The Town of West Hartford’s Engineering Department has provided some information and tips regarding the traffic pattern and parking plan on LaSalle Road.
By Ronni Newton
LaSalle Road became a one-way street, headed northbound, when the Town of West Hartford first installed dining corrals in the roadway in June 2020, and although the barriers were removed for the winter, the direction of the road and the switch to head-out angled parking have remained in place.
Bike lanes were also added to each side of LaSalle Road.
In November, when the dining corrals were removed for the season, an additional block of LaSalle Road – between Ellsworth Road and Arapahoe Road – remained open to two-way traffic but transitioned to the head-out angled parking arrangement.
“Unfortunately the new parking configuration has not worked as well as it was intended,” Assistant Town Engineer Greg Sommer said, and parking between Ellsworth and Arapahoe will be restored to head-in angled parking, facing in the direction of the traffic flow, early this spring.
On Friday afternoon, nearly every vehicle parked on that stretch of LaSalle Road was parked head-in anyway. The vehicles parked on the west side of the road were parked so that backing out to head southbound would create an awkward maneuver – and the drivers had likely pulled into those spaces from the northbound direction after executing a U-turn.
As the roadway has been cleared of snow over the winter, the lines that were painted in November have become fainter, and the old parking space designations have reappeared, creating a cross-hatch of confusing markings.
The intent has been for spaces on the east side of LaSalle to be available to drivers headed northbound on the two-way portion of the road, with southbound traffic parking on the west side. Sommer urged drivers not to cross the centerline to park in an empty space on the opposite side of the road.
“This may cause an accident, especially when exiting the parking space,” he said.
“In the next few weeks or so we will grind off the markings,” Sommer said. He’s hoping that the weather will be warm enough for the painting of new lines to take place by mid-March.
Sommer confirmed that the head-out angled parking will remain for the northern portion of the roadway, where the traffic will also remain one-way. The town is anticipating dining corrals will be able to return this spring, and the traffic pattern will be able to accommodate the traffic flow while they are in place.
According to the town, some motorists still occasionally attempt to drive southbound on LaSalle, but “Do Not Enter” and “Wrong Way” signs, as well as barriers at Farmington Avenue, are in place to prevent that.
Head-out angled parking – requiring the motorist to back into the space – gives the driver a greater field of vision when leaving. Head-out angled parking is used in more than 32 major cities, and studies have indicated that it is safer, easier, and more accommodating for loading and unloading, town officials said.
Sommer said that head-out angled parking requires the motorist to perform an easy three-step maneuver:
- Signal a right turn to other drivers
- Pull past the parking spot and stop, and
- Reverse into the parking spot in just one move
Head-out angled parking also provides a greater field of vision when exiting the parking space, and is safer for the adjacent bicycle lanes. (See graphic below.)
It is also recommended by the Automobile Club of America (AAA), Sommer said.
“Every parking maneuver requires a motorist to either back into or out of a parking space. It is much safer to back into a parking space, when a driver can clearly see what’s behind them than to back out into moving traffic with adjacent vehicles obstructing a driver’s field of vision,” said Sommer. Backing out of a parking spaces is a common cause of crashes.
Now that a majority of vehicles have rear-view cameras, backing into a parking space is easier, Sommer said.
“Motorists may not feel comfortable making a car behind them wait while they back in, however this is no different from vehicles waiting while a driver backs out of a parking space,” Sommer said. “The procedure also requires the same steps to parallel park. Initially it may be a bit awkward to head-out park, but with practice, drivers will become more comfortable and skilled.”
Other parking configurations are available throughout West Hartford Center, including in off-street lots, parallel parking spaces along Farmington Avenue, and head-in parking along South Main Street.
There are 33 short-term (15- and 30-minute) free parking spaces that remain available for curbside pick-up. They are located on LaSalle Road, South Main Street, Farmington Avenue, Memorial Road, and Isham Road.
Kiosks in the Farmington Avenue and Brace Road off-street lots also allow for 30-minute free parking.
Shoppers, diners, clients and employees requiring longer parking sessions are asked to use the municipal lots and parking garages.
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