Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Plans for Buckland traffic include I-84 ramp to mall

By Ed Jacovino
Journal Inquirer
Published: Thursday, April 23, 2009 12:08 PM EDT

A fly-over ramp connecting Interstate 84 directly to the Buckland Hills mall tops the list of proposed changes to cut down on traffic problems in the area.

“The fly-over, in our minds, will give you the greatest benefits,” said Carmine Trotta, an assistant planning director for the state Department of Transportation. “We would like to see that sooner rather than later.”

Recommendations made after a state-sponsored study of Buckland traffic issues were presented at a public meeting on Wednesday.

The proposals call for the ramp to the mall, a major makeover of the intersection of Buckland Street and Pleasant Valley Road, and a new connection between interstates 291 and 84. The study also outlines ways to increase pedestrian and bike traffic in the area and improve mass transit around the mall and shops in Buckland.

The $870,000 Buckland Area Transportation Study started in 2006. It is a collaboration between the state transportation department, the Capitol Region Council of Governments, and the Federal Highway Administration.

Officials say the proposals would cut down on traffic problems and can be done piecemeal rather than all at once. The work could be done by 2015, but officials warned that it’s competing with similar projects across the state.

The public has until next month to comment on the report before a final recommendation is made.

The I-84 fly-over would be an extension of Red Stone Road that would connect to Buckland Hills Drive. Traffic would exit I-84 onto the street that circles The Shoppes at Buckland Hills.

It would keep shoppers off the surrounding roads, where they compete with local traffic, said George L. Jacobs, the consultant hired to head the project. Jacobs works for Dewberry-Goodkind Inc., a planning and design firm.

The fly-over would cost $260 million if it’s built in 2015, officials estimate. That would increase to $424 million in 2025 if the project is delayed.

The next major makeover proposed in the study is a new kind of intersection at Buckland Street and Pleasant Valley Road. Called a “Single Point Urban Interchange,” it could be controlled with one set of lights.

A bridge would be built carrying one road over the other, and traffic turning from either road would use exit-ramp type connectors. A light under the bridge would stop traffic there, allowing turners to enter. Traffic travelling straight would pass over the intersection without stopping.

Officials say the idea comes from intersections in southern states, and there’s one in use on Route 15 in Fairfield.

Redoing this intersection would cost $70.15 million in 2015, according to the report.

Regarding a connection between I-291 and I-84, planners were able to get the link in one direction.

The study also suggests improving bike and pedestrian traffic, and creating a shuttle route so shoppers can park and take a shuttle to stores in the area.

Solving traffic problems in the area can be done in pieces, transportation officials say. And that’s important because the project faces competition.

“The bottom line is there’s a lot of competition for a lot of money,” said Trotta. He mentioned a similar study at the I-84 and Route 8 interchange in Waterbury as competition for this project.

James Morrin, the state’s transportation supervising planner, was put in charge of the project. “All these things don’t have to be done in order to make the traffic flow and the congestion dissipate,” he said at Wednesday’s meeting.

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