Groton looks to improve walking, bicycling safety and connectivity

Groton looks to improve walking, bicycling safety and connectivity

Jun. 1—GROTON — Residents here are sharing ideas for where to add sidewalks, slow down traffic, install signs, implement bike shares and improve crosswalks in the community.

They have identified areas of town with gaps in sidewalks or inadequate signage, roads where cars speed, and spots that would benefit from trails and paths or clearly marked crosswalks.

The town is seeking the comments as part of a project to make walking and bicycling safer and improve connections around town and to neighboring communities.

The Complete Streets and Trails Master Plan will help guide potential improvements to bicycling and pedestrian facilities over the next 10 to 15 years, said Parks and Recreation Director Mark Berry. The plan, expected to be completed in November, will be an update to the town’s bike and pedestrian plan from the mid-2000s.

The project comes after a recreation needs assessment in 2022 found increased trail and pathway connectivity was one of the community’s top priorities. The ensuing recreation master plan also identified it as a goal.

Brian Kent, the president of Bike Groton, a local bike and pedestrian advocacy group, and the chairman of the town’s Complete Streets Advisory Committee, said the project’s goals include improving safety and connections.

An overarching goal is to connect parks, neighborhoods, schools and places of employment and businesses, he said.

By making the community more livable, it also will encourage redevelopment that looks more like traditional New England villages, he said.

“The goal in the end is to have places that are just pleasant and healthy places to live and work and recreate,” Kent said.

As consultant, FHI Studio of Hartford develops the plan. It will map the town’s bike lanes, sidewalks and other facilities, and review proposed improvements and studies for the town, region and neighboring communities since residents bicycle from Groton to work outside the town, Berry said. The consultant will collect information, including crash data and the use of roads and bikeways, and analyze demand.

The consultant also will look at potential constraints to improvements, he said. For example, state roads need to go through the state’s process.

Community members can weigh in through focus groups and meetings. Also, an online survey and map will be available where they can drop pins and add comments about areas to improve.

The result of the $150,000 planning project will be a map with proposed new and improved bike and pedestrian facilities and connections, conceptual plans for projects and an action plan detailing the steps needed to make improvements, Berry said.

There also will be a couple of demonstration projects, such as temporary curbs or signage at an intersection to make it safer for pedestrians to cross.

Berry said the identification of potential projects and associated costs will be a benefit as the town takes steps to implement projects through grants or town capital improvement projects.

Complete Streets

The plan will incorporate Complete Streets principles, which accommodate people walking, biking, driving or using other means of transportation, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Kent said that a century ago, streets functioned as “complete streets” because everybody used them, no matter their age or status, and cars weren’t traveling 50 miles per hour. Everybody was going more slowly. Merchants were selling things, people were walking, and while the streets were not necessarily the safest places, there was more space to share.

Today, however, cars and trucks dominate the right-of-way, he said.

The idea of complete streets is to look at the entire right-of-way, from edge to edge, and make streets more valuable for residents by adding improvements such as sidewalks, space for bicycles and better drainage to prevent flooding.

He explained that narrowing the roadway generally reduces drivers’ speeds.

But Kent said there is “no one size fits all” and not every road needs to have sidewalks and bike lanes. Those types of improvements are more useful closer to mixed-use and more urban areas, like downtown areas and villages.

Kent said areas targeted for improvements could be corridors, such as the Route 1 corridor to make it safer from Mystic to Interstate 95.

“It’s a process where you really have to look at your community, and you have to customize these investments to fit your community, and so it’s a long slow process,” he said.

New England has more challenges than other parts of the country because it has features such as stone walls, old trees and narrow rights-of-way dating to colonial times that “zig and zag,” he said.

The town adopted a Complete Streets policy a couple of years ago, and the effort to develop the plan will bring together the local government, advocates, and the state.

“It’s just another step in the process of making Groton much more of a livable community with connections between places like the parks and the schools and the villages and the neighborhoods, so that we’re not so dependent on automobiles to take us from place to place when we’re close enough that we could get there much more efficiently and safely if we walked or biked,” Kent said.

Improvements underway

Improvements in the region are already being implemented or planned.

The state is planning to widen the pathway on the southbound Gold Star Bridge between Groton and New London.

Town of Groton Public Works Director Greg Hanover said the town last year installed a new sidewalk along the north side of Route 1 across the street from the Community Center and Town Hall.

The town has a Capital Improvement Program to fill in sidewalk gaps along the major roads in commercial areas and is designing sidewalks for along Route 1, between Bridge Street and Kings Highway, and a missing section in front of Poquonnock Plains Park, Hanover said.

“The Complete Streets and Trails Master Plan will provide us with a planning guide to prioritize other areas for future sidewalks,” he said.

The town also painted missing bike lane symbols on the pavement and installed bike lane signage on Groton Long Point Road, from Brook Street to Esker Point Beach, he said.

In addition, the state is planning a project to replace the Groton Long Point Road bridge over the Amtrak railroad that calls for bike lanes along Groton Long Point Road from Esker Point Beach to Robert E. Fitch High School; a new sidewalk on the west side of the road, to the south of the bridge; and sidewalks between Fishers View Drive and Mohegan Drive.

More information on the Complete Streets and Trails Master Plan is available at

[email protected]

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