Downtown Manchester Improvements Project

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The Downtown Manchester Improvements project seeks to transform the Main Street corridor between Center Street and Hartford Road into an accessible, vibrant and equitable "Complete Street" through a comprehensive design that includes traffic and pedestrian/bicycle safety improvements, additional public gathering spaces, and enhanced streetscape complemented with strategic private development.

View the Full Project Narrative or Frequently Asked Questions to learn more about this project.

The Downtown Manchester Improvements project seeks to transform the Main Street corridor between Center Street and Hartford Road into an accessible, vibrant and equitable "Complete Street" through a comprehensive design that includes traffic and pedestrian/bicycle safety improvements, additional public gathering spaces, and enhanced streetscape complemented with strategic private development.

View the Full Project Narrative or Frequently Asked Questions to learn more about this project.

  • What is the Downtown Manchester Improvements Project and What Does It All Mean?

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    Downtown for All (also known as the Downtown Manchester Improvements Project or Downtown Streetscape Project) is the next phase of the Town’s recent efforts to make Downtown and its adjacent neighborhoods more vibrant places. Manchester considers a strong Downtown one of its very top priorities. This project would -

    • Represent a significant investment in Downtown that would benefit the entire community;
    • Complete necessary, cyclical maintenance of the Main Street corridor; and
    • Address multiple community needs previously identified in various workshops and surveys spanning the past decade.

    Details are available in a comprehensive, visual story map here. You may also visit the Town of Manchester website here to view the results from those previous workshops under the section titled “Downtown”.

    The project will transform the Main Street corridor between Center Street and Hartford Road into an accessible, vibrant, and equitable "Complete Street" through a comprehensive design that includes traffic and pedestrian/bicycle safety improvements, additional public gathering spaces, and enhanced streetscape complemented with strategic public and private development. Measurable results from this project will include fewer serious vehicular accidents, more short trips taken by bicycle or on foot, slower vehicular speeds, additional outdoor space for local businesses, and additional, accessible public spaces.

    “Complete Streets” is a transportation policy and design approach that requires streets to be planned, designed, operated, and maintained to enable safe, convenient, and comfortable travel and access for users of all ages and abilities regardless of their mode of transportation. The Manchester Board of Directors adopted the Town's "Complete Streets Policy" on October 3, 2017.

    What Improvements Does the Project Include?

    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 a left-turn lane. This reconfiguration of the public right-of-way would then allow for additional public spaces and amenities, including a separated cycle track, outdoor street vending and dining, pocket parks, and other placemaking opportunities. While counter-intuitive, going from four lanes to three actually improves traffic flow in that those taking a left turn now have a dedicated lane. Those behind a turning driver will be able to keep moving instead of having to stop or worse, swerve into the other lane and risk a potential accident. Buffer space has been built in as well to avoid conflicts between moving traffic, parking cars, loading trucks, emergency vehicles, etc. The proposed “road diet” includes on-street parking changes in some areas, but the mix of parallel and diagonal spaces will remain. Importantly, the project is expected to result in no significant change in the number of parking spaces and the current design includes a small net INCREASE in the number of on-street spaces. All these improvements are intended to make Downtown a safer and more accessible place to be for ALL residents, whether they travel by car, foot, public transit, bicycle, or stroller.

    A second piece of the project on Main Street could improve the safety of downtown visitors and make for a safer experience driving down Main Street. There are two roundabouts proposed for the “top” (Main St. & Center St.) and “bottom” (Main St. & Charter Oak St./ Hartford Rd.) of the Downtown area. The proposed roundabouts allow for vehicles to travel counterclockwise and a center island to “turn” onto the desired road. Roundabouts can vary in size, but the proposed Manchester roundabouts would be larger than others that exist in the area. They would also be able to allow for vehicles of all sizes, including emergency vehicles, buses, and truck and trailer combinations. Most importantly, roundabouts are designed to slow traffic, making Downtown safer for everyone. Downtown is currently a high accident location and tragically has also seen pedestrians injured and even killed in recent years crossing the street. Slower vehicles significantly improve safety for both vehicles and pedestrians.

    The image above is intended to illustrate the differences between roundabouts and rotaries. It is NOT representative of the proposed

    roundabouts for Main Street. Please visit the "Guided Tour" section of the project story map for images of the proposed roundabouts.

    The third and critical piece of the project is to upgrade the traffic signals in the Downtown so that they are coordinated. Coordinated traffic signals synchronize traffic movements so that cars stop less when traveling. While the first two pieces of the project will intentionally reduce vehicle speeds, the coordinated signals will allow drivers to get from one end of downtown to the other in essentially the same amount of time. Vehicles will move more slowly, but traffic will flow more smoothly with fewer stops and no need to drive around someone taking a left turn. An added benefit here is the lower emissions generated by fewer idling cars.

