As many Middletown residents know, the single lane, wood-decked West Street bridge over the Genesee & Wyoming Railroad just west of Washington St., (pictured below) is badly in need of replacement. The State of Connecticut Department of Transportation (CT DOT) declared the bridge obsolete at least ten years ago, but plans for replacement were delayed for a variety of reasons.
West St. bridge over railroad, looking north
When the Jonah Center and Middletown’s Complete Streets Committee were informed of this project in 2012, we began advocating for a generous (bike trail width) pedestrian and bicycle bridge to be incorporated into the new motor vehicle bridge. Not only is the bridge dangerously narrow for cars, but pedestrians, bicyclists, and wheelchair users frequently cross the bridge, often at great peril. West Street is identified on Middletown’s Complete Streets Master Plan as an important route for bicycles to travel from the south to the north side of Washington Street, and a future multi-use trail is envisioned for the entire length of West Street, from Wadsworth Street to Washington Street.
Middletown’s Public Works Department was supportive of our request, and CT DOT readily accepted the suggested addition of a broad pedestrian and bicycle lane on the east side of the bridge. Continue reading
Ecoin, Middletown’s Environmental Collective Impact Network, has embraced an initiative, led by the Middletown Garden Club and former Middletown Mayor Maria Madsen Holzberg, to develop and propose a City ordinance to reduce or eliminate free single-use plastic checkout bags handed out by local retailers.
According to the film Plastic Ocean, 8 million tons of plastic are dumped into our oceans every year. Plastics not only contribute to unsightly litter that is a danger for birds and marine life, but they release toxins as they break down. Micro-particles of plastic end up in the muscle tissue of fish eaten by humans. Clearly, as a species we need to find our way to doing less damage to the biological systems we depend on, and that includes using and discarding less plastic.
Reducing our consumption of single-use plastic items — shopping bags, straws, drink containers, utensils, etc. — is something we can all do. But we need some “carrots and sticks” (incentives and regulations) from society as a whole to help us change our ways. Continue reading
The Jonah Center’s most far-reaching project is to plan and build a mostly off-road bike route from the Air Line Trail in Portland to the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail in Cheshire. In partnership with the “RiverCOG” (our local Council of Governments, a planning agency), we gathered officials from Portland, Middletown, Meriden, and Cheshire in April 2016 to share this vision. All municipalities showed enthusiastic support, at least in principle.
Since that meeting, we have focused on getting Middletown to commence design work on the Newfield Corridor Trail. Progress on the Newfield Corridor Trail and the Air Line Trail in Portland will, we hope, attract the attention and support of statewide transportation planners. Continue reading
Beginning in 2012, the Jonah Center has encouraged the City of Middletown to build a 3- mile multi-use trail from Veterans Park to Tuttle Road, where it will connect with the current Mattabesset Bike Path in the Westlake area. The project is called the “Newfield Corridor Trail.” The trail’s location (shown in blue below) is only approximate or tentative while a detailed route study is being performed.
The Newfield Corridor Trail will allow hundreds of students in high density residential neighborhoods to bicycle or walk safely to 4 schools: Lawrence, Keigwin, Middletown High School, and Spencer. It will also be a huge step in creating bicycle access from Cromwell and the Westlake area of Middletown to downtown Middletown. Finally, this 3-mile section, added to 4.5 miles of the existing Mattabessett and Westlake bike paths, will complete nearly 8 miles of the proposed 18 mile Air Line Trail – Farmington Canal Connector Route, a regional project involving Portland, Meriden, and Cheshire that the Jonah Center has been spearheading.
As shown in the conceptual map above, the trail’s approximate route (as of summer 2019) lies on the west side of Newfield Street between Veterans Park and LaRosa Lane, where turns toward Middletown High School. From there it follows a sewer right-of-way to Mile Lane, then beside Kaplan Drive to Lawrence School. From the school, the trail will likely continue north across city-owned open space to Tuttle Road and the existing Mattabessett Bike Path. A more detailed map of the Newfield Corridor Trail may be found here.. (Another possible route from Westfield Street north to Middletown High School south follows the sewer right of way further west of Newfield Street, thus avoiding driveways along Newfield Street completely.) The exact route is now (in the year 2020) being investigated with the help of Milone and Macbroom engineering consultants.