Neighbors Lament Q Ave Delays
When Carolyn Christmann takes her newborn son for a walk, her all-terrain stroller proves no match for the deteriorating Quinnipiac Avenue, where a long-awaited renovation has been delayed again.
Christmann and her son, Sawyer, meet hazards at every step, from cars parked on curb-less sidewalks to litter, weeds, and broken asphalt.
Christmann’s recent trials with the stroller spurred a fiery letter to Mayor John DeStefano last week. Her letter outlined the concerns of Quinnipiac Avenue residents who live on what has become a dangerous residential speedway since the Ferry Street Bridge closed in 2002.
In the letter, she compared her hometown experience to a recent visit to Rwanda, which is on the UN’s list of the 50 poorest countries.
“Imagine our surprise when we arrived in Kigali, the capital city, to find roads in far better shape than Quinnipiac Avenue,” she wrote.
In light of news that the project might be facing further delays, she asked the mayor to “follow through on your pledge and immediately address the dangerous and disgusting condition of Quinnipiac Avenue.”
On Monday morning, Christmann got an email from City Engineer Richard Miller confirming that the re-do will not begin next spring, as Miller had announced at an April meeting.
In the email, Miller explained that while the plans for Quinnipiac Avenue are in their final phase, the state has not yet completed the necessary Right of Way acquisitions of residential property. Because Surface Transportation Program (STP) funding, for which Quinnipiac Avenue is slated, must be used for its stated purpose within the year it is allocated, the city has decided to designate this year’s funds for other projects, including the State Street Bridge, which are further along and ready for construction to begin.
What baffles residents like the Christmanns is how, after nearly a decade of planning and countless delays, Quinnipiac Avenue is still far enough behind that it is getting bumped for other projects.
“It’s been on the table for so long, so to us, it’s not really fathomable why it wouldn’t be ready to be started,” Christmann said. “I don’t know who is to blame, but someone dropped the ball big-time.”
A Matter of Life and Death
When Carolyn and her husband Ian (pictured) moved to the neighborhood in the spring of 2002, neighbors were already working with the city on plans to make the narrow and poorly paved street safer for drivers, pedestrians, and bikers.
Conditions went from bad to worse in November 2002, when the Ferry Street Bridge was closed without warning. Vehicles rerouted from the bridge swarmed the Avenue, which took on an additional 12,000 cars and trucks a day.
Christmann said she remembers waking up the morning after the bridge closed to a street transformed. “It was such a huge difference,” she said. “I thought I would lose my mind.”
Six years later, after the community rallied to raise funds to repair the Ferry Street Bridge, it is set to reopen this month, but the avenue itself still awaits its turn.
Neighbors say it’s not just a matter of aesthetics or noise, but one of life and death as accidents continue to plague the avenue. A few years ago, a teenager was killed when he hit a bump in the road while going around 70 miles an hour, Ian Christmann said. He lost control of the car and crashed into the telephone pole across the street from their house. The pole was rebuilt, only to be taken down by another accident in the same spot.
As we talked, Rosemary Ozyck, who lives a few blocks up the Avenue, joined us on the porch. She had just returned from a visit to the city corporation counsel’s office, where she had tried to file a Freedom of Information request for accident statistics.
Quinnipiac Avenue neighbors successfully pursued another such request several years ago, but are looking for more up-to-date numbers as they continue to make the case for immediate relief. Ozyck said she had trouble finding someone who knew how to process an FOI request, but had written down her request and will follow up.
According to the first FOI report, accident numbers were high even before the Ferry Street Bridge closed. On Quinnipiac Avenue, between Hemingway and East Ferry, plus the short stretch of East Grand between Front and Lenox, it lists 67 accidents in 2001 and 61 in 2002. After the closure, those numbers spiked; in the month of January, 2003 alone, there were 15 accidents.
Just a few weeks ago, Ozyck said, she was getting ready to cross the street with some friends and their young children when a truck slammed head-on into a car, totaling it and hitting the street’s retaining wall. “In the 10 years we’ve lived in this house, we’ve had more accidents and more cars that crash into other cars and take off than we can count,” she said.
Strolling the Avenue
The Christmanns took me on a stroll up and down the avenue with Sawyer in his state-of-the-art all-terrain stroller. We navigated up and down non-sloping curbs, and they pointed out spots where the curb is non-existent, enticing cars to park on the sidewalk. On the far side of the street, there is no sidewalk to speak of, only a dirt path among the weeds of overgrown lots and chain-link fence.
