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The intersection of Maple Avenue and Route 68 has been the site of numerous accidents when rush hour traffic reduces visibility, especially of cars coming from Main Street. | Mark Dionne / Town Times

Maple Avenue traffic causes concern

After receiving complaints that Durham First Selectman Laura Francis described as “numerous,” the town plans to ask the Connecticut Department of Transportation to examine the intersection at Maple Avenue and Route 68.

The intersection, which clogs up with cars in the morning and late afternoon, represents an intersection of town and state authority as well. The town can control the traffic rules of Maple Avenue, but the state has authority over Route 68.

One written complaint received by the town expressed the hope that it would not take the moment “when someone in your office gets killed” for town officials to look into the intersection.

In a letter to the DOT, Francis cites “visibility ..., turning left on Route 68, crossing through standing traffic, the increase in the number of cars traveling on Route 68, the high rate of speed at which they are driving, and the frequency of accidents” as reasons for the state to review that area of the road.

Maple Avenue resident John Corona, who emphasized that he was not the writer of the complaint, did attend the July 14 Board of Selectmen meeting to express concern over the safety of the intersection. “Traffic is at a standstill and if you’re attempting to either cross 68 or make a left on 68 headed towards Wallingford, you have no view whatsoever of the oncoming traffic from Main Street,” Corona said.

Corona said he would guess that a high proportion of the intersection’s accidents are caused by north-bound cars pulling out of Maple Avenue.

Some possible solutions other than a traffic light were discussed by the BOS and Corona, including changing Maple Avenue from Route 68 to Main Street to a one-way street, either entirely or just during rush hour. Other improvements the DOT could suggest include addressing sight lines and road geometry, the timing of the traffic light on Main Street, and, of course, a new traffic light.

“Until something is done, there’s going to continue to be accidents,” Corona said.

Francis said that she has gotten a “good response” from DOT traffic engineers in the past and added that she did not want to alter Maple Avenue without working with the state. “I would be reluctant to make any changes on the town road until I heard from them,” Francis said.

Like the traffic from the intersection, safety concerns spread to other areas of the road. Corona asked if anything could be done about the parking on both sides of Maple Avenue during the Notre Dame tag sales. On certain busy days, tag sale shoppers park on both sides of the road, creating long stretches of both alternating and pedestrian traffic.

“The road is adequate for two-way traffic. It’s not adequate for parking on both sides of the road and two-way traffic at the same time,” Corona said.

Selectman John Szewczyk said, “My guess is there probably is enough parking, it’s just that people are deciding not to use it.”

Francis said she would look into what authority the town had about parking bans.

Parking during the Thursday Farmer’s Market was also discussed. Like the Notre Dame tag sale, the Farmer’s Market’s success has led to spillover parking.

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