New middle school to affect traffic patterns

By on November 16, 2005

A new traffic pattern that includes a stop light and widening of a portion of Dixwell Avenue is part of a construction plan that will result in the opening of a new Hamden Middle School.

The changes are taking place as part of the construction currently in progress for the new Hamden Middle School site at Meadowbrook Park. The existing middle school building will close at the end of the current school year. The new building is set to open in September 2006. The roadwork and construction are located at the intersection of Dixwell Avenue and Sanford Street.

“Original plans involved expanding and renovating the immediate site,” Hamden Middle School Principal Frank Pepe said.

Plans for renovations of the current building were halted when core samples taken during testing for the expansion determined that the middle school had been built upon a former industrial waste site. Principal Pepe and other officials were looking for a way to remedy a growing problem with the 50 year old building, built in 1955, that had become run-down and overcrowded over the years.

“We have more than 250 students working out of portable classrooms in the next building and many teachers are forced to move from classroom to classroom during the day,” Pepe said. “It is very difficult to create a sense of pride and respect in a school that is this old and in this condition.”

With plans to renovate the existing building cut short, Pepe and town officials began the process of determining a site for the location of a new middle school that would replace the current school all together.

“It was a search that ended up being over a year long. Based on the number of students we had enrolled and state regulations we came up with a preliminary list that included over 20 possible sites,” Pepe said.

Field studies were then done for each possible site and the town held public hearings to discuss possibilities with people in the community that would be affected, including parents and neighbors in the surrounding areas.

“Parents of current elementary school students really rallied together and attended the town meetings to help determine the site. After the hearings the list was whittled down and Meadowbrook Park was chosen,” Pepe said.

The next phase of the process involved approvals from state and local officials, including the state traffic commission and Hamden Traffic Director, Lee Davies. Officials recommended a widening of Dixwell Avenue that will occur directly in front of the Citizen’s Bank building. A new traffic light was also added to the project that would allow drivers and buses exiting the new school to do so without having to cross oncoming traffic.

“Head-to-head turn lanes at the new light will allow us to control traffic entering the school. In the area of the construction Dixwell is currently four lanes across. Two left turn lanes will be added to allow traffic to turn onto Sanford Street and the new middle school entrance,” Davies said.

Davies began as Hamden’s Traffic Director in 1969 and is noted for the work he has done to reduce the amount of time Hamden drivers spend waiting at stop lights. Davies worked to coordinate Dixwell Avenue’s traffic lights and reduced the trip time from the New Haven border to the end of Dixwell from 23 minutes to 11 minutes.

Both Pepe and Davies are excited about the plans and neither believes that the additions being made to Dixwell’s traffic pattern will become a problem.

“We worked hard to get all the right approvals,” Pepe said. “Everyone is excited and eager for the new school building to open.”


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