Movement is gathering to oppose the cloverleaf design, otherwise known as Modified Cloverleaf with Option D2 and a push for the DOT to choose Alternate 12 A. The details from The Hour:
“I have reviewed the department’s presentation, as well as listened to my constituents that are in the affected area of the project. I am disappointed that the department is favoring the ‘Modified Cloverleaf with Option D2′ version of the project,” wrote state Rep. Lawrence F. Cafero Jr., R-142, House minority leader, in a letter to DOT Acting Commissioner H. James Boice on Friday. “I believe that this choice does not provide the best protection to the residents of the area, the motorists using this interchange, or the environment. I would prefer the Department select ‘Alternate 12A’ as the design for ‘the project.’”
According to Cafero, Alternate 12A would not require clearing of woodlands east of Perry Avenue, from Rae Lane to Louden Street. In addition, 12A would have a reduced impact on wetlands and make a safer drive for motorists traveling between the Merritt Parkway and Route 7 Connector.
Alternate 12A, while retaining ramps near Main Avenue, lacks cloverleafs where the parkway meets the connector. As such, the design cuts less into the Silvermine neighborhood than does the cloverleaf design.
Cafero is not alone in questioning the modified cloverleaf design, which the DOT and Merritt Parkway Conservancy, one of a number of preservationist groups that halted the state’s original design two years ago, have agreed upon as an acceptable alternative.
Michael G. Mushak, a landscape architect who lives in South Norwalk and uses the existing interchange daily, said that he cannot understand “why there was this bandwagon that everyone jumped on so quickly for the cloverleaf.” He describes the modified cloverleaf as “inherently flawed.”“This cloverleaf option is going to destroy more wetlands. (Alternate) 12A covers less land, so it basically takes up less area, and cloverleafs apparently need a lot of space,” Mushak said. “The biggest advantage of 12A is it does not have the weave, where the entrance ramp is dumping traffic onto the road as people are trying to exit (where) you have entering traffic merging with exiting traffic.”
Mushak rejects that the ramps proposed in Alternate 12A are overbuilt or unsightly. Ramp heights are lowered from 30 feet to 10 feet, as compared to the state’s original design, he said.
“Many people hated the original parkway when it was built, and one critic even described it, coincidentally, as a ‘hideous scar on the landscape,’” Mushak said. “In other words, one person’s hideous ramp is another person’s soaring and graceful expression of freedom and possibility.”
On March 18, residents, advocacy groups and local officials heard about the Modified Cloverleaf with Option D2 and other alternate designs during a public scoping meeting at Norwalk City Hall. The DOT and the Merritt Parkway Conservancy both prefer the modified cloverleaf design, which is characterized by its looping ramps that allow access to the parkway and Route 7 in all directions.
Most everyone who spoke at the meeting favored the new design, though it introduces what traffic engineers call a “weave” between the on and off ramps of exit 39. Some cars will try to merge right to exit the parkway onto Route 7 while others will be trying to merge left to get out of the exit lane.
At the same time, one official acknowledged safety issues exist with cloverleaf designs, which leaves traffic to merge. This can result in sideswipes, rear-ending and more congestion, said Stephen Ulman, a principal engineer for Purcell Associates, which built computer models of traffic for the interchange plan.
“Weaves are not something we like to introduce,” Ulman said before the meeting. “We live with them.”
State Sen. Bob Duff, D-25, majority whip, while not opposing the cloverleaf design at the scoping meeting, said this week that he needs more information. On Wednesday, Duff wrote Boice and the Parkway Conservancy Chairman Peter Malkin, asking them to include the suggestions of area residents before beginning preliminary work on the cloverleaf design.
“I’m happy that the Department of Transportation and the Merritt Parkway Conservancy were able to reach an agreement on the long-awaited interchange between the parkway and Route 7,” wrote Duff. “However, I would encourage both the department and the conservancy to incorporate the suggestions of area neighbors, who have expressed concerns about both the safety and the environmental impact of the plan.”
Duff said he asked the DOT to extend the public comment period to another public meeting.
Although the modified cloverleaf design “was pitched as the preferred alternative” at the March 18 meeting, the DOT hasn’t made its final decision and is continuing to accept public input, according to Judd Everhart, transportation department spokesman.
“I would say that the cloverleaf currently at the forefront is certainly the preferred plan by the DOT and the conservancy. Having said that, we have not made a final decision. We are continuing to accept public input,” Everhart said Friday. “We’ll probably have at least one pubic hearing this spring. And then we anticipate making a final decision on design sometime in 2009. So there’s still a good deal of time.”
The cloverleaf option is estimated to cost between $98 million and $124 million.
According to the Parkway Conservancy, the modified cloverleaf design is the best choice because it maintains as best possible the historic characteristics of the parkway, the new bridges at Main Avenue and Perry Avenue will be built to a “style and standard consistent with the original bridges built on the parkway,” ramps to and from the parkway will not be lit, and the design requires less and shorter lengths of ramps.
The design also improves traffic movement, is easier to construct, less disruptive to traffic and business during construction, and would cost $30 to $50 million less to build than the original design advanced by the DOT several years ago, according to the conservancy.
In 2005, the DOT halted work on an earlier design in the face of a lawsuit brought on by the Merritt Parkway Conservancy and nearly a half-dozen other preservationist groups.
I’m not a fan of the weave traffic plan, it affects everyone’s commute, beyond making a hazard for Norwalkers getting on and off. So, make the calls and emails to our legislators and let see if we can all put Norwalk’s interests on this one.
source: The Hour, Cloverleaf design not so magic for some critics, March 29, 2008