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    Sunday, May 28, 2023

    State DOT proposes major redesign of Route 82 in Norwich

    Norwich — The busy Route 82 commercial strip in Norwich has borne the ignoble nickname “Crash Alley” for decades, earned by frequent vehicle crashes, numerous screeching tires from near misses and the uncounted nervous heartbeats of pedestrians trying to cross even at signaled crosswalks.

    The state Department of Transportation has proposed a major, two-phase reconstruction project along the four-lane strip running from just west of the busy intersection with New London Turnpike to the intersection with Asylum and Mechanic streets.

    Six roundabouts would replace traffic signals at key intersections, the largest one at New London Turnpike.

    A 6-inch high median divider would prevent all left-hand turns along most of the stretch, and sidewalks would be reconstructed to improve pedestrian safety and reduce steep driveway ramps into businesses.

    And in spots just beyond the major reconstruction zone, left-turn lanes would be created in the center of the roadway to improve left turns into side streets and businesses.

    The intersection of residential street Surrey Lane would be eliminated, forcing traffic from that road and several side streets to drive east to New London Turnpike to get to Route 82.

    Several properties along the route are outlined for possible acquisition by the state, including the Extra-Mart gas station at the Dunham Street intersection, a sign business at the corner of Asylum Street, a long-vacant former gas station at the New London Turnpike intersection, a vacant office building at the corner of Osgood Street and a vacant lot at Mechanic Street.

    Road widening and sidewalk reconstruction might require other land acquisition not denoted on project maps.

    The first phase would run from the area of Salem Plaza — west of New London Turnpike — to Pine Street, and the second phase would run from Pine to Asylum Street.

    Proposed roundabouts would be placed at New London Turnpike, Norman Road, Dunham Street, Osgood Street, Mount Pleasant Street and Asylum Street.

    Side streets in between would be right-turn-only intersections.

    The DOT will hold a public informational meeting on the proposed project at 7 p.m. Sept. 16 at Norwich City Hall. DOT officials will attend the meeting to explain the project and answer questions.

    Preliminary plans consisting of aerial photographs of the roadway with the new design superimposed over the existing conditions are on file at the Norwich Public Works Department at 50 Clinton Ave., and at the Norwich Community Development Corp. office at 77 Main St.

    Construction would likely not start for four to five years, following design completion taking into account public input from the Sept. 16 meeting, property acquisition and permit approvals, according to a DOT report issued following a Jan. 29 meeting of DOT and city officials and about 40 representatives from businesses along the strip.

    The current preliminary design replaces a 2005 earlier design which had called for a center left-turning lane along the entire commercial strip, the report said.

    year accident data from 2010 to 2012 listing 462 total crashes in three years —an average of three per week —that resulted in 169 injuries. Many of the crashes involved mid-block turns at un-signalized locations, primarily left turns.

    The strip has nine locations that are on the state DOT’s list of high crash rate locations, seven of them are between signals, the report said.

    Norwich Police Chief Louis Fusaro favors the overall plan, especially adding the median divider, saying it would address many of the long-standing safety issues on Route 82.

    Many crashes are caused when a well-intentioned driver in one lane stops to allow someone to make the turn, but traffic in the second lane doesn’t stop, Fusaro said.

    Fusaro also agrees with the plan to install roundabouts along the strip.

    “It would definitely have a significant impact on safety at Route 82,” Fusaro said. “At traffic lights, we have rear-end collisions. Roundabouts reduce that, a significant reduction. It would be like the one at Salem Four Corners. It also slows traffic down and addresses the speed issues.”

    Jason Vincent, vice president of NCDC, who attended the January meeting with business owners, said the project would both slow traffic speeds and make it quicker for drivers to reach their destinations — seemingly contradictory conditions.

    Drivers wanting to turn left into a business or side street would have to drive to the next roundabout, likely less than a mile away, and effectively make a U-turn to the Route 82 opposite lane.

    From there, the destination business or street would be a right turn.

    Vincent said drivers would not have to wait at traffic lights and wouldn’t have to wait for a break in the at times steady stream of oncoming vehicles to make the turn.


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