Ian Christmann pointed out this intersection, at Oxford and Quinnipiac, where a 17-year-old lost control in the fatal accident several years ago. A bump in the road where the two roads meet sends cars airborne when they hit it too fast. Other vehicles, like this truck, swerve left to avoid the bump without slowing down.
We ran into another family out with their newborn - Nicholas and Billie-Jean Rosa, and their three-month-old daughter, Aerione (pictured). Nicholas, who has lived on the Avenue for 14 years, said he and his family are used to seeing four or five accidents outside their house each year, not to mention the cars that run into the retaining wall.
“People smack the bumps; they smack the walls,” he said. “People think as soon as they hit Quinnipiac, it’s a speedway, and they just go flying.”
The neighbors began trading accident stories. Nicholas Rosa told of a car that was going so fast over a bump that when it landed, the passenger side axle snapped. Billie-Jean described a recent accident where a tuck smashed into a car — it turned out this was the crash that happened outside Ozyck’s house.
When the bridge closed, Carolyn Christmann said, the mayor gave a lot of assurances that the heavier burdens on the avenue would be eased by the city. The neighbors asked for a number of low-cost measures, like stop signs at some intersections and better-marked crosswalks. All they got was a solid white line demarcating the road from the parking lane, and occasional street sweeping and speed trapping.
Nicholas Rosa said the radar speed traps haven’t done anything to calm traffic on the avenue, since there are no cameras and no consequences. “People don’t slow down - they go faster to see how fast they’re really going,” he said. Recently, he said, he saw the same car going past the speed trap over and over, circling back to check his speed. “It was the same silver car,” he said. “Each time it was going faster. He got up to 85.”
Not This Year
At an April meeting of the Quinnipiac River Community Group, neighbors allowed themselves to get their hopes up as Miller, the city engineer, presented the latest plans, which include traffic-calming measures like a roundabout at Ferry Street, pedestrian bump-outs and the addition of traffic islands to slow traffic, on schedule for a construction start date in spring, 2009.
But at the community group’s June meeting, Traffic and Parking Director Mike Piscitelli reported that the re-do might have to cede priority to other projects. Those concerns were confirmed with Miller’s Monday morning e-mail.
On Tuesday, Miller said that the city was very fortunate to get the Quinnipiac Avenue project into the Surface Transportation Program and that it is still slated for those funds, just not this year.
The latest estimate for construction costs on Quinnipiac Avenue has gone up to $8 million, in keeping with the rising cost of petroleum, which is the most substantial component of pavement. And the costs of Right of Way acquisitions — the federally required compensation for entering private property during a construction job — have risen from $450,000 to $1.1 million, Miller said.
Annual STP funding for the entire region of 15 towns is around $6 million, and the city wants to make sure it uses its share of that on projects that are ready to begin construction, so the money won’t be diverted away to other parts of the region. With state Right of Way acquisitions not yet complete for Quinnipiac Avenue, the State Street Bridge project — which has been in the works since 2000 but was delayed due to the Ferry Street Bridge construction — will be given the green light for the coming year.
Miller said he understands why neighbors who have invested so much in the promise of a re-do are frustrated. But with escalating costs and limited resources, he said he’s doing the best he can to keep everything on track.
“My experience with all of these kinds of jobs is get the design done, get the right of way done, and money will flow at that point in time,” he said. “Let’s make sure we get the design completed and everything approved. Then it’s hard for anybody to turn down a project that’s ready to go.”
Miller reiterated that the Quinnipiac redo has not been canceled, and that it is still a major priority. He said the city is looking at options like doing the construction in two parts in order to move things along more quickly.
The Christmanns and their neighbors plan to keep the pressure on despite this newest disappointment. “We’re tired,” she said. “The road is fatigued, we’re fatigued — not that we’re not going to keep working and fighting for it, but at what point will the city follow through?”
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Posted by: State Streeter | August 6, 2008 4:10 PM
I feel bad for the Q-Ave residents but the State Street bridge is in just as bad a condition and has far more cars on it everyday. Its too bad that the State couldn't get their act together in time to benefit the Q-Ave neighborhood.  As an East Shore resident who runs a businees on State Street, I can see the need for both projects to get done ASAP.
Posted by: anon | August 6, 2008 4:12 PM
Great article. The neighborhood has an excellent long-term plan to calm traffic and make the area more walkable, once funding comes through. So, in the meantime, how about some more immediate measures to calm traffic?
