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February 8, 2024

In public hearing reboot, West Hartford offers several options for downtown street renovations

Contributed One option proposed for reconstructing Farmington Avenue includes adding a bike lane on one side of the street.

After a public hearing with stakeholders in November didn’t go so well, West Hartford officials tried again Wednesday morning with another hearing on proposed downtown street upgrades.

Duane Martin, the town’s director of community development, moderated the hearing, which presented several options for infrastructure work to reconstruct and modernize LaSalle Road between Farmington Avenue and Ellsworth Road, and a section of Farmington Avenue from North Main Street to Walden Street. 

The project, which is estimated to cost up to $15 million depending on the final design, will use money the town received during the pandemic under the federal American Rescue Plan Act.

The hearing on the West Hartford Center Infrastructure Master Plan was held in the Town Hall auditorium and attended by more than 40 residents and business owners. It was also available online and on the town’s cable access channel, West Hartford Community Interactive.

No final decision 

Martin opened the meeting by stating that no decisions would be made that day, stressing that the goal was to “obtain and process feedback,” including through electronic polling — both for those in the audience and watching online and for any town resident or business owner who was unable to attend.

He reviewed the concerns raised during the November hearing, which included the impact of construction on businesses, the loss of parking spaces and lack of loading zones, the unknown effects on utilities, the lack of detail for the construction timeline, and the feeling that the “process was being rushed.” 

To that point, Martin stated unequivocally that construction would not begin until at least the spring of 2025. He said town officials hope to have the design completed and to hire a contractor and construction manager for the project this year.

He was joined for the presentation by two representatives of Stantec, the consulting firm working with the town to develop the project’s design. 

Travis Ewen, an associate with Stantec, reviewed the existing condition of each street’s infrastructure, citing sidewalk hazards due to pavers heaving and settling, and noting that the trees along both streets, a majority of which are honey locusts, are showing “severe signs of stress” and in many cases have outgrown the tree pits in which they stand.

Stantec also studied parking, which Ewen told the audience “is a very big issue with you guys.” He said there are 170 on-street spaces depending on the outdoor dining options, and about 2,500 spaces in public and private lots. 

He also cited the crosswalks, for which he said the materials are at “the end of their useful life,” and that many cover distances over 50 feet. Pedestrian safety is a key issue being addressed by the master plan, following several fatal accidents in 2022.

The options

Ewen then presented the options for renovating and upgrading the streets, first for LaSalle Road and then for Farmington Avenue. For each street, he presented three or four options, with Option A in each case being what had been presented during the November hearing, Option B representing what he called the “baseline reconstruction,” and Option C representing a hybrid of the first two.

For LaSalle Road:

  • Option A includes creating parallel parking, widening sidewalks and expanding outdoor dining.
  • Option B leaves the street much as it is but with crosswalk improvements, and
  • Option C is a hybrid with angled parking, loading zones, and expanded sidewalks.

For Farmington Avenue:

  • Option A includes parallel parking with wider sidewalks and separate bike lanes.
  • Option B is a baseline reconstruction with angled parking and existing sidewalk width.
  • Option C is a hybrid with angled parking, loading zones, moderate sidewalks and a multi-use path, and
  • Option D has parallel parking with conventional in-road bike lanes on the north side of the street.

Crosswalk upgrades are included in each plan, though options for that were also presented that included adding bump outs and elevating the crosswalks to slow traffic.

Detailed renderings of each proposal can be viewed on the West Hartford Center Infrastructure Master Plan website.

Residents, business owners and other stakeholders can participate in the online poll over these options, Ewen said, adding that the poll, which is nonbinding, will remain open for two weeks. To participate, visit and use code 73 98 70 3.

Martin said that once a final plan is determined, the timeline for construction would be discussed, but that the work will be done in phases to minimize the impact on businesses.

He added that, “the more you carve up the project, the longer it will take to finish. But it will be less impactful to the abutting property owner.”

Mixed reaction

Reaction from stakeholders during the meeting was mixed, with one business owner praising the decision to do the work in phases, while another raised concerns about the possible removal of some parking spaces to accommodate the bicycle lanes on Farmington Avenue.

“As a business owner, I don’t see that much bike traffic,” said the woman, who did not identify herself or her business. “It worries me to put a bike lane in West Hartford Center. I just don’t think the culture is bike friendly, and I don’t think putting it there is going to make it bike friendly.”

Jason Schrieber, a senior principal with Stantec, defended the bike lanes, saying that studies have shown there are “significant increases in retail sales, 50% and up, with the provision of safe bicycling.”

Martin added that Wednesday’s hearing will not be the last on the project. He said another hearing will be held within two months, and that once a final project design is selected and the construction company and project manager are hired, hearings will be scheduled for stakeholders to meet with them and discuss the details.

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