Business Government The Center

Public Meeting and Poll Will Seek Input on West Hartford Center Infrastructure Master Plan Options

Intersection of LaSalle Road and Farmington Avenue in West Hartford Center. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

Options for the redesign of LaSalle Road and Farmington Avenue will be presented live at a public meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 7, at 8:30 a.m. in the West Hartford Town Hall auditorium, but there will also be the option to to review and provide input online.

Farmington Avenue in West Hartford Center, looking east. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

By Ronni Newton

The Town of West Hartford’s plan to improve and update some of the aged infrastructure in the Center is continuing to evolve, and Duane Martin, the director of Community Development, told We-Ha.com that multiple options will be presented at a meeting on Feb. 7.

The Town of West Hartford, in collaboration with its hired consultant Stantec, has been working on a plan to update the infrastructure in the Center since mid-2022, and the meeting on Feb. 7, scheduled for 8:30 to 10 a.m. in the Town Hall auditorium (snow date is Feb. 26, at the same time and place), was planned as a project update meeting for business owners and managers located in or abutting the Center but is also open to the general public.

At the Feb. 7 meeting, boards with the various options will be displayed around the room, providing the opportunity to  view design options for long- and short-term improvements and speak with town staff and the consulting team.

There will be a PowerPoint presentation that will review the history of the project and highlight the options. Those in attendance will be able to respond live to a a nine-question poll using their smartphones, but Martin said the meeting will also be live-streamed and recorded for those not able to attend, and the poll will be also be available online to all members of the community with the ability to respond to vote through Feb. 21.

West Hartford Center Infrastructure Master Plan project area. Screenshot from Town of West Hartford website

At the Feb. 7 meeting there will be three different concept plans presented for LaSalle Road, and four plans for Farmington Avenue. The poll will be used to refine the concept plans, and another public meeting will be scheduled, likely in March, according to Martin.

At a previous meeting with West Hartford Center businesses held on Nov. 6, 2023, multiple aspects of the West Hartford Center Infrastructure Master Plan that were unveiled were not well received. A letter was also sent to the Town Council by West Hartford Center businesses and property owners.

Martin said the primary concerns raised at the Nov. 6 meeting and in the letter – sidewalk design, parking arrangement, and construction timeline – were heard, and have been taken into account in the various options that will now be presented.

Concept plans for LaSalle Road presented on Nov. 7, 2023 as part of the West Hartford Center Infrastructure Master Plan. Screenshot from Town of West Hartford website

“We’re not throwing out the last ones,” Martin said, but there will be additional options to consider – a total of three options for LaSalle Road and four for Farmington Avenue. The decision won’t be made on Wednesday either, he emphasized, and there will be plenty of time for additional public input. He said town staff wants to be sure that there is enough outreach to the community, and while not all options will please all stakeholders – for example the town’s “strong contingent of bicycle advocates” and business owners looking to preserve parking spaces may not always agree – there needs to be balance.

Concept plans for Farmington Avenue presented on Nov. 7, 2023 as part of the West Hartford Center Infrastructure Master Plan. Screenshot from Town of West Hartford website

The construction timeline will largely be dependent on the options chosen, Martin added. Requiring work to be done at night could prolong the project, and add to the costs, and Martin said better estimates will be able to be provided once the design decision is made.

Staff has refined the cost estimates previously mentioned, but Martin said that even replacing street trees is more than just digging a pit and planting a tree but rather includes creation of new tree wells that will ensure the longterm health of the trees.

Sidewalks in the Center are in need of repair, and trees are in need of replacement. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

All of the options include various traffic calming measures, updated amenities like benches and lighting, and changes to the sidewalk surface as well as possibly the width. While the focus is primarily on the roadway design for both LaSalle Road and Farmington Avenue, Martin said one of the recommendations made by Stantec is to change what is currently the entrance to the Farmington Avenue parking lot from Farmington Avenue to an exit. The current exit onto South Main Street, which has challenging site lines and little space on the sidewalk, would become another entrance under that plan.

One of the possible changes to the Center is switching the entrance and exits to the Farmington Avenue parking lot. The entrance shown at right would become an exit, and the current exit onto South Main Street would become an entrance. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

The final decision on how to move forward will take into account the public input, as well as input from the town’s Engineering and Public Works departments, and recommendations from the consultant. Ultimately, the town manager is the local traffic authority.

According to Town Manager Rick Ledwith, $3.8 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds has already been allocated for the West Hartford Center Infrastructure Master Plan project. Any additional funding requests will need to be approved by the Town Council.

Once the design plan is finalized there will need to be an RPF issued to hire a contractor. Martin said there will not be any construction in 2024 on either LaSalle Road or Farmington Avenue, and he expects it to instead begin after the winter of 2025.

It had been previously announced that last year would be the final year of expanded outdoor dining in the Center because it was anticipated that construction would be taking place. “The determination has not been made yet” regarding what will happen this year, Ledwith said.

An updated draft of West Hartford Center Infrastructure Master Plan options has not yet been released, but the presentation documents from Nov. 6, 2023 can be viewed through this link. When posted, updates will be found on the project webpage on the town website.

Looking south at LaSalle Road at the intersection with Farmington Avenue in West Hartford Center. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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