Canton looks to DOT for corrective action on guardrail installation
By John Fitts
CANTON – Members of the Canton Community are objecting the recent installation of metal flex beam guardrails along a scenic portion of Maple Avenue (State Route 565). The guardrail was recently installed as a replacement for an older wood and cable style that had been in place through the s-curve on the road.
In addition to assertions that the style of rail is not in keeping with a historic section of town or the state designated scenic highway, the work was not properly noticed, according to paperwork provided to the Board of Selectmen for its April 26 meeting.
“There have been objections from several Maple Avenue residents to the recent installation of the shiny steel guardrails on Maple Avenue between Allen Place and Thayer Avenue,” Collinsville Historic District Commission Chairman James Grant wrote to First Selectman Robert Bessel on April 12. “This Commission affirms and joins our neighbors in that objection. As a Scenic Road, the CT Department of Transportation should have informed town officials of this project and provided the residents an opportunity to comment on it. CT Scenic Road regulations require a legal notice in the Hartford Courant and a period of time for comment. We have learned from a DOT source that no legal notice was published and also that visually acceptable guardrail alternatives were available for consideration. In fact, alternative ‘box’ guardrails had already been installed in recent years on both sides of the road immediately adjacent to the new ones.”
From April 16 to April 19, notice was subsequently published in the Waterbury Republican-American, which does not generally circulate in town, according to a recent Board of Selectmen packet.
Resident Jenny Abel is one who addressed the issue at that meeting.
“I wanted to implore the Board of Selectmen to hold the state accountable for their non-compliant installation of the steel guardrail along our road. It’s not only a state designated scenic road, it’s also the gateway to our cherished Collinsville historic District,” she said. The Department of Transportation violated section 13b through 31d of Connecticut General statutes as well as provisions in the regulations of Connecticut state agencies regarding improvements to DOT designated scenic roads by failing to file a public notice to seek public input and consider alternative materials before commencing the work.”
In his April 12 letter, Grant also contends the choice of guardrail is especially inappropriate for that section of roadway.
“The subject section of Maple Avenue is the beginning of the Scenic Road and is the northern gateway to the Collinsville Historic District. The visual impact of the new guardrails would go unnoticed on an interstate highway, but they are inappropriate for a rural road leading into an historic district. We understand the need to replace the original wooden posts and cables with a safer system but we believe that the new guardrails actually encourage higher speeds and do not invoke the need for caution that the old posts and cables do.
This Commission objects to the new rails and requests that they be replaced by a system that is in keeping with the character of the Scenic Road and the Collinsville Historic District.”
Selectmen agreed with those assertions and voted to have First Selectman Robert Bessel write a letter to the DOT to outline the objections, and request remedies.
A message requesting comment sent to press representatives at the state Department of Transportation had not been returned as of press time.