    What is the status of the Downtown Manchester Improvements Project?

    The Town is grateful to the State of Connecticut for funding a portion of the project through the Community Investment Fund 2030. Because the project is not fully funded, there is no construction start date scheduled at this time. Further, any construction will not be all at once. The town will coordinate this project closely with Downtown Businesses and events and the project will ultimately enhance our treasured Downtown events. Importantly, current plans have been completed with the guidance and consultation of the Downtown Special Services District, Business owners, and major event personnel. The Town will continue to engage these groups as the project comes closer.

    The project team will also continue to provide opportunities for the public to influence the plan in the coming months. At this time, the project is a concept that has been crafted into an initial design, but it will go through multiple design updates before becoming a reality. Staff encourages you to read through this project page, click "subscribe" in the upper right-hand corner of this page under "Stay Informed", and ask questions/ submit ideas using the forum and ideas features. Stay tuned!

  • Staff Responses to Forum Posts (Part II)

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    “Hello, as a cyclist that would love to be able to bike to downtown area for events and shopping, this plan looks amazing. The center street intersection is so dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists to cross in its current state with the bypass right turn lanes and the large size of it. The lack of good parking for bikes is also discouraging in the current time.Would it be possible to extend bike accessibility down Main street all the way to Robertson park? This would mean that the three parks along main street (Charter oak, robertson, and center springs) would all be stops along the path. I really think the strip of main street between center street and north main has a lot of potential, but is not accessible nor aesthetically pleasing in its current state. Maybe this would be better suited as a project of its own, but this seemed like a good extension off the project proposed.”

    The Connecticut DOT owns and controls Main Street between Center Street and (including) North Main Street. The Town is working with the State on multiple projects to better accommodate bikes and pedestrians in the area you describe. Cars are prohibited from parking in designated Bike Lanes and there is a need at many locations along Main Street to provide on-street parking.

    The Town is working on plans to better connect the Cheney Rail Trail with the proposed Downtown Cycle Track. Also, the Connecticut DOT has recently acquired an additional portion of the railroad property in the North Main Street area and the Town has a concept plan for extending the Cheney Rail Trail to Colonial Road (once funding can be secured) along this property. In addition, the Town is working with the DOT to incorporate some limited bike lanes in the North Main Street area as part of the DOT upcoming paving to better connect the future Cheney Rail Trail extension with Robertson Park. It is anticipated that the Cheney Trail would be the preferred route to reach the North End and the Robertson area with the Town focusing on efforts to improve connectivity to the trail in different neighborhoods.

  • Staff Responses to Forum Posts (Part I)

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    Below are responses from Town staff to resident questions regarding the Downtown Manchester Improvements project:

    Excellent concept overall. Bus turnouts would be helpful to keep traffic flowing. Creating a paved bike lane/pedestrian path up Forest Street to terminus of Cheney Rail Trail would be helpful with appropriate signage.

    The Town intends to discuss and coordinate with CT Transit to review existing locations ridership and identify their preferred locations to post bus stop signage in the future. CT Transit is the local bus operator servicing Manchester and the Route 83 Silver Lane Bus serves Downtown Manchester specifically. Timepoint #9 in their schedule is for Manchester Center (Town Hall) which has bus shelters provided for both directions of travel.

    In areas where the buses do not need to dwell (designated times in the schedule where buses wait), bus pullouts are not typically required. CT Transit’s preference in some areas is to pick up and discharge passengers from the travel lane or to remain partially in the travel lane which allows for easier resumption of the route and that minimizes delay in service. When traffic is busy it can be difficult for buses to find gaps in traffic to pull out and proceed to their next destination. Due to the frequency of the bus route, it is not anticipated that this will cause significant delay. Additionally, by utilizing signage and not physical areas, much greater flexibility is offered to adjust and relocate bus stop areas as demands change in the future.

    Linkages to the Cheney Trail via Park Street and Forest Street are being evaluated and considered under different projects including the use of signage at both ends.

    The plan has many good features! I agree with the previous comment about needing an accommodation for buses and also am wondering where trucks will unload — they currently take one travel lane. And finally, I wonder if street parking is converted to parallel parking, will changes be made to parking lot access to improve safety?

    Delivery trucks and vehicles will still be able to utilize parking spaces along Main Street. Additional buffer areas between some parking areas and the travel way have been provided that can be utilized. The Town also proposes the use of textured stamped pavement in the center of the road which can be utilized for loading and unloading of larger trucks off-peak or provides by-pass space around.

