BEACON FALLS — The town is moving forward with the original reconstruction plan for Highland Avenue.
About 10 Highland Avenue residents, Town Engineer Jim Galligan and Selectman Peter Betkoski met on Aug. 19 to discuss different designs for the road.
Highland Avenue is scheduled to be completely reconstructed. It’s one of three roads — the others are Noe Place and Burton Road — that will be repaired with a bond for up to $2.1 million.
Residents on Highland Avenue raised concerns about the plans for the road after they learned the utility poles, which are currently in the street, would be moved back to the edge of the sidewalk.
Galligan presented residents with three options.
The original option was to move the telephone poles to the back of the existing sidewalk, move the sidewalk forward and put in new curbing. This option would include two 14-foot wide lanes for traffic and a parking lane along one side of the street.
The second option was to keep the utility poles where they currently are and move the sidewalk out to meet them. This would add additional yard space to the residents’ property, but would eliminate the parking lane on the street.
The third option, Galligan explained, is moving the poles back towards the sidewalk and moving the sidewalks back. This option would keep the on-street parking, but residents would lose approximately 2 feet of their yards.
“I looked at a couple of options, but I think it is important for everyone to understand that the telephone poles can not stay in the road. There isn’t any place you can think of in the state where they rebuild a road and leave the telephone poles in the road,” Galligan said.
If the town leaves the poles in the road, he said, it would be liable if an accident occurred.
“The poles are in the road now and if somebody hits the pole, the pole has been there. But now I brought to the town a problem: the telephone poles are in the street and the telephone poles can not be in the street. If somebody hits the telephone poles now the first thing an attorney is going to say is ‘you knew this was a problem and you didn’t fix it, so you are liable.’ That’s just a basic fact,” Galligan said.
Residents asked if the poles could be moved to the other side of the street.
Galligan said the poles are currently being moved at the utility company’s expense. Moving all the poles and wires across the street would significantly increase in the cost of the project.
Residents also questioned whether a curb was necessary, since eliminating it would save 6 inches on either side of the road.
Galligan said if there was no curb, it would encourage people to park on the sidewalk.
“The curb is the element you construct that separates the sidewalk from the road,” Galligan said.
Residents also suggested turning Highland Avenue into a one-way street between Burton Road and Division Street.
“You talk about safety. I think that would be the safest way to go, make it a one way,” Highland Avenue resident Cef Rivera said.
Galligan said he would be able to make a one-way street work on Highland Avenue.
“If one way flies for everybody, it’s not a problem for me,” Galligan said.
Highland Avenue resident Paul Brenan didn’t think that was a decision just the residents of that street could make themselves.
“How can you have a group of 10 people decide how you are going to change the flow of the street? You are going to have a lot more people [upset] than the 10 people that are in this room,” Brenan said.
Ultimately, it was decided the original plan was the best way to keep the on-street parking witout taking part of residents’ yards.
Before the project moves ahead, Galligan said he had to meet with officials from Region 16, which oversees Beacon Falls and Prospect, to discuss the road repairs since Laurel Ledge Elementary School is on Highland Avenue.