Seeking to transform Main Street in Manchester
The project will make Main Street safer and friendlier to users of all modes of transportation, including, but not limited to, pedestrians, cyclists, motorists, and transit riders.
What is a Complete Street?
The foundation of this project is a road diet, which creates the necessary space for most of the improvements. A road diet typically involves converting an existing four-lane, undivided roadway segment to a three-lane segment consisting of two through lanes and left-turn lane.
Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) studies of road diet projects have found simply reducing the number of lanes dedicated to cars reduces vehicle crashes by 19 to 52 percent as a result of reduced speeds and fewer potential collision points, including far fewer rear-end and left-turn crashes due to the dedicated left-turn lane.
What does a road diet on Main Street look like?
Main Street today is generally comprised of four vehicle lanes (two lanes in each direction) and two parking lanes. A typical section of Main Street is shown below with angled parking on the east side and parallel parking on the west side.
A road diet for the same section of Main Street could have 3 travel lanes (one lane in each direction and turn lanes at intersections) and 2 parallel parking lanes. The extra width is reallocated for the two-way cycle track and expanded pedestrian and community area.
What are Roundabouts and why are they recommended?
Another significant component of this project are the proposed roundabouts: one at the intersection of Main Street at Center Street and East Center Street and the other at the intersection of Main Street at Charter Oak Street, South Main Street and Hartford Road.
A modern roundabout is a circular intersection where drivers travel counterclockwise around a center island. There are no traffic control signals or stop signs. Drivers entering the roundabout yield to traffic already in the roundabout, then enter the circulating roadway and exit at their desired street. Roundabouts are designed to accommodate vehicles of all sizes, including emergency vehicles, buses, and truck and trailer combinations.
Modern roundabouts are different from rotaries and other traffic circles. For example, roundabouts are typically much smaller than the large, high-speed rotaries still in use in some parts of the country and require vehicles to negotiate a sharper curve to enter. As a result, travel speeds in roundabouts are slower than speeds in traffic circles.
Modern roundabouts offer the following benefits:
- A safer alternative to traffic signals and STOP signs. The tight circle of a modern roundabout forces drivers to slow down, and significantly reduces the likelihood of the most severe types of intersection crashes: right-angle, left-turn and head-on collisions.
- Improve traffic flow and are better for the environment. Research shows that traffic flow improves after traditional intersections are converted to roundabouts. Less idling reduces vehicle emissions and fuel consumption. Studies by the Federal Highway Administration have found that roundabouts can increase traffic capacity by 30 to 50 percent compared to traditional intersections. Since roundabouts improve the efficiency of traffic flow, they also reduce vehicle emissions and fuel consumption.
- Safer for pedestrians. Pedestrians walk on sidewalks around the perimeter and cross only one direction of traffic at a time. Crossing distances are relatively short and traffic speeds are lower than at traditional intersections.
The project includes a cycle track which is a bicycle path that is physically separated from vehicular traffic and from the sidewalk. Cycle tracks are intended to be exclusively used for bicycles. On streets where on-street parking is allowed, cycle tracks are located to the curb-side of the parking (in contrast to bike lanes which are typically between parking and the travel lane).
We believe this would be the first cycle track of its type in a downtown district in Connecticut. It would directly connect to the East Coast Greenway to its south and offer cyclists a safer north-south route through Town and the ability to safely connect to other pathways throughout Town.
Streetscape and Public Space
In addition to the traffic safety benefits, the road diet offers a rare opportunity to enhance the streetscape and create additional public space in downtown, making it a more interesting and vibrant location to gather, do business and socialize. By reducing the road width, certain sections of Main Street will be able to expand the width of sidewalk space by 8 to 10 feet, creating additional space for more outdoor dining, sidewalk sales, food vendors and other creative commercial and social activities. The addition of native plantings and more street trees will provide shade and environmental benefits while beautifying the area, allowing Main Street to thrive economically, socially, and naturally.