The second phase of New Haven’s Downtown Crossing Project will open Monday, reconnecting two parts of the city cut off by Route 34, often called the highway to nowhere.
Nine hundred homes and 350 businesses were destroyed for the Oak Street Connector in 1959, with a plan to have a highway through New Haven reaching out to the suburbs. But it never happened.
People older than me speak very fondly of the old times,” said Jim Brochin. “And I guess they never understood why it happened.”
The new pedestrian walkway will open across Orange Street, bridging the gap that tore through the area 63 years ago.
“So, we've designed it to accommodate bicycles, pedestrians, and cars in a safe way, and so long as everybody follows the rules of the road, we will have a fantastic urban environment,” said Donna Hall, the city’s Downtown Crossing project manager.
Starting Monday, drivers will have to pay attention to the intersection at Orange Street as the traffic signals turn on. Speed in the area is reduced to 30 miles an hour and there are no left turns allowed.
The new design creates a direct route from Union Station to the New Haven Green.
“Short is good. I like exercise but shorter is better,” said Dave Root of Westbrook.
In the Ninth Square, businesses like Skappo Merkato are looking forward to seeing more people pass through the area on Orange Street. For the last two years, the city has closed it for outdoor dining and Yvette Somerville said more people have discovered their restaurant.
She said the opening of the Orange Street intersection will lend to a more pedestrian-friendly space.
“It gives that small town- feel, and I think opening up another section would certainly give the other side of Ninth Square that same feeling,” said Somerville.
The finishing touches for the landscaping were done Friday afternoon. Hall said the design will create a visual cue that drivers are exiting the highway and should reduce speeds.
“It's heavily landscaped, and we think it's going to be beautiful as soon as everything starts blooming,” Hall said.
It will also create a decorated path leading to the state’s first bike protected intersection. Signals have been installed that show a red, yellow and green bike for when it’s safe for cyclists to cross.
“I think it’s great. Anything that can make biking safer is a good thing,” Brochin said.
Phase three of the Downtown Crossing project began in June.