Reconnecting the Elm City: A look at the next phase of the Downtown Crossing Project in New Haven

New Haven

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – More than 60 years ago, the construction of Route 34 tore New Haven apart. For the past 20 years, they’ve been trying to piece it back together.

A stoplight, a crosswalk, it will be just a regular city intersection when it’s done.

“We’re creating a new gateway to the downtown and to the city,” said Donna Hall, Downtown Crossing Project Manager.

They’re also reclaiming land taken back in the 50s when they built the trench through downtown, which was Route 34.

“The previous plan was all about cars, and they saw the future of cities being about cars, and I don’t think that that’s what New Haven was ever about,” Hall said.

Hall is the project manager for this phase of what is called Downtown Crossing. The first phase included 100 College Street, a bio-science building that went up right over that trench. Under construction now is 1010 College, a similar building one block closer to I-95.

First will come the Orange Street intersection, which is crucial in bringing together the Hill and downtown neighborhoods.

“Making this area more walkable, more bikeable, but also just more friendly,” said New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker.

When you do start walking around, there is something the city wants you to keep in mind. To get across Frontage Road, you’re going to have to press two different walk buttons. The first one gets you from one side of Frontage Road over to the center median. Once you get over there, you’re going to have to press another button, wait for the walk sign, and then get the rest of the way across.

The reason for all of that is because of all the lanes of traffic you have to cross.

The intersection is surrounded by bioswales, designed to absorb storm runoff and prevent flooding. When you do cross, you head straight to Union Station instead of the convoluted path pedestrians used to take. Also crossing will be bicycles in their separate, protected bike lane.

“New Haven is a great place to bike because it’s flat and most things are pretty close, and having more infrastructure like this is a way to provide more residents an opportunity to bike,” said Elicker said.

Something that appeals to bioscience companies and their employees, and that’s who the city is targeting.

“Innovation districts like this around the country are very walkable, they’re bike [and] pedestrian-friendly. They’re connected to the neighborhoods,” said Michael Piscitelli, New Haven Economic Development Administrator.

Those neighborhoods are growing with 1,800 nearby housing units under construction or about to start.

“That includes 300 here at the Coliseum site, another 800 around Wooster Square, right by the edge of Wooster Street as it connects to downtown,” Piscitelli said.

With the new, very normal-looking intersection, that downtown will now start at Orange Street.

“Connecting the neighborhoods with the downtown, expanding the central business district through these connections, I think is really important as we grow,” Hall said.

When will you actually be able to cross the street? Due to supply chain issues holding up some crucial hardware, the city now anticipates opening the intersection in early to mid-December.

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