Follow through on Route 12 Sub Base study
With its four lanes of fast-moving traffic and numerous parking lot entrances and exits, Groton’s Route 12 is the polar opposite to the concept of bicycle and pedestrian-friendly. Yet a recently released Joint Land Use Study for the Sub Base recommends the busy thoroughfare become just that – a more commuter-friendly route that includes a safer and more inviting atmosphere for those who walk or bike.
Even a quick drive along Route 12 in the vicinity of the base reveals just how difficult this task will be. The busy commercial strip is a jumble of strip malls, fast food restaurants, Navy housing and apartment and condominium complexes. Traffic can be a nightmare with vehicles changing lanes, entering and exiting the road at seemingly countless points, and sometimes traveling well above safe speeds.
Despite the complexity and difficulty of transforming Route 12 to a gentler place, this would be a welcome and overdue change.
The land use study was sponsored and coordinated by the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments, whose member municipalities encompass those flanking both sides of the Thames River, so the interests of the region beyond the base itself was well represented. The year-long analysis studied compatibility between base operations and development interests in the areas surrounding the military installation.
Making the base easier to access on foot or via bicycle were just two of many short- and long-term recommendations resulting from the study funded mostly by a more than $319,000 grant from the Department of Defense’s Office of Economic Adjustment. While the cost of the study was hefty, the results are comprehensive and the analysis included some highly complex aspects, considering the nature of base business and the security concerns in and around the site.
Other recommendations include creating a transportation hub on Route 12 near the base entrance to accommodate a bus stop and pick-up/drop-off points, developing a traffic management plan to help ease congestion on Crystal Lake Road at the south end of the base, implementing a bike share program between the base and Electric Boat and adding shuttle service between the base and Electric Boat.
Other recommendations speak more to safety and security concerns. These include designating a no-wake zone in the river near the base, stepping up education among recreational boaters about safety and security in the waters near the base, and considering purchasing open space on the west bank of the Thames which, if allowed to be developed, could provide views into secure areas of the base.
In short, the study produced many recommendations worthy of implementation. The challenge with such studies is implementation. The council of governments needs to keep the topic on its agenda, perhaps assigning an ad hoc committee − made up of base and local officials − to prioritize the various aspects of the project, outline the steps necessary to achieve success, and identify funding sources.
Among the recommendations with the broadest impact would be those aimed at the busy Route 12 corridor. Making it easier for commuters to leave their cars at home would reduce traffic on the road. Finding ways to encourage walking and biking are necessary at a time when many younger professionals are making these amenities a priority when considering places to call home.
It’s no secret that Connecticut must do more to attract and keep younger workers. Some of the recommendations resulting from this study would help achieve this goal, while improving the integration of the base and the community.