Downtown Traffic Loop
A central element of the 1965 Downtown Plan, the first comprehensive look at the downtown, was the establishment of a “ring road” around the downtown. The establishment of the “ring road” was intended to remove through traffic from Main Street and take this traffic around the Central Business District. In this way Main Street would become a heavily landscaped access road whose primary function was a pedestrian friendly parking area. A portion of this “ring road,” Rapallo Avenue, deKoven Drive and Union Street, was completed during previous redevelopment efforts.
While this idea still has a great deal of merit, it was proposed at a time when there was very little sensitivity to historic structures and huge amounts of federal monies were available to undertake urban renewal. Today the implementation of the western portion of the ring as proposed in 1965 would, for all intents and purposes, be impossible.
To widen Pearl and Grand Streets to the width proposed would require the demolition of many historic multi-family homes.
However, a modified ring from Washington Street to High and/or Broad Street to Church Street to Pleasant Street to Union Street to deKoven Drive to Rapallo Avenue to Main Street back to Washington Street could be developed and promoted through the use of signage as an alternative for through traffic. If formally established, this modified ring would allow access to parking areas at the rear of Main Street buildings from several side streets running perpendicular to the ring.
By removing a portion of the through traffic from Main Street, south of Washington Street, Main Street can become more pedestrian friendly as a landscaped boulevard with textured crosswalks and other urban design elements. Due to congestion and traffic lights, traffic currently moves fairly slowly on Main Street and traffic should move slowly on Main Street. But it should move slowly, not due to congestion or traffic lights, but because Main Street is attractive, inviting and interesting. The modified ring road is a major part of accomplishing this objective.
In 1989 the City of Middletown contracted with Wilbur Smith Associates to conduct a detailed downtown traffic study. The result of the study was several excellent short and long-term recommendations. The recommendations were designed to improve traffic flow in the downtown area, including the above-discussed modified ring road and a possible prohibition on left turns on Main Street. This study was adopted by the Planning and Zoning Commission and forwarded to the Police Department for implementation. To date, none of the suggested improvements have been implemented.
It is time to review the plan and begin its implementation.