Whitney Ave. work nears halfway point

Marcus Harun

Police officers, construction workers and Jersey barriers have become a part of the environment at the intersection of Mt. Carmel and Whitney avenues. Quinnipiac commuters will have to deal with it for another 14 months, according to the Connecticut Department of Transportation.

All of the construction equipment should be cleared away and the new, wider road should be opened in November 2011, according to Steven Hebert, ConnDOT project engineer for construction in District 3.

“We’re realigning West Woods Road to a single-traffic intersection with Mt. Carmel, which will eliminate that second traffic light,” Hebert said. “This will alleviate traffic on Route 10 (Whitney Avenue) when people are turning in either direction. It’s a safety improvement project.”

Hebert explained that this plan includes two new bus stops, one on each side of Whitney Avenue, that will be placed strategically to prevent the buses from obstructing traffic. The ConnDOT designed two bus enclosures where students can wait without risking a Whitney Avenue accident.

They have been working toward this goal since construction started on July 30, 2009. Fourteen months later, the project is 45 percent completed. Hebert said that the contractor remains on schedule.

“The construction makes commuting very difficult because the line to turn onto Whitney Avenue will be backed up just because there’s so much construction, and there’s only one lane to turn,” senior Gina Sciame said. “I understand that it will probably be a lot easier to commute once the construction’s done. However, while the construction’s going on, it makes my commute at least five minutes longer every day.”

Officials say the new road will be wider, including three lanes, one to turn off of Mt. Carmel Avenue onto Route 10. While the construction is going on, officials say they’ve taken steps to help ease traffic through this area, having set guidelines for contractors which allow them to work only at off-peak hours of the day. Contractors are only able to interfere with traffic from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. daily.

“When I’m leaving class there’s a line of cars sitting at the traffic light because construction is going on and it’s just so crowded over there,” senior Kristen Swartz said. “At the end of the day I just want to get home and get back to my room. It’s a hassle to sit there, but in the morning it’s not as bad.”

A few side projects included in this development plan are some safety improvements to the bridge on Mt. Carmel Avenue, and various retaining walls to accommodate all the road relocation.

Before the road construction began, officials had to relocate some local businesses that interfered with the new road path, including Quinnipiac favorite Tonino’s Pizzeria. Local and state government helped transfer Tonino’s and other businesses to their current homes.

“I do understand the need for [this construction]; when it’s completed it will be nice,” Tonino’s owner Anthony Improta said.

His pizza shop has been located at this intersection since 1987.

“We’ll have easier access and the flow of traffic will be much smoother,” he said. “It will have a positive effect on our business.”

With parking already a pressing issue for commuters, Hebert promises a light at the end of the tunnel.

“You got to be patient. To get progress sometimes you have to deal with the situation,” Hebert said, addressing the students. “If you want a better situation when you’re done, you have to tolerate a little inconvenience to get through the project. The situation we will have, when completed, will be leaps and bounds better than what they have now.”

Photo credit: Charlotte Greene