The West Hartford Town Council unanimously approved an ordinance Tuesday to improve traffic safety at four intersections.
By Ronni Newton
An ordinance change unanimously approved by the West Hartford Town Council Tuesday night will promote traffic safety by prohibiting motorists from blocking specific intersections.
The four intersections – which Town Manager Matt Hart said were identified by town staff and brought to the attention of the Town Council in committee – which will have consistent hash markings and signage, notifying motorists that they should not block the space, are:
- New Park Avenue at 470 New Park Ave., at the driveway to the CTFastrak Station
- Farmington Avenue at 4 North Main St., westbound lanes at the Bank of America exit
- Raymond Road at 103 Raymond Rd., the emergency vehicle access driveway at the police and fire station
- Farmington Avenue (Route 4) at Everett Avenue
“Do not block the box” traffic control measures are used where an unsafe condition exists, where motorists are likely to make an unsafe maneuver that could lead to a crash, Town Engineer Duane Martin said at a public hearing that preceded the Town Council vote.
Hash markings on the pavement, and consistent signage indicating that motorists should avoid blocking the area or be subject to fine, will appear in all four areas, Martin said.
The state Department of Transportation approached the town about adding the traffic control measure at the driveway to the CTFastrak station, Martin said.
The exit from Bank of America onto Farmington Avenue is unsafe, particularly for motorists making lefthand turns, and is the site of frequent crashes. Raymond Road needs access for emergency vehicles, and traffic is often blocking the Everett Avenue intersection, Martin said. A left-hand turn lane will be added at Everett Avenue as well.
Three of the intersections will have the hash markings on only one side of the roadway. Raymond Road is the exception, and already has the markings in all lanes.
The ordinance, which conforms with Connecticut General Statutes § 14-250b(a), “provides that motor vehicle operators shall not proceed into intersections that a municipality has ‘designated, posted, and marked.'” Creation of the measure as an ordinance requires the town to update the state when such intersections are identified, and also allows police to issue fines to motorists who fail to comply.
The fine for violation of the ordinance is set by the state, and is $117, which is paid to the state, Corporation Counsel Pat Alair said.
Minority Leader Chris Barnes asked if violation would result in points on a driver’s license, and Alair said it does not appear so.
Barnes also said that he wants to ensure that people clearly understand the penalty for stopping in the box.
Democrat Liam Sweeney asked if left turns could be prohibited instead of adding the box at the Bank of America exit on Farmington Avenue. Turning left from that exit is difficult because the view is impeded, he said.
Mayor Shari Cantor agreed, and noted “although you may be able to turn left doesn’t mean you should turn left.”
LB Lewis, the one member of the public who spoke at the hearing, also asked about restricting left turns from that driveway. “Why are patrons of the bank being valued higher than ordinary citizens of West Hartford?” he said. There should be no reason to make a left turn that causes a hazard, just for the convenience of bank customers.
Martin said that while traffic studies are done as part of the review for construction projects, and there could be the opportunity to restrict turning movements at that time, after the fact it’s more challenging because it’s up to the property owner, who may feel like the restriction is a detriment.
These situations have developed over the years, Alair said, and three of the four intersections have been in place longer than the town has had codes of ordinances.
Democrat Leon Davidoff noted that the ordinance is to allow for emergency vehicle access, and “to improve pedestrian, bicycle, and car safety.” It is not being enacted as a way to catch violators, and police will not be stationed at the intersections waiting to issue tickets.
Town Manager Matt Hart agreed, and said he will work with police so that a warning, rather than a ticket, will be issued for first offenses.
Town officials also agreed to at least have a conversation with the property owner where Bank of America is located regarding restricting left turns onto Farmington Avenue.
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