Concrete barriers can be deployed on both sides, similar to what they use at Downtown construction sites, to narrow the lanes and establish a more secure sidewalk, plus a couple of small speed bumps or rumble strips. Those are cheap. They'll look bad, but can save lives. And having them there will increase calls to get this project done more quickly.
The chief of police can hopefully get out there with his new traffic division, if and when that is established. Currently, the entire city only has six or seven officers on traffic patrol, and they only patrol for eight hours a day, weekdays only.
This road is a city-designated bike path and walking route. It's completely unacceptable that the average speeds along it are in excess of 40mph. Will the neighbors band together and petition for immediate changes to fix the problem, before more people are killed?
Posted by: fedupwithliberals | August 6, 2008 9:07 PM
What a shame! Could be that the road crews were too busy repaving Eld Street last week. The street where an East Rock alderman who agreed with every nutty policy that DeStefano heaped on this city lives.
Posted by: Ben | August 6, 2008 9:49 PM
Aside from the fact that our bridge is being restored, the bright side of this story is that the city was nimble and able to keep the funds for New Haven infrastructure improvement.
Additionally it would be really great if the public spaces around the bridge granted water access to the Mill river after the project is completed.
Some tasteful lamp posts on the bridge would be excellent also.
Posted by: Betsy Ross | August 6, 2008 10:33 PM
Dont get your hopes up folks. I've been waiting a long long time to get my sidewalk repaired. With Miller its promises promises promises. Nothing gets done. Or is it the mayor passing the buck to him.
Look at the numbers. STP funding for 15 towns is $6 million next year. The construction cost is $8 million. Doesnt add up. Next year there will not be enough money. More delays.
Why does it take ten years to plan a job like this.
Why does it cost $1.1 million to enter private property
I think we are getting snowed.
Posted by: Chris O | August 6, 2008 11:23 PM
While I understand the State Street Bridge needs rebuilding I must make a few comments, tongue in cheek-
1. I thought New Havens policy was to first limit traffic over suspect bridges, then close them, and then find the money to fix them- ala Ferry Street Bridge.
2. The State Street Bridge is under I 91 and on State Property as far as I can see. Why not let state fix with Governor designated bridge funds. We can even give it a more prestigious name such as the Governor Rell over/under pass.
3. Do we really need this bridge? I-91 is the faster and safer than State Street, and parallels though most of New Haven. Everyone should be encouraged to use it more.
I wish State Street well on its new fast track. But seriously lets find a way to fund both ( with Fed and State allocated dollars) and fix the notorious and deadly Q avenue. I like Mr. Millers suggestion of breaking the project up-
Posted by: essemess | August 7, 2008 12:10 AM
I don't even live near Quinnipiac Avenue -- but frequently visit friends who do. I've witnessed (and dodged) plenty of speeding cars and accidents to know this road poses dangers for drivers, pedestrians and residents. I am very dissapointed that the City of New Haven isn't following through with this project in a more timely manner.
At the very least, can't the city take temporary measures NOW to improve traffic safety while waiting for the larger plan? Stop signs? Stop lights? Even placing a consistent police presence with radar traps and give out hefty fines? Whitney Avenue (another heavily used road through a residential city neighborhood) seems to have a speeding task force out in effect on a regular basis -- why doesn't Quinnipiac Ave? Wait, there are vast differences between the demographics in those two neighborhoods, aren't there. Something really stinks.....
Posted by: DEZ | August 7, 2008 7:45 AM
Delays, delays, delays. Or is it 'let them eat cake'? It's becoming very tiresome to live on the Quinnipiac River. The historic village of Fair Haven should be a no-brainer. Those of you who know, tell those that don't to come into the village and look around. This historic neighborhood should be a gem for New Haven a la other CT towns with historic river villages, think New London, Essex, Chester, Noank, Mystic, Westport...If the city had a clue, they would be focusing their energy into making this area destination worthy which would bring in competitive development which only adds to the tax base. Instead its carpet-bagger central a la Joel Schiavone and his dilapidated business district waiting for yet another New England winter to take it's toll on the historic buildings. If the infrastructure is addressed as a whole, and possibly the final project broken into smaller jobs, fine. Get it done. Find a way. That's the cities job, one that the neighborhood has been carrying the banner for forever. I'm beginning to think that the only thing good about this neighborhood are its people who have been banging the cow bell on safety issues and infrastructure concerns for more than a DECADE. Our arms are getting tired. The bell is wearing thin.
