Residents question planned Cross Street project

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The borough is eyeing a major reconstruction of Cross Street including at the Y intersection of the street and Cotton Hollow Road. The project will involve buying property along the street, including possibly the entire property at 10 Cotton Hollow Road. –RA ARCHIVE
The borough is eyeing a major reconstruction of Cross Street including at the Y intersection of the street and Cotton Hollow Road. The project will involve buying property along the street, including possibly the entire property at 10 Cotton Hollow Road. –RA ARCHIVE

NAUGATUCK — A group of more than a dozen residents questioned state officials regarding a planned reconstruction of Cross Street during an informational meeting on the project May 30.

The project will reconstruct about 4,150 feet of Cross Street from Exit 25 on Route 8 to New Haven Road. The project will include full-depth reconstruction, horizontal and vertical realignments, widening to a uniform 30-foot roadway width, new storm drainage system, curbing, retaining walls, sidewalks, guiderails and the realignment of the Cross Street and Cotton Hollow Road intersection.

“It has a very large turning radius onto Cotton Hollow Road. That kind of allows for higher speeds than a normal type configuration would allow,” Tom Borden, project engineer for the project development unit of the state Department of Transportation, said about the Y intersection. “As you approach the intersection you have poor site lines.”

Based upon a preliminary assessment, the project’s cost will be about $5.15 million. The federal government and the state are expected to cover 80 percent and 10 percent of the cost respectively. The borough would pick up the remaining 10 percent or roughly $500,000.

The planned reconstruction would leave one family without much of a yard.

Frank and Anita Finkle’s property at 10 Cotton Hollow is located at the intersection of Cotton Hollow Road and Cross Street. The proposed reconstruction would have the road running directly across their front yard.

“As I’m sitting in my living room and I’m looking at this road that is now taking up three-quarters of my front lawn, how high and what is the grade [of the road],” Frank Finkle said. “I want to know how high because I’m looking at a fish bowl. I’m looking at nothing but concrete surround three-quarters of my house.”

Borden said that the grade along Cross Street would be lessened, but the grade along Cotton Hollow would have to be increased for the two streets to meet evenly.

“Your house is going to look like it is kind of depressed,” Borden said.

Frank Finkle questioned whether the reconstruction of the road would mean more water on his property since Cotton Hollow Road will also be at an increased grade and how close the retaining wall would be moving towards his house.

“Right now there is 16 feet from the corner of that house to the retaining wall,” Frank Finkle said.

In regards to the water issue, Borden said the drainage system along the road would be completely replaced, which would mean far less water on the property. He said the retaining wall could move another eight feet closer, depending on the final design plan.
Anita Finkle also expressed concerns about the retaining wall, but felt it was a necessary structure.

“I really believe that it needs to be supported better than what is there now. I do agree with getting the retaining wall built,” Anita Finkle said.

Since the project needs so much of the Finkles’ property, the state is considering purchasing the property, Borden said. The state may also buy portions of other properties lining the street.

To widen the road and put in sidewalks the borough would have to extend its right of way from 40 feet to 50 feet. This means that residents could lose a portion of their front yards.

“We expect there will be sliver takes, or minor property acquisitions, on either side of the road,” Borden said. “The current right of way is 40 feet and it’s proposed to go to 50 feet, thus we will be impacting everyone along the roadway to some degree.”

Borden explained the project is currently in the concept stage and could be altered. Borden said once the project enters the design phase and the design is set, the state will begin entering into negotiations to buy the land needed for the reconstruction.

Speeding cars also was an issue of anxiety raised by residents.

Residents said drivers currently drive on Cross Street at dangerous speeds and felt if the road is widened people will drive even faster.

“I’ve been on Cross Street for 23 years and I have dodged multiple cars to get my kids across the street to school,” Ellen Dorosh said.

Dorosh said that if the street is widened cars will travel 60 mph and make it even more dangerous for everyone else.

Borden said the posted speed limit is 25 mph. However, the average speed along the street is 32 mph. After the road project the average speed is expected to increase slightly, but the increase would also happen if the road was just paved, he said.

Borden said the reconstruction will make it less dangerous with better sight lines around the curves and the sidewalks and shoulders along the road will help prevent people from being struck by cars.

“When we modify both vertically and horizontally we do that for certain design speeds. We incorporate sight distances for those speeds,” Borden said. “Part of making these modifications geometrically is to make it safer.”

Borden said the DOT will try to keep the current curvature of the road where possible, but will not sacrifice safety to do so.

“There was a day where, as engineers, we used to make things straight lines. That’s really not the environment we’re in. We make curves safe,” Borden said.

Borden said the fact that the road is so well traveled is the reason it was able to be redone using federal and state money.

“One of the reasons why this particular roadway is eligible for federal funds is because it serves a higher function than just the immediate neighborhood that it runs into. It connects Route 8 to Route 63, as you all know,” Borden said.

The road sees an average bidirectional traffic count of 6,100 cars per day, he said. The number is sometimes as high as 9,700 cars per day, he added.

Borden said from 2007 and to 2009 there were 11 car accidents along Cross Street, which resulted in eight injuries. All of the accidents happened between Cotton Hollow Road and the entrance to St. James Cemetery, he said.

“Obviously there is a lot of traffic using this [road]. They don’t live there. They are just driving through there,” Borden said.

The project has the second-highest priority on a list of state Surface Transportation Program grants for municipalities in the Council of Governments of the Central Naugatuck Valley.

If the project moves forward work would take place in 2016 and 2017 and two-way traffic would be maintained, Borden said.