    A separate project is currently starting design to reconstruct the Town leased parking lot on Park Street which also includes the replacement of lighting within the parking lot and the construction of improved access between the lot and Main St, which will include stairs and green-scape. Access from Municipal parking lots east of Main Street will be evaluated as part of the Downtown project with access and lighting reviewed. Any specific suggestions should be submitted via MarkIt or Your Voice Matters. Please note that the connection adjacent to Key Bank is privately owned and the Town has no control of it. Key Bank has declined to partner with the Town on improvements to their connection at this time.

    As a business owner with a store on Main Street I’m very concerned about the change in parking. Easy and convenient parking is one of the most important aspects to my customers. Many of whom are elderly and cannot walk far. Certainly having the diagonal parking directly in front of my business is and has been vital to what drives my business. My customers drive in from surrounding towns as well, they need convenient and close parking. The back parking lots are already full on a Saturday they cannot accommodate an increase.

    Thank you for taking the time to share your concerns with the project team. We understand that accessible parking is important for all of our Downtown businesses. Others have commented about the need for accessible on-street spaces and we plan to incorporate more into future iterations of the plan. Please note the total number of on-street spaces in the corridor remains essentially the same in the current concept plan. You mention off-street parking, which is another important element to Downtown. There are currently over 800 public parking spaces in our public parking lots, the great majority of those within a short walking distance of the center of Downtown. This includes the now-free Cyan lot at St. James Church, which will soon be directly connected to Main Street. All that said, we will continue to work towards a balance of accommodating all visitors in a way that makes Downtown more inviting and accessible to everyone.

    Can anyone from the town speak on the economic impact the construction 🚧 🦺 🏗 would have on businesses? The Pandemic has already taken its toll on many of our businesses. Plus, Not all businesses received PPE loans or grants. Some of us took a major hit and are struggling to survive. With the current rate of inflation and the very likely recession to come, a year of construction would be the final death blow for some of us! Maybe this would be a better plan down the road when the economy isn’t so bad. 🤷🏼‍♀️

    Thank you for your comment . We recognize the construction activity necessary to complete this project will cause some disruption for Downtown businesses. Implementing such a transformational project cannot be done without some level of disruption. The Town will work with the selected contractor to limit that disruption as much as possible, to communicate with individual businesses and property owners about construction phasing and timing, and to communicate to the public that businesses are open and how to access them. Also please note the Town is in the process of securing funding for this project and work would not commence this construction season. Such a significant project is only possible through the availability of recovery and infrastructure funds from the Federal and State Governments. Such funding sources will likely not be available in the future, so the Town sees this as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to leverage outside funds in order to complete a project that will benefit all of Downtown for years to come.

    The plan has many good features, though I sympathize with the business owners who fear the loss of diagonal parking and the public who enjoy the ease of the drive-in slots-although parallel may be safer when exiting.

    Experience has shown parallel parking to be safer than pull-in angle parking, particularly for drivers who otherwise would have had to back out into oncoming traffic.

    Will all bus stops have a center lane bypass available?

    (Also see above) There are no stops that require buses to dwell and wait. Stopped buses are actively picking up and discharging passengers and can be bypassed using the stamped, flush median center islands.

    Has the plan been coordinated with CTTransit plans that may envision bus waiting areas

    (Also see above)

    Can the fire-lost building space next to Manchester Mall be used to make a more attractive pedestrian passage to rear parking?

    Thank you for the suggestion. The Town would love to see that property either developed or part of some sort of public space as you envision. That property is privately owned and at this point in time, the owner has chosen to hold onto it.

    Will you include outlets at sit-down areas for charging electric bike batteries & phones?

    Solar-based charging for smart devices & personal mobility devices that can be incorporated into seating and/or shade structures is a type of amenity the Town is interested in hearing feedback on. If there is interest, these type of amenities can be included in the project.

    Will the plan use the excavation opportunity to add destination EV chargers, perhaps on lamp posts?

    The Town is pursuing multiple grant opportunities to bring EV charging stations to Manchester including one or more locations in the Downtown area as separate, coordinated projects. An area within the Purnell Parking Lot already has buried conduit installed for future charging station needs. No other locations have been selected/finalized at this time.

    Has the plan been coordinated with SustainableCT pathway to maximize our sustainability rating?

    The Department of Public Works is coordinating this year’s update to Manchester’s sustainability rating and ideas for sustainable infrastructure are being considered that could be incorporated into the project. Any specific ideas or suggestions towards these efforts should be shared on the Your Voice Matters project page.

  • Seeking to transform Main Street in Manchester

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    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.

    Complete Streets

    What is a Complete Street?

    "Complete Streets" are corridors designed and operated to support safety and use mobility for users of all ages and abilities, regardless of whether they are travelling as drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists, or public transportation riders

    Road Diet

    What is a Road Diet?

    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.

    Cycle Track

    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.

    Please visit StoryMap for more details about project concepts.

Page last updated: 28 Nov 2023, 05:29 PM