Posted by: Paul Wessel | August 7, 2008 7:49 AM
It would be interesting to hear walkable city guru Dan Burden's comments on this project: If he had $8 million to spend on traffic calming / pedestrian and bicycle friendly work, is this how he'd spend it and where he'd spend it?
Posted by: jose | August 7, 2008 10:08 AM
I have been a resident on Quinnipiac Ave. (house on the river edge) since June 1996. It's true that the number of accidents has risen throughout the years, the roads/sidewalks are getting worse as the years go by, promises are made by officials and never kept...Things aren't going to change in our area because this is part of Fair Haven. Yes, we might see expensive condo's in the neighborhood, along with neighbor's that care for there community, but unfortunately I think the renovation of the streets/sidewalks will possibly continue to be a dream for us because of the nightmare that Fair Haven has become. As for the congestions of traffic...I think the City of New Haven (the Mayor, and those in charge) are just depending on the re-opening of the Ferry St. Bridge to be a cure all for the traffic and irresponsibly driving issues that occur on Quinnipiac Ave.
Posted by: Ian C | August 7, 2008 11:39 AM
A video highlighting the problems with the street.
Posted by: East Rockette | August 7, 2008 11:41 AM
This is a crying shame, not least because Fair Haven is one of New Haven's most charming old neighbourhoods, with citizens working actively and in good faith to keep it beautiful, welcoming, and pedestrian-friendly. They've been waiting way too long for the city and state to come to the party, and are justifiably angry.
What makes this worse is that that last photo with the radar speed detector showing 38? Is right next to an ELEMENTARY SCHOOL. A school where parents are obliged to park street-side to unload their children, with traffic racing down Q Ave at fearsome speeds, and coming up Q Ave round the blind corner at even worse speeds, swerving around schoolbuses into the other lane. I ran that parking gauntlet for a year, and I swear it took several years off my life.
At the very least there should be a dedicated speed trap there one random day every week. What is the point of those radar speed devices if they're never enforced? And I mean never.
Oh, and repaving on Eld St and elsewhere in East Rock at the moment? Well, yes, it will look pretty, but without the pot-holes to slow people down, and with that smooth new surface, we're expecting an increase in speeders looking for a shortcut. So, swings and roundabouts, Fedupwithliberals. None of us is really winning here.
(By the way, is it true that the State St Bridge is in the same danger category as the one that collapsed in Minneapolis? If so, why isn't it closed right now? That's flippin' scary!)
Posted by: Robert Megna | August 8, 2008 7:17 AM
There is no doubt this section of Quinnipiac Ave is a dangerous section of roadway. Clearly one of New Havens' worse. The speeders coupled with the topography ( bumps, curves, raised sections) and narrowness of the roadway is a perpetual accident waiting to happen.
I recently owned a home on this section of Quinnipiac. Honestly, it was a nerve-racking experience just to park my vehicle and cross the road to go to my property.
It needs to be redone ASAP
As an ex-Fair Havener I am familiar with the Q Ave. road and it is indeed hazardous and has been for at least 50 years..
Do not know of a State St. bridge which is in any way comparable.
Where is it? Near East St.? Not bad I think. but as suggested above, I usually hop on I-91, and off at Hamilton or Downtown when I go there.
What bridge is being discussed?
Posted by: Doug | August 8, 2008 9:35 AM
As a resident of the Historic Quinnipiac River Village for almost 20 years I've always been baffled as to why the city has not put more resources into this area. Within walking distance we have river views, a golf course, a few marinas, parks, an excellent selection of ethnic foods, even a nature preserve. We've had concerts, farmers markets, parades, neighborhood parties, nature walks, canoe trips. I don't know of any other area in New Haven that has all of this, all within walking distance. However, with all of these wonderful things there several toxic elements that the city refuses to address: Horrible road conditions, neglected sidewalks, drag racing down our streets, motorcycles clearly violating the noise ordinances, large trucks, blighted buildings, and litter. We wonder why the city has forsaken this area that clearly has no much economic potential. Some of us in the neighborhood have all but given up and are ready to pull up stakes and move out.
Posted by: Walt | August 8, 2008 12:34 PM
Excellent film and it indeed shows the need for many corrections by the City.
