To return to the Multimodal Transportation Planning page to view other proposals, click here.
The portion of the Boston Post Road through Orange dates to 1639 as one of the early radial roads out of the Nine Squares towards the Town of Milford – one of the first three towns founded within the New Haven Colony. In 1802, the Milford Turnpike was chartered – leading to the construction of a bridge over the West River by 1810 to connect with New Haven’s Congress Avenue. Eventually, the Boston Post Road and US Route 1 followed Columbus Avenue to Water Street and the Tomlinson Bridge and continued east along Main Street.
By the mid-20th century, the Wilbur Cross Parkway and Interstate 95 replaced Route 1 as the primary vehicular through-way. Around entrance and exit ramps to the Connecticut Turnpike, commercial development sprang up on former farmland along the Boston Post Road. More recently, big box stores have joined the strip continuing the domination of the corridor with surface parking lots and single-story warehouse-style construction.
The Milford Mall
Measuring nearly 100 feet across, the Boston Post Road is widest at the Milford Mall exit off of I-95. Opened in 1960 as the Connecticut Post Shopping Center, the mall was enclosed in 1981, renovated in the 1990s, and expanded in 2006. Coinciding with many of these projects were roadway redesigning efforts to accommodate traffic flowing to and through the area. Currently, this portion of the Boston Post Road has three travel lanes in each direction, generous shoulders and turning lanes. Sidewalks are narrow, set close to the street, and separated from building entries by vast grass setbacks and surface parking lots.
Upon the completion of the Wilbur Cross Parkway, residential development to the west of New Haven exploded – leading to the subdivision of numerous farms and the construction of single family houses north of the Boston Post Road. On the route itself, strip malls and auto-oriented businesses popped up. Followed later by fast food franchises, banks, and large retailers, the Boston Post Road exemplifies the strip development pattern from the 1960s to today. East of the mall, the roadway narrows to 5-lanes with a central turning lane and shoulders. Parking lots are setback from the street by large grassy areas, while sidewalks are non-existent.
Big box stores have congregated near the border of West Haven where the roadway again narrows on its way towards New Haven. At intersections, turning lanes often appear, but mid-block there are two travel lanes in either directions with shoulders. Sidewalks remain rare and most buildings continue to be setback far from the street.
Pros: high roadway carrying capacity; dedicated turn lanes are many intersections and mid-block
Cons: wide travel lanes; no on-street parking; lacking sidewalks, street trees, and roadway buffers; no cycling infrastructure; adjacent land-uses that promote driving over all other modes of transportation; extremely wide intersections
The Boston Post Road is typical of suburban and exurban development patterns that emerged around and after the construction of highways. Similar land-uses are concentration together, traffic is funneled onto a few arterial roadways, and accommodations are only made for drivers. In Part 3 of the A Future for Greater New Haven series, Where We Can Be, the issue of exurban development is addressed along with the possible solution for it – sprawl repair (see halfway down the page). Below is a slightly more in-depth look at how the roadways serving sprawl can be reconfigured to encourage high-density, mixed-use development along them.
The widest section of the Boston Post Road is the perfect candidate for a multi-way boulevard where raised medians divide opposing traffic and service lanes. In the case presented below, a central planted median is used for left-hand turns at intersections, side medians separate shared bus and bike lanes from traffic while providing space for bus shelters and right-hand turns, and sidewalks shaded by street trees provide a framework for multi-story mixed-use buildings constructed atop current surface parking lots. Structured parking garages like what was recently built at the Milford Mall can replace any lost parking, while development in the rear of lots like strip malls, big box stores, and malls can remain untouched.
As the roadway narrows east of the mall, the bus and bike lanes would lose their physical separation from traffic, but could retain their functional separation by using paint. An on-street parking lane could be added to the north side of the street to help serve the development of residences or offices above ground floor retail buildings.
Closer to the West Haven border where the roadway funnels down to 54 feet, the same configuration of two east-west travel lanes, two shared bus- and bike-only lanes, and a central left-hand turning lane can be continued. However, if dedicated on-street parking is desired, it would have to be carved into the existing curb on both sides of the street. The advantage to doing so is that it makes high-density development more practical.
Pros: existing traffic carrying capacity is maintained for the most part; additional on-street parking is added; lanes are narrowed to calm traffic; dedicated bus and bike infrastructure; narrowed crossing distances; fostering of mixed-use, high-density development
Cons: not separated cycling infrastructure; on-street parking is not possible everywhere; tremendous up front capital cost for which it may be difficult to garner support from property owners
While the construction of the Connecticut Turnpike greatly reduced the Boston Post Road’s use as a major through-way, the development of single-use commercial buildings oriented entirely around automobiles has maintained unbearable levels of traffic along the corridor. As the business center of the Town of Orange, which is predominantly low-density residences, the Boston Post Road is inundated with vehicles on a daily basis – making commuting a nightmare in car and even more so by bus.
Fortunately in it’s most recent Plan for Conservation and Development, the Town of Orange identified the Boston Post Road as in need of reform. The document provides some insight into how sections of the corridor can be redevelopment with mixed-use buildings better oriented towards pedestrians (see above image). The types of changes advocated in both the Town’s plan in addition to the article above would require significant zoning changes and incentives to encourage a higher-density, more intense development pattern. Most importantly, however, are design changes for the roadway itself that incorporate on-street parking, narrower lanes, raised medians for turning and plantings, and alternative transportation facilities for buses and cycling.The Boston Post Road can emerge from these changes as not only the business center for Orange, but also a desirable residential quarter, office environment, local and regional shopping destination, civic center, and recreational area.