Groton - The town continues to pursue the upgrade of Crystal Lake Road and the improvement of traffic flow at two intersections that provide direct access to the Naval Submarine Base.
The $5.5 million project calls for the realignment of Military Highway with the base's main entrance. One phase of the project would create a multi-use pedestrian trail that would stretch along the south side of Crystal Lake Road to Route 12 and then down to Gungywamp Road.
Town Manager Mark Oefinger said Wednesday that construction is at least two years away, but plans and funding have cleared some recent hurdles that have kept the much-needed improvements on track.
"Crystal Lake Road screams help," Oefinger said. "We think this project will be a tremendous benefit to the region, the community and particularly the sub base."
Eighty percent of the project's cost will be covered by federal funds. The state and town each will be responsible for 10 percent. A public information meeting will be held next week.
The first of the project's four phases calls for the widening and repaving of Crystal Lake Road, which also provides access to the Nautilus Submarine Museum.
The formerly two-lane road, which has not had any major improvements since the 1980s, is not designed to be four lanes, as it is now being used. It has no shoulders and is one of the town's most heavily traveled roads with 10,212 vehicles per day, a state Department of Transportation study shows.
"It's just like a roof. It needs to be replaced," Public Works Director Gary Schneider said. "It's becoming more and more of a maintenance issue. We're spending our time patching something that needs to be replaced."
The second phase would realign Military Highway with Crystal Lake Road and install a new traffic signal at the intersection. The existing intersection has operational deficiencies due to the unusual multi-lane configuration of the base's main gate, the study shows.
The third phase calls for turn radius improvements at the intersection of Crystal Lake Road and Route 12 to help trucks making turns there. The fourth phase is the multi-use trail, which Oefinger said would help those who live in Navy housing in the vicinity of the base.
The project will require the town to buy some land along Crystal Lake Road. It has been awarded $455,000 by the State Bond Commission to purchase the site of the former Fusconi Cleaners, at the intersection of Crystal Lake Road and Military Highway. The building is now vacant.
Chris Zendan, a public affairs officer and spokesman for the submarine base, said Wednesday the land purchases and improvements would help with security around the base. Creating a buffer between the base facilities and neighboring properties is also part of the scoring matrix that the military uses when assessing bases and making closure decisions.
On Wednesday morning, members of the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments added another measure of support by approving an additional $1 million for the project. The regional planning agency represents 20 towns in the region.
The previous $4.25 million estimate for the project increased substantially since costs were refined for land acquisition, an extension of the multi-use path and a more comprehensive repaving of Crystal Lake Road.