The delapidated and filthy sidewalks in the film also show the need for repairs and sweeping by the owners of the adjacent houses don't they?
Are the rest of us supposed to pay for their repairs and sweep their sidewalks even if lots of the dirt originated fron slobs driving by?
If the sidewalk in front of my house deteriorates, not directly caused by the Town, or is dirty, I must fix it. I do not wish to subsidize the Q Ave folks.
Posted by: Ian C | August 8, 2008 6:09 PM
"If the sidewalk in front of my house deteriorates, not directly caused by the Town, or is dirty, I must fix it. I do not wish to subsidize the Q Ave folks."
Hey, your making the jump here that your sidewalk is comparable to roadway conditions along Quinnipiac Ave. The state rep above calls the road "one of New Havens' worse"
This is an infrastructure improvement to entire roadway, not just people's sidewalks. Quinnipiac Ave is considered a state road, so most of the funds coming for the repair are state/federal. Both the city and the state agree that this redo long over-due. With no curbing along the entire corridor, I would dare you to attempt the traverse of this street via wheelchair and see if you still felt the same.
Posted by: Rachel | August 8, 2008 10:45 PM
I drive Q Ave & the Grand Ave bridge daily to work & back. (I used to travel over the Ferry St bridge.) Fair Haven Heights is an unsung marvel in New Haven and it's a real shame that more isn't done to improve it. I have to report: I regularly get tailgated on this city street because I don't speed! And yet, I have friends who live in this neighborhood with little kids. It's not right, the way fast drivers are allowed to show so little respect for the safety of families who live in this residential community.
Suggest you re-read my note before complaining.
Basically I agreed with you.
If you folks are too lazy to sweep your sidewalks or repair your sidewalks, let it stay that way,
That road is terrible, and government must fix it. Sidewalk faults caused by traffic too.
On the rest of it, stop moaning and do your own cleanup and pay for your own repairs.
Posted by: Ian C | August 9, 2008 10:01 AM
We actually have been. No one here is asking the city to pick up sidewalk trash. A group of us do go pick up the trash, plant curbstrip trees and plant utility pole flowers. It can be disenfranchising though, walking the street and seeing your hard work wiped out as many of the trees planted have been taken down already by reckless driving. What I like about living in this neighborhood is there is a steely determination by residents to not "let it stay that way"
Good. I did not get that idea from the video.
You may not know of the old area, more dumpy than historical, better where you apparently reside than on the Front St. side.
North of Grand, very rundown houses for the first mile or so, then it became quite nice.
At the southwest corner of Q/Grand, the area had been taken over by the Slumlords, a motorcycle gang frequently listed in the Police records for violence. Sort of scary.
The oyster grounds through which we used to wander (trespass) were ,in my memory, kept just about spotless,
We used to sled from the little park , north of Grand through the side streets for several blocks with no stops, trying to make the left turn into the last side street so we wouldn't careen into Quinnipiac Ave traffic. and pick pears at the walled mansion (rundown) up the hill on the left of Grand.
A friend and I were ,we believe, the first non-construction folks to cross the "new" Ferry St. bridge when we carefully traversed the first beam erected on the lift sections connecting to the other side,
On the Front St. side, Schiavone's Junk yard (now known as Metal Management up near Home Depot.) filled most of the area which is now your nice park.
At Grand and Front was a drugstore with a second floor area where you could enjoy icecream while overlooking the River, and of course Roland T Warner Co. the well known hardware store.
North Front St was really slummy before the Yuppies discovered it, and bought out the area at bargain prices before saving it for history and/or profits.
The River itself was filthy, comparable, to me. with the disgusting Mill River further up Grand,
Rotting sunken two-story barges lined the shore. We used to play on them even though the upper story decks had yard-wide holes in the floors.
We guessed, but did not know, that they were house barges which had been abandoned in the 1800's
Their removal was one of the last efforts of Dick Lee's redevelopment programs,
Further up the river, just past the outlets which dumped raw sewage into the River was
Dover Beach where people really swam in the pollution (for me, once was more than enough), and the "Camargo" the industrially - polluted bridge area, then and now used for fishing.
While you need government work again, if you think gov't money has not already greatly benefitted your section and increased the value of your property.. , you are mistaken
Posted by: Ian C | August 12, 2008 10:13 AM
As you know this area well, I hope you can come take a "stroll" down memory lane after this project is complete. With a new wider sidewalks on the river side you'll be able to walk the two bridge loop without having to cross a street.
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