The re-striping of LaSalle Road in West Hartford Center was completed Wednesday and the parking arrangement has been changed as well.
By Ronni Newton
Public Works crews began removing existing striping on LaSalle Road early the morning of April 10, in preparation for a conversion of the roadway to two-way from Arapahoe to Farmington Avenue along with a change in the parking arrangement from “head-out angled” to “head-in angled,” meaning drivers will no longer need to back into the spaces.
The re-striping was completed – including a new double yellow line down the center of LaSalle Road – by late Wednesday morning, but Director of Community Development Duane Martin said the road would not be able to completely re-open to to-way traffic until a Connecticut Natural Gas Company crew finished excavation work at the intersection of Farmington Avenue and LaSalle Road.
“I hope so,” was Martin’s response about whether the work would be completed Wednesday.
Public Works crews also modified the traffic signal on Farmington Avenue, which now has a left-turn arrow for westbound traffic turning south onto LaSalle Road. Some of the parking on the south side Farmington Avenue, that was angled parking, has been converted back to parallel parking to accommodate traffic headed south onto LaSalle Road.
A digital sign, as well as other signage, has been installed to alert both drivers and pedestrians to the change in the traffic pattern. While this change may create some confusion at first, ultimately the hope is that it will reduce confusion as well as complaints – which often flared up on social media, in particular regarding the head-out angled parking.
“While the back-in angled parking was well intended, it generated a lot of complaints and will have less compliance with the two-way traffic flow,” the town said in an announcement of the change.
In his report to the Town Council on Tuesday night, Town Manger Rick Ledwith said the decision to return LaSalle Road to two-way traffic flow with traditional angled parking came “after receiving recommendations from the Town’s Center Master Plan consultant, public input, and feedback from adjacent restaurant and business owners. The two-way traffic flow will reduce neighborhood traffic impacts, especially for Woodrow Street.”
When the Town Council held a public hearing in December 2022 regarding the proposal by the Arapahoe Group to construct a condominium and mixed use residential and commercial building in the Center, traffic was cited as a key concern. Many area residents said that since LaSalle had become one-way, there had been a significant increase in traffic on neighborhood streets. The Arapahoe Group project was ultimately approved, and the developer has committed to partnering with the town to implement further traffic calming measures.
At a public meeting in February seeking additional input for the West Hartford Center Infrastructure Master Plan, the consultant, Stantec, indicated they would be recommending the change to the traffic flow and parking arrangement on LaSalle Road right away. Now that the town has decided to implement their recommendation, Stantec will be preparing a final report and designs for both LaSalle Road and Farmington Avenue. According to Ledwith, the construction work will likely take place during 2024.
In June 2020, when expanded outdoor dining corrals were first installed to assist restaurants with dining capacity restraints in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, traffic on LaSalle Road was converted to one-way northbound in part to accommodate the narrower travel lanes. There is still space for the outdoor dining corrals, however, and the change in traffic flow on LaSalle Road will not prevent the installation of expanded outdoor dining in West Hartford Center this season.
On Tuesday night, the Town Council voted to unanimously in favor of amending its Outdoor Dining ordinance to align with state regulations that take effect May 1, 2023. The most significant aspect of the change is a streamlining of the process of applying for outdoor dining. It will now require administrative approval by the town planner, rather than application for site plan approval which would include a hearing.
Barriers for expanded outdoor dining are expected to be deployed the week of May 8, according to Economic Development Coordinator Kristen Gorski.
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This is a step backwards WeHa, cmon now.