Middletown and Foxon

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Foxon Boulevard runs through an area of New Haven that was originally part of the Town of East Haven. Named for an Indian Chief that lived on the land in the 17th century, Foxon later became the name of an East Haven school district, topographic features, and eventually the main road that traversed the area. In 1881, roughly half of East Haven was annexed by New Haven – joining the ward system. Known today as Quinnipiac Meadows, this section of New Haven remained rural with large farmsteads into the 20th century; it also remained semi-autonomous until 1923 when it officially joined the City. The largest changes for the neighborhood came with the arrival of Interstate 91, which encouraged the development of auto-oriented strip malls, gas stations, fast food joints, and big box retail.

Existing Conditions:

Middletown Avenue

Throughout the 18th century, travel by way of roads was less reliable than by water, but the rise of private turnpikes in the 19th century changed that. In 1813, the Middletown Turnpike was chartered along State Street and Middletown Avenue towards Hartford, Middletown, and points northeast. Later, this path became US Route 5 for inter-city and -state trucking. With the construction of I-91, however, Middletown Avenue became used to access the city dump, school bus deport, various auto-related shops, and Foxon Boulevard. Varying between two- and four-travel lanes, Middletown Avenue is underused and over-designed.

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Foxon Boulevard

Middletown Avenue leads to major entrance and exit ramps for I-91 at its intersection with Foxon Boulevard. Flanked by a New Haven Public School, auto-related businesses, and a major shopping plaza, Foxon Boulevard is an extremely wide street containing two- to three-travel lanes in either direction, dedication left-hand turn lanes, and shoulders. Sidewalks, where they exist, are not shaded by street trees and are separated from building entries by grassy setbacks and vast surface parking lots. The street has the character of a highway – making it daunting to traverse by car, let alone any other means of transportation.

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Foxon Hill Road West

Crossing Quinnipiac Avenue, Foxon Boulevard becomes Foxon Hill Road as it climbs elevation and enters East Haven. The roadway narrows to two travel lanes in each direction with shoulders. Adjacent land-uses include more residential and smaller businesses like gas stations and auto repair shops. Pedestrians along this segment of road walk on dirt paths as sidewalks are absent.

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Foxon Hill Road at Mill Street

Foxon Hill Road is part of Route 80, which leads out to North Branford, and the northern sections of Guilford, Madison and beyond. Around Mill Street, the roadway widens as larger shopping plazas emerge along the corridor. A central turning lane is added to the street and sidewalks reappear – though it is not clear for what effect.

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Pros: high roadway carrying capacity

Cons: no dedicated alternative transportation facilities; missing sidewalks; lacking street trees; wide intersection crossing distances; wide lanes; large number of vehicle accidents; single-use land use oriented entirely around cars

Protected Cycle Track

Foxon Boulevard is a major local and regional shopping district and access route to destinations north, south, east and west. Unfortunately, the roadway can be cumbersome to navigate a result of traffic, high travel speeds, and a lack of alternate transportation facilities. However, by calming traffic and provided dedication infrastructure for buses and bikes, Foxon Boulevard can begin to development as a place where people enjoy spending time.

Middletown Avenue

Middletown Avenue is an important access point to Foxon Boulevard from New Haven. As such, the roadway should be reconfigured to accommodate cyclists and a steady traffic flow. By converting the street from four lanes to three, a dedicated central turning lane can be created in order to prevent accidents, keep traffic moving, and provide room for bike lanes. See here for additional information on four- to three-lane conversions.

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Foxon Boulevard

In the section of Foxon Boulevard immediately off of the I-91 exits, it will be important to maintain at least two travel lanes in the westbound and eastbound directions. By narrowing travel lanes to 10-feet, however, there is room for on-street parking and a two-way protected cycle track on the south side of the road. A central median can be planted and used for left-hand turns near intersections. On-street parking can also be added to the roadway if the existing curb is cut into. These types of streetscape improvements can foster the construction of multi-story, mixed-use buildings atop surface parking lots along the corridor. Any loss in parking can be accommodated for in structured parking facilities, and existing businesses can remain in the rear lots. Somewhere along Middletown Avenue, perhaps near the railroad bridge, the bike lanes could need to transition into the two-way cycle track.

