Avon voters narrowly approve funding for Old Farms Road work
By Paul Palmer
AVON - By a margin of just over 300 votes, Avon residents approved a town-wide referendum to fund work on Old Farms Road. By a vote of 1,330 to 1,018, approval was given for the town to spend just under five and a half million dollars in state grant money to move relocate part of the road and also allow for other reconstruction. The entire cost of the project would be covered by the grants but due to its cost, it had to go before the voters for approval via referendum.
The issue was a contentious one in Avon as those opposed raised concerns about the environmental impact of the work, as well as the destruction of natural habitat. Opponents are also worried about the increase in traffic along the road once it is straightened. Many said they felt that the New England charm of Avon would be lost.
Supporters - including the Town and the Avon Old Farms School – pointed to the safety issues, arguing that the narrow, winding roads were dangerous and needed to be changed. The Dec. 14 vote was just one part of a proposed two-part plan for roads in the area. The now approved work will be along Old Farms Road from the intersection with Thompson Road, through the intersection of Old Farms and Scoville Roads, to a point on the existing Old Farms Road approximately 1,700 feet north of the intersection of Old Farms and Scoville Roads.
Among the changes will be the addition of a roundabout and crosswalk treatments, at the intersections with Scoville and Thompson Roads, and the installation of a multi-use trail along Scoville and Old Farms Road. The approval also allows for a land swap between the Town and Avon Old Farms School whereby the Town would acquire the right of way for the relocated road from the School and the school gets the old road once the project is completed.
The Town would like to put the Phase 1 project out to bid as early as next month with construction starting no later than May 2023 and lasting for an estimated 18 months. Officials said that much of the actual work to relocate the road would take place off the existing paved areas, allowing for the road to stay open and cutting down on traffic delays and disruptions.
A second phase - labeled The East-West Section (from the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail at Thompson Road, through the intersection of Thompson and Old Farms Roads, and east on Old Farms Road to approximately 225 feet west of the Tillotson Road intersection) - is also being planned. But there are several important differences. The biggest is that as of now the only grant money approved is for $3.6 million which the Town does not believe would cover the full cost. Any additional expense for the second phase would most likely require Avon to issue bonds. Town officials said that the 2 phases of work can stand alone, so if voters reject a future referendum that would be needed on Phase 2, the original work in the first phase would hold up.