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Parker Blvd. will get temporary roundabout that may become permanent

Parker Boulevard near Lincoln Park will get a mini-roundabout and new bike lanes for three days in late August.

If all goes well and town officials become convinced that the changes make the street safer, the roundabout will become permanent and more roundabouts and bikes lanes will be added to a 14-block stretch of Parker.

"I don't think the town has ever tried something like this," said Councilman John Bargnesi Jr., chairman of the planning and development committee. "It's a very big deal and hopefully it goes off as planned."

Town crews and volunteers will use temporary materials to create the mini-roundabout at the Parker Boulevard-Decatur intersection, restripe the roads to create buffered bike lanes, protected crosswalks and narrow vehicle lanes in order to create a "complete street" design. The goal is to calm traffic and better protect people who walk, bike or use a wheelchairs. The dates are Aug. 22-24.

The demonstration of this "complete street' will be recorded before and after to capture traffic movement and speed data.

Information booths will be set up to explain how motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists are to use the road and the roundabouts and cross the streets. The town intends to seek a state grant to fund about 80 percent of the $750,000 it would cost to turn an entire 14 block-stretch or 1.3 miles of Parker Boulevard, in the Lincoln Park area into a complete street.

Parker Boulevard is one of the town's busiest road with about 5,000 cars daily and 170 residents living along the southern stretch of Parker Boulevard, between Sheridan Drive and Englewood Avenue, which is being considered for redesign.

The pilot project is part of the grant application to gain community acceptance of the full project, said James Hartz, director of planning and development. If the grant is approved, the full project would begin in 2018. It would include two roundabouts, bike lanes, crosswalks, bump-outs to restrict parking at corners, ADA ramps, new curbing and narrowed vehicle lanes among other things.

Hartz said the popularity of the Rails to Trails path, which opened last year, the adjoining Lincoln Park inner loop trail, which is under construction, and the town recreation department building in Lincoln Park and nearby Benjamin Franklin Middle and Elementary schools made this a good spot to attempt the town's first complete streets project.

"There are a lot more people on the street, and Parker Boulevard is also a local street, which the town has control over its design and function," said Hartz. "This is the highest volume street around the Rails to Trails that the town controls."

Bargenesi said Parker Boulevard will be designed to serve as a model for more complete streets that are more bike- and pedestrian-friendly.

"Because we are being so proactive this could backfire," admitted Bargnesi, but he said the goal is to show off the plan, especially to people who were unsure about the complete streets concept.

Hartz agreed he was also a little nervous, but hopes the demonstration would alleviate some of the residents concerns and make them feel comfortable.

"This is an inexpensive way to lay out a new traffic pattern in a section of that project area and get feedback from the residents," said Hartz. He said they were able to use donated materials and material on-hand for the pilot project, which will cost the town $2,000 to $3,000.


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