The West Street bridge that crosses the railroad tracks just east of Washington Street was opened for travel recently after many years of study, plans, plan revisions, public review, more revisions, and construction. Prior to this improvement, this bridge was a narrow, wood-decked structure that allowed traffic to cross only from one direction at a time. This was a hazardous area for pedestrians, bicyclists, and wheel-chair users attempting to reach businesses on Washington Street.
The Jonah Center and the Complete Streets Committee became involved in this project as early as 2013. The Complete Streets Master Plan recommended West Street to serve as a major north-south bike route within the City, in spite of many issues, including the West Street bridge. We encouraged the public to attend hearings on the project, and we collectively recommended that the plan include at least one widened pedestrian and bicycle sidewalk over the tracks. During this process, we became aware that several users of motorized wheelchairs also used the bridge, even in its condition.
Advocacy by the Jonah Center, the Complete Streets Committee, and Middletown’s Department of Public Works persuaded Connecticut’s Department of Transportation to include a widened pedestrian/bike sidewalk on the east side of the road. Because of the poor sight lines caused by the height of the bridge, and to satisfy neighboring residents who complained of vehicles exceeding safe speeds in the area, CT DOT also installed speed bumps on both approaches to the bridge.
With the completion of the new West Street bridge, 3 obstacles to achieving a safe bicycle route between north and south parts of the city have now been addressed. CT DOT improved the crosswalks and signals at the intersection of Washington and West Streets in 2016-17. In 2018, Middletown’s Department of Public Works moved the batting cages behind Palmer Field away from the Coginchaug River, allowing construction of a path from the Palmer Field parking lot (on Bernie O’Rourke Drive) to Veteran’s Park via a footbridge over the river.
The next major project is the construction of the Newfield Corridor Trail from Veteran’s Park to the Mattabesset Bike Trail that now extends to Tuttle Place. The Newfield Corridor Trail will be the subject of a presentation by the engineering consulting firm Milone and Macbroom at the meeting of Middletown’s Public Works Commission on Wed., January 8, at 6:30 p.m. in Room 208 of City Hall.