Sidewalk upgrades part of larger plan for New London's Williams Street
New London — A plan to better connect Hodges Square with the city and nearby institutions like Connecticut College could get a start this year with the help from federal funds.
The Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments last month recommended a $762,381 Williams Street sidewalk improvement project for funding to the federal Department of Transportation’s Transportation Alternative Program, or TAP. The current grant application was prepared by New London grants manager Elizabeth Nocera and City Planner Sybil Tetteh. The federal funds are aimed at projects that include things such as pedestrian, bicycle and recreational trail projects.
The project would improve the deteriorating sidewalks on Williams Street from the Waterford town line to Briggs Street, just north of Hodges Square. The stretch of Williams Street passes the entrances to Connecticut College, The Williams School and Lyman Allyn Art Museum. The planned improvements include a crosswalk in the area of the Connecticut College Arboretum.
The project is just a small part of a much larger plan for improvements to the area outlined in a 2013 Creative Placemaking Master Plan, a grant-funded study sponsored by the nonprofit New London Landmarks and authored by Brian Kent of Kent + Frost in Mystic.
The plan addresses the challenges of reconnecting the Hodges Square business district, Riverside Park and Crystal Avenue neighborhoods with the city, among other things. The Hodges Square area was severely altered and cut off during the development of Interstate 95.
Representatives from the city, Connecticut College, the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, Lyman Allyn and Hodges Square Association all are working in a collaborative effort to seek grant funding for initiatives that, when linked, will transform the area and make the traverse from the campuses less of a hazard.
Connecticut College and the city are expected to jointly shoulder the 20 percent match, or $152,476, of the total TAP grant. The state DOT is reviewing the plan. A Ledyard Tri-Town Trail plan also is under consideration for the remainder of the $1.177 million earmarked for the southeast region of the state for fiscal year 2016 through 2020.
Most agree that the route to Hodges Square is unattractive and even dangerous for pedestrians because of the crisscrossing traffic along the route, which crosses Route 32 on a bridge with little room for pedestrians.
Vera Harsh, director of external affairs for Lyman Allyn, said pedestrian safety is a real issue on the sidewalks near the museum and she welcomed both the upcoming project and ongoing participation by different stakeholders working toward a common goal.
“Everybody is looking at developing this in an intelligent and coordinated way,” she said.
Richard Madonna, Connecticut College vice president of finance and administration, said the school continues to look at grants and other funding opportunities to address pedestrian safety.
“What we’re all trying to do is make this area a pedestrian-friendly environment, not just for the faculty, staff and students but also people coming up here from the neighboring community.”
Madonna said the college also is looking forward to work from the state DOT to restripe crossings on Route 32, one of the recommendations in a DOT study conducted in the wake of a student’s death on Route 32 in 2015. One of the conclusions in the study was the Route 32 corridor creates a “channeling effect for motorists, which encourages high speeds not conducive to a college campus or residential setting.”
Lyman Allyn is in the planning phase of creating what tentatively is being called the “Lyman Allyn Trail,” a path that will provide pedestrian and bicycle access through the 12 acres of Lyman Allyn property to the southern campus of Connecticut College and to Williams Street. The museum will be seeking grant funds for that project.