BRISTOL â€“ The stateâ€™s plan to make major changes to the intersection of Routes 72 and 69 will help jump start improvements to the West End, according to Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu. â€śItâ€™s a little bit of pain for a lot of gain.â€ť
The Connecticut Department of Transportation held a public information meeting on the project recently. It will involve widening Route 72, shifting it to the north, and adding dedicated left turn lanes, and extending Pratt Street one block north to connect with 72. Divinity Street will be terminated at its intersection with Landry Street.
The estimated cost is $6 million, 80% federally funded and 20% state funded, said Joseph Arsenault, project engineer.
â€śWeâ€™ve been monitoring this project for years. Weâ€™re happy that weâ€™ve gotten to the point where we have a project number and funding attached to it, which is really important,â€ť said Zoppo-Sassu.
The neighborhood, which is historic and densely populated, has been struggling for years, she said. â€śThis is one of those projects that can actually pivot and start to change some of the socioeconomic and perception issues in this neighborhood.â€ť
The plan includes demolishing four multi-family buildings along Route 72, which the mayor said will help lower the housing density in the West End.
â€śOur code enforcement initiative has been at work for years trying to clean up and introduce good landlords to this area, and for the most part I think weâ€™ve been pretty successful,â€ť she said.
The cityâ€™s 2015 Plan of Conservation and Development and 2011 A Plan for the West End Neighborhood both address the housing density in the neighborhood, Zoppo-Sasssu said.
They address creating more parking spaces and lowering housing density through selective demolition, she said, â€śso that everybody has a little bit more green space, a little bit more breathing room.â€ť
The city is interested in pursuing selective demolition even beyond what is included in the DOTâ€™s project, she said.
â€śAnd letâ€™s not forget that we have the Pequabuck River as a resource,â€ť she added, noting that the city is looking to connect pedestrian and bicycle paths from Memorial Boulevard to Rockwell Park.
Zoppo-Sassu said there is another DOT project that is just in the conceptual stages right now, that could eventually re-align Route 72 to come through Brackett Park, so it wouldnâ€™t turn down Main Street to connect with School Street, she said.
That would help to further connect the West End with Riverside Avenue, â€śwhich is in desperate need of a facelift,â€ť and all the way to the planned bridge improvement project where Blakeslee and Downs streets, Riverside and Memorial Boulevard meet, she said.
â€śSo we are really interested in continuing the partnership and conversation with the DOT because as this project comes to fruition there are all these other opportunities to add other pieces to it as well. It can really help redefine what weâ€™re doing downtown, and this neighborhood specifically,â€ť she said.
Susan Corica can be reached at 860-973-1802 or firstname.lastname@example.org.