that everybody who looks at that map and can visualize where in town all those things are happening, knows that this is not going to come with a cheap price tag on it,” Bielik said. “But is it a worthy project? In my mind it’s worthy enough that we should be pursuing at least these preliminary stages to start lining things up and make our best pitch to the people that are going to be able to affect the change.”