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    Mayor, Chief announce safety push for Ella Grasso Boulevard

    (4/24/2006) With seven serious accidents resulting in seven fatalities occurring since January on Ella Grasso Boulevard (CT-10), Mayor John DeStefano, Jr. tonight announced a series of immediate measures to improve safety.

    “To have seven accidents and seven fatalities since January, including two that took the lives of unborn babies, is unprecedented,” DeStefano said. “Police have tried a variety of speed enforcement measures, but it is clear that we need to do more. It is incumbent on the City and the State to exhaust all avenues for improving the roadway, which is a state highway.”

    By comparison, in the same time span a year ago, there were no fatalities on the entire length of the Boulevard.

    The Mayor said he is pleased that the state will send traffic specialists and state police to New Haven Monday to walk the site and to help develop more long-term solutions.

    New Haven police and the Department of Traffic & Parking are taking the following immediate steps.

    Tonight and Sunday night, the New Haven police department will set up laser enforcement from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. to handle excessive speed. They will then intensify enforcement with police sobriety and seat belt check points from midnight to 3 a.m. Having squad cars with flashing lights and police presence on the scene will force motorists to slow down. Police have also been doing ongoing enforcement in the area, including the use of speed trailers and DUI stops. From 2005 to date, the department has already issued more than 1,100 motor vehicle infractions in different areas of the Boulevard.

    The City’s Traffic and Parking Department Saturday began the process of installing a new signal head at two intersections: Boulevard where it intersects with Legion and with North Frontage. The signaling will be designed to make it easier for motorists to queue up and turn onto Legion Avenue.

    Traffic camera enforcement legislation that has twice failed to pass the General Assembly would make a difference. The City will push to get the technology installed along Ella Grasso Boulevard, to catch red light violators and to supplement police enforcement efforts. The red light technology photographs motorists who are operating unsafely and gives the City the ability to levy sanctions.

    The proposed legislation has had the support of many chiefs of police, mayors, elected leaders and motor vehicle crash victims. It also is supported by the National Campaign to Stop Red Light Running. “This kind of automated traffic enforcement technology provides irrefutable evidence that can be used in court to prosecute violators,” the Mayor said. This year, the effort died in the judiciary committee of the General Assembly.

    A team has been meeting daily at City Hall to pore over the accident data and to review traffic signals and other controls along Ella Grasso Boulevard, especially where it intersects with Legion Avenue. Those meetings have included Chief Administrative Officer John Buturla, Chief of Police Francisco Ortiz, Chief of Staff Karen Dubois- Walton, Director of Traffic and Parking Paul Wessel and Bruce Fischer from his office, and Police Captain Stephen Verrelli.

    The City will explore long-term solutions with the state, including:

    Reconstruction of Ella Grasso Boulevard to calm the traffic, especially between Orange and Frontage roads. This could include changing the width of the roadway; introducing a permanent or temporary median to slow traffic; increased street lighting, better signage; possible pedestrian improvements

    “This is one of the busiest routes in all of the City and it needs to be safe,” DeStefano said. “Besides a steady stream of motorists, we have schools in that area, including Barnard School, which will reopen in the fall after an extensive renovation. We are planning a substantial redevelopment of the Route 34 corridor, which will bring housing, new businesses and industry to the area. We need the state’s help in upgrading this area in a way that makes it safe for everyone immediately and into the foreseeable future.”

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