Cycling advocate and Hartford resident Christopher Brown is headed to court today to ask a judge to reopen Flower Street and begin the construction of a pedestrian bridge.
Brown and his attorney, Ken Krayeske, filed the lawsuit against the Connecticut Department of Transportation in November when the street was closed for construction of the Hartford-New Britain Busway, also known as CTfastrak.
At today’s hearing the state is expected to argue that the complaint should be dismissed. Brown and DOT officials are expected to testify.
Flower Street connects Farmington Avenue and Capitol Avenue. It’s the street that goes behind the Hartford Courant building and connects the Asylum Hill neighborhood with the Frog Hollow neighborhood. According to Brown, it was an economic lifeline for area businesses and a safe haven for bicyclists from life-threatening conditions on nearby Broad Street.
The Department of Transportation declined comment on the lawsuit in November, but said that plans for a pedestrian bridge to help bicyclists and pedestrians get up and over the busway were still moving forward.
“We are continuing the design of the pedestrian bridge and will continue the community dialog as we move this forward,” Judd Everhart, a spokesman for the DOT, said in a November email. “We anticipate soliciting bids for the bridge later in 2014, in order not to interfere with the current construction.”
Two years ago, the DOT proposed closing the street to both vehicular and pedestrian traffic permanently, drawing loud complaints from the neighborhood and business owners. The group took their case to a DOT hearing officer, who decided in May that if the department is unwilling to change the configuration of CTfastrak to allow for an at-grade crossing, then it must provide a way for pedestrians and cyclists to traverse Flower Street.
“The Department of Transportation may not close the Flower Street at-grade rail crossing to pedestrian and bicycle traffic unless it constructs a grade separated pedestrian/bicycle bridge over the crossing,” Judith Almeida, a staff attorney in the DOT’s administrative law unit, concluded in May.
The decision also dictated that the City of Hartford not divert $4 million it planned to use to build the bridge on another project. It also instructed the DOT to work with the community in designing the pedestrian crossing.
But as recently as last July, the community was not impressed with the idea the DOT and its contractor put forward. Brown told engineers at that meeting that they could do better if they believed in themselves a little more.
Today’s hearing is expected to start at 10 a.m. at Hartford Superior Court, 95 Washington Street.