Roundabout a possible fix for Huntington/Commerce

The intersection of Huntington Street and Commerce Drive could be home to a roundabout as city officials consider options in easing the traffic burden in that area.

The intersection of Huntington Street and Commerce Drive could be home to a roundabout as city officials consider options in easing the traffic burden in that area.

Brian Gioiele / Hearst Connecticut Media

City officials may be coming around to the idea of building a roundabout to curb traffic backups at the intersection of Huntington Street and Commerce Drive.

Eric McPhearson, chair of the Board of Aldermen’s Street Committee, placed the idea on the committee’s Oct. 15 agenda with, he said, the hope of at least starting a conversation on the benefits and what steps need to be taken if the idea gained support.

“This is something that we know is a long way out, if we even decide to go in this direction, but we need to start this process,” said McPhearson.

A roundabout, also known as a rotary, is a type of circular intersection where traffic flows in one direction around a central island. Supporters say it keeps traffic moving and reduces backups.

Shelton Police Lt. Robert Koslowsky said that backups, not accidents, were a problem at the intersection especially during the morning and afternoon rush hours.

“Rotaries work, and that location is screaming for one,” said Shelton Police Officer David Eldridge, who supported the idea during his unsuccessful election run for the Planning and Zoning Commission. “I commend the board and encourage them to follow through. With the increased traffic from development, this would be a win for the people of Shelton.”

McPhearson said that the aldermen’s Street and Public Health and Safety committees have broached the option before but nothing ever went past the discussion stage.

“I wanted to get this on (the Oct. 15 agenda) to get the discussion going ...because this is going to be a huge undertaking,” he said.

The committee has asked the city engineer and assistant superintendent of highways and bridges to look into the next steps; after that, the city could hire an architect and go out to bid for designs if there is support.

McPhearson said input would be needed from the Board of Aldermen, Highways and Bridges, corporation counsel and the mayor’s office. McPhearson also said the abutting property owners — Aquarion Water Co. and the Scintos — would have to be approached, considering the roundabout construction would most probably encroach on land owned by one or both.

“(The roundabout) is going to have to be quite large,” said McPhearson, adding that the construction would need to be similar to the version at Exit 47 off the Merritt Parkway. “We are probably going to have to do that here because you have a lot of trucks that drive up that way.”

Most of the funding for the project, McPhearson said, would come from the state’s Local Transportation Capital Improvement Program, which sends funds to urbanized area municipal governments in lieu of federal funds normally available through federal transportation legislation.

“There are so many questions, it is best to start the process now,” said McPhearson. “This will not be an easy task, but we have to start somewhere. If it’s going to be done, it has to be done right. The mayor always says, at the end of the day, you have to be right. This is definitely worth looking into.”