STONINGTON — Motorists driving on Cottrell Street in Mystic will soon find themselves traveling one direction: south.
The town's Board of Police Commissioners this month approved a plan that will make the downtown street one-way from Route 1 to its intersection with Washington and Willow streets. The plan is expected to take effect next spring.
Henri Gourd, chairman of the Board of Police Commissioners, said the purpose of the change in the traffic pattern is to hopefully improve pedestrian safety, particularly at the Route 1 (East Main Street) intersection. The change would also achieve a secondary purpose in creating space to add an additional 12 or 13 parking spaces to help alleviate the shortage of parking in the area.
"It's no secret that downtown parking in downtown Mystic is a problem. By changing the traffic flow, we are able to make crossing easier while removing one lane, which would create about a dozen new spaces," Gourd said.
The town has discussed the concept at different times throughout the past decade, he said, and in the past year the plan came together in a manner that made sense, both logistically and in improving safety. Opponents had urged the town to wait until a comprehensive parking and traffic study of Mystic could be completed in cooperation with the Town of Groton.
Gourd said, however, that the change isn't necessarily permanent. While implementing the plan will provide several potential benefits, he said, the commission would continue to monitor its impact and would make further changes as necessary.
First Selectwoman Danielle Chesebrough said the Cottrell Street plan was one of a number of projects aimed at improving safety and parking in the downtown area. Stonington officials are looking to make improvements to the Fourth District Voting Hall property on Broadway Avenue that would simultaneously decrease flooding problems and provide additional parking.
"It's close enough that it will provide parking and help pull cars away from our local neighborhoods," she said.
Chesebrough and Gourd said the commission would also move forward with efforts to improve and build additional sidewalks along Washington Street, and would seek $25,000 for a comprehensive traffic and parking study. Both projects were have been added for consideration as part of the town's proposed 2020-21 capital improvement budget.
Gourd said the study is needed to prepare a more complete long-term plan. The Washington Street improvement would make sure that there is a clear pedestrian route along the length of the street, which runs from Cottrell Street east to Denison Avenue.
"We've heard stories of people pushing strollers down the middle of the road. That is a considerable safety concern and one we hope to address as quickly as possible," Gourd said.