Norwich bike, pedestrian projects included in new regional plan

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NORWICH – A new report from the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Government offers ideas to make it easier and safer to get around without a car.

Recommendations involving Norwich in the report, which was issued last week, include adding bike lanes on Boswell Avenue, Talman Street and Dunham Street and becoming part of a bike route from Colchester.

The report also recommends improvements on Route 82 to make it safer to walk on the busy highway, and to repair, replace or extend sidewalks in Taftville and Greeneville.

Not specifically mentioned in the report is a city project to install a bike lane and add some sidewalks along New London Turnpike from the Norwichtown Green to Melrose Park.

“I think they did a great job,” Assistant City Planner Daniel Daniska said. The report covers 22 municipalities in southeastern Connecticut that are members of the council. “Our region is very varied between urban, suburban and rural.”

Daniska said Norwich planners are “looking to do a citywide bike and pedestrian plan” that would be integrated into the regional one.

Another city project includes sidewalk and crosswalk improvements on Central Avenue to make it safer for those who don’t have cars.

“We have a large population that needs to walk to get to work,” he said.

According to a survey of southeastern Connecticut residents in the report, more than half of residents now can’t easily get to supermarkets and other retailers and health care facilities without a car.

According to the report, 10% of Norwich households don’t have access to a car compared to 7% in the rest of the region.

The $980,000 New London Turnpike project would be paid for using a federal grant and a 20% match from the city. Construction on it is still at least a year away.

Daniska said that addition of the bicycle lane is hoped to slow down traffic on the road, whose 25 mph speed limit is mostly ignored by drivers.

“We’re hoping to connect Norwichtown and the (Three Rivers) community college,” Daniska said. “It forms the nice start of a network in that part of town.”

Apollo Ziembroski, whose bicycle shop, Apollo Cycles, is on Franklin Street, said he thinks the biggest need for bicycle riders is easier access to the businesses on Route 82, which is divided between West Main Street and Salem Turnpike.

“It’s pretty dangerous down there,” he said.

A section of West Main Street has long been known as crash alley. According to the report, a 0.9-mile stretch between North High Street and Banas Court is the 15th most dangerous road segment in the state for bicyclists. There were one major and five minor crashes involving injuries there between 2012 and 2016, the report said.

Daniska said some of the problems there may be reduced by the state Department of Transportation’s plan to redo West Main Street that includes adding six roundabouts at intersections, avoiding the current need of drivers to make left turns.

The signed bike route between Colchester and Norwich would be 14.3 miles long and include stretches in Lebanon and Bozrah. The 3.2-mile part in Norwich would start at the Bozrah border and end at West Town Street. Five-foot-wide bike lanes would be installed on both sides of the route.

Total cost of the four-town project is an estimated $3.1 million, according to the report.

Ziembroski said that rather than using resources on the Colchester bike route, he would prefer using them to make it easier for bike riders to get to services in Norwich.

“It’s challenging to get around Norwich,” Ziembroski said. “I’d favor more utilitarian than recreational.”

Besides, he said, roads between Norwich and Colchester already are excellent for bicyclists.

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