CTDOT Talks Haddam Roundabouts, Accidents, Traffic Headaches

HADDAM – One of the more notable changes of many slated for Tylerville is a plan by the state to install two roundabouts on Saybrook Road at the intersection of Bridge Road and the Route 9 connector.

Turning north onto Saybrook Road from the connector can be a nightmare already – especially in the evening rush – as drivers waiting at the stop sign for free-flowing traffic on Saybrook Road to clear face backups and long delays. Without the change, the situation is only expected to get worse as traffic increases in the area, according to the Connecticut Department of Transportation.

“If you’ve ever come off of Route 9 onto the connector and tried to go north on 154, during rush hour evening rush hour, you know how bad that traffic can be and how much the traffic flow needs to be improved,” Haddam First Selectman Robert McGarry said at the start of an informational hearing on the proposed roundabouts this week. “That’s what this project is aimed to do.”

The Connecticut Department of Transportation will be installing two “modern roundabouts” at the intersections – in contrast to Massachusetts’ notorious high-speed rotaries — the same type of low-speed, single-line, circular intersections the department has been installing across the state.

The evening backups at the Route 9 Connector’s intersection with Saybrook Road can be as long as 600 feet, causing a delay of just over three minutes, said Department of Transportation highway design engineer Joe Jazwicz. The department estimated that the delay would double by 2040.

The roundabout at the Route 9 Connector will slow traffic on Saybrook Road, which is now free-flowing, but would nearly eliminate the delay for cars entering from the connector, explained department engineer Charles Grillo.

Nationally, converting intersections into roundabouts has led to a 78 percent reduction in severe crashes and a 48 percent reduction in overall crashes, and the state’s department of transportation claims similar gains at state-built roundabouts in Connecticut.

The roundabouts eliminate the “crossing-type conflict points” where vehicles can have head-on or “T-bone” collisions, which are often the most severe collisions, Grillo said. The roundabouts also slow vehicles down from about 50 miles an hour going through an open intersection, down to about 20 mph.

Project manager Joe Arsenault said the rehabilitation of the swing bridge should reduce the swing time by 20 percent, improving the backups caused by the bridge opening. If the backups reach the new roundabout, they will stop traffic, just like at a signalized intersection, but the traffic should clear faster than it would with a traffic light.

Along with improving traffic flow, the department will also extend sidewalks at the Bridge Road intersection, connecting the “Saybrook at Haddam” assisted living center, and a planned apartment complex, to Bridge Road. 

Additional sidewalks are planned to extend to the bridge, where renovations will include a pedestrian walkway to East Haddam. The department will also replace a bridge carrying Saybrook Road over Clark Creek, just north of the connector. The concrete bridge, built in 1931, is considered functionally obsolete, said highway design engineer Joe Jazwicz.

The department is also considering constructing a viewing area over the Clark Creek cascades, and replacing the gravel and dirt pull-offs where people park to look at the creek with official parking areas. 

McGarry said the construction projects in Tylerville – particularly the rehabilitation of the swing bridge that is expected to  start next fall last through 2024 – will result in significant traffic problems and have a huge effect on the businesses in the area.

“Please support those merchants, starting now and through the construction period and beyond, as much as you can,” McGarry said. “They need our support. We need them to be here when all this construction is done.”

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