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NEW HAVEN Dangerous intersections named

March 20, 2019

NEW HAVEN — Several dangerous intersections where drivers speed through red lights were highlighted at a meeting of the Board of Alders’ Public Safety Committee Tuesday at City Hall.

Alder Abigail Roth, D-7, focused on the intersection of York Street and South Frontage Road, between the Air Rights Garage and Yale New Haven Hospital, which she crosses regularly. “I spent three hours in August at that intersection and saw 156 red-light runners at that intersection,” she said.

Referring to the number of tickets issued by police, which Sgt. Pedro Colón said averaged 2,502 annually between 2015 and 2018, Roth joined others in saying there needed to be more enforcement. “I see every day cars go through that red light because there’s no penalty.”

There have been two pedestrian fatalities in the city this year, she said.

Alder Ron Hurt, D-3, acting chairman of the committee, said, “We share that intersection of Frontage Road and York Street ... with Yale New Haven Hospital and Yale Medical School,” with patients’ families, hospital employees and medical students often running across the road to beat the light.

“There’ve been some hits and bumps and some scrapes,” he said. “I walk there basically every morning sometimes and I see a whole lot of speeding. There has to be some speeding enforcement.”

“We’re there at least twice a week and we have at least 40 violations every time we’re out there,” Colón said.

Roth asked Colón how high above the speed limit a driver has to be driving in order to be pulled over. He said that typically police will ticket a driver going 15 mph above the limit. “On a 25 [mph limit], usually 40 and above, that’s what would get us to stop the speeder.”

Roth said that the risk of serious injury and death “goes up drastically between 25 and 35 miles per hour and if you’re waiting until 40 miles per hour ... that’s concerning.”

“I know it does seem like a crazy number but if it’s an open street like the Boulevard, it’s not that fast,” Colón said.

Later Lt. Sean Maher clarified that police “typically target those cars that are in the top 15 percent of violators. That typically correlates with going 15 miles [per hour] over the speed limit.” He said he and his officers have written many tickets when drivers have been caught going less than 15 mph over the limit, but that they focus on “the most egregious, that has the most risk to human life and those are the ones we’re targeting because we can’t stop every car on the road.”

Alder Renee Haywood called for cameras on the stop lights that photograph cars running through a red light, as did Rob Rocke of North Bank Street.

“From my point of view, walking, biking and traveling through New Haven, there is not enough enforcement being done,” he said. He said arguments about “Big Brother” invading citizens’ privacy are not legitimate, given that smartphones and other devices record much private information. “The privacy argument just doesn’t hold up to rational scrutiny anymore,” he said.

Colón said that between 2015 and 2018, city police were called to 28,866 accidents and issued 44,142 citations, with 2018 being “one of our lowest” years for citations, with 9,435. He said he thought the drop in citations was a result of “a combination of enforcement and engineering planning from the city,” such as speed humps and more signs.

Other areas that alders and members of the public pointed out as being particularly dangerous were the intersections of Whalley Avenue and Ella T. Grasso Boulevard, the Boulevard and Route 1, Howe Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard, College Street and Congress Avenue and Foxon Boulevard (Route 80) near Walmart and McDonald’s.

“I was almost in an accident last week,” Haywood said of Route 80. “People are shooting from the hotel [on the north side of the road] and shooting straight across ... to that McDonald’s,” which she said was not in fact directly across the street. She also said Quinnipiac Avenue and Hemingway Street, which meet at an acute angle, form a dangerous intersection.

“You almost can’t say who’s at fault because each car’s got to pull half out of their lane to make the turn,” she said.

Doug Hausladen, the city’s director of transportation, traffic, and parking, said the city has applied for a Community Connectivity Grant, totaling more than $300,000, to build sidewalks at the intersection of Ella T. Grasso Boulevard and Route 1, where in one area there is barely enough space between the road and Evergreen Cemetery to walk.

Hausladen said the lack of crossing signals creates “the lack of ability for a human to cross the street” at the intersection, which also has been ranked as the second most dangerous intersection in the state for bicyclists by the state Department of Transportation.

“You’re not supposed to be there as a human. You’re supposed to be there as a car or a truck passing through,” he said. “Just walking to the Adult Board of Ed is hard. Walking to Columbus House is hard.”

According to DOT spokesman Kevin Nursick, the Routes 1 and 10 intersection, is part of a project that will begin construction in 2021. “This project will also install all new traffic signal equipment,” Nursick wrote in an email. “Design has not yet begun in this project so it is unknown what pedestrian accommodations will be provided.”

He said another project will begin in spring 2020 and improve the intersections of Route 80 with Quinnipiac Avenue and Eastern Street. “All new traffic signal equipment will be installed, including upgraded pedestrian amenities at the intersection,” he wrote, including signals for those with vision impairments. “New sidewalk ramps that meet ADA requirements will be installed at all 4 corners of the intersection.”

edward.stannard@hearstmediact.com; 203-680-9382.

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