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Foxon Hill Road West

When the street narrows as Foxon Hill Road enters East Haven, two travel lanes in each direction are reduced to one, but the central turning lane is maintained. The two-way cycling track and on-street parking can be continued on the south side of the road, while north side on-street parking would need to be cut into the existing curb. Paved sidewalks and street trees could encourage pedestrian activity and higher density development.

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Foxon Hill Road at Mill Street

Near Mill Street where Foxon Hill Road widens, two lanes can reemerge in each direction, including a central turning lane, protected cycle track, and on-street parking.

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Pros: protected cycling facilities to encourage safe usage by even the most vulnerable users; narrower travel lanes to calm traffic; dedication turning lanes; on-street parking; planted medians to provide shorter crossing distances and shading

Cons: expensive initial costs; some reduced road capacity associated with on-street parking

Alternative Bus Only Lanes

Another reconfiguration of Middletown Avenue and Foxon Boulevard could place bus only lanes along the corridor rather than a protected cycle track. With an ample right-of-way on Foxon Boulevard both motorists and transit riders can be accommodated for within the existing roadway. On-street parking and sidewalks can be added within the frontyard setback area in anticipation of mixed-use high-density development along the corridor.

Middletown Avenue

With two travel lanes in each direction, Middletown Avenue is currently designed to carry an average of 36,000 vehicles per day, but is only actually traveled by between 10,800 and 13,400 vehicles. By converting the two outer travel lanes to bus-only lanes, Middletown Avenue would still be able to handle 15,000 vehicles per day, while also providing space for express bus service to important regional commercial areas between New Haven, East Haven and beyond.

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Foxon Boulevard

With an average of 34,900 vehicles traveling along this section of Foxon Boulevard rigth after I-91 Exit 8, this is the widest portion of the major thoroughfare. Within the existing roadway right-of-way, bus-only lanes can be created adjacent to two regular travel lanes in each direction and a central turning lane and planted median. This configuration accommodates 36,000 vehicles – comparable to the existing arrangements. On-street parking lanes would need to be cut into the existing curb.

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Foxon Hill Road West

This middle portion of Route 80 is similar in character to Middletown Avenue, but with room to include bus-only lanes, a regular travel lane in each direction and a central turning lane. Express transit infrastructure like bus-only lanes can be a catalyst for high-density, mixed-use development, which could help Route 80 encourage more investment without adding significantly to traffic congestion and parking demand.

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Foxon Hill Road at Mill Street

Approaching Mill Street in East Haven, Route 80 widens again, which allows for a central planter median and turning lanes to be reintroduced to the roadway. While a three-lane road system with central turning lanes is only designed to accommodate around 22,000 vehicles per day and closer to 25,700 vehicles actually use this section of the corridor, by assuming that parking and turning cars will temporarily use the bus-lanes, one can assume that there will be minimal impact on traffic congestion along this portion of the roadway.

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Pros: More efficient use of roadway space; dedicated multi-modal infrastructure to facilitate more convenient, predictable, and reliable transit service; addition of on-street parking; encouragement of high-density mixed-use development along an aging corridor; traffic calming along a dangerous thoroughfare

Cons: some loss in traffic carrying capacity along certain stretches of a heavily traveled corridor; expensive on-street parking that would need to be cut into the existing curb

Conclusion

Foxon Boulevard currently has vastly underused street space and an oversupply of off-street parking with few accommodations for pedestrians, cyclists, and bus riders. By narrowing travel lanes, adding planted medians, and providing on-street parking with shaded sidewalks, this section of Route 80 could redevelop with much greater density and intensity of uses. Though requiring significant zoning changes, incentives, and upfront costs, a project like this would yield enormous long-term financial gain as this area could become a desirable place to live, work, shop, and spent time. Providing wider sidewalks and medians would enable bus riders to board and exit buses at more convenient locations while making bus routes more efficient by not having to navigate through parking lots and potentially having their own dedicated lanes. Alternatively, protecting cyclists from cars would encourage much more ridership and result in higher retail sales as several studies have shown. Foxon Boulevard could become another major destination to compete with the Ninth Square, Chapel and Broadway Districts, the Milford Mall, and other regional centers.

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