At the risk of over-covering an issue in The Courant's backyard (literally), there is a valid policy question involved in the Flower Street controversy. If government wants to reduce automobile use, to conserve energy and promote health, should it be making it harder to walk and bike?
Flower Street is a short north-south Hartford street that runs from Asylum Avenue across Farmington Avenue to Capitol Avenue. At least, that's where it used to run. It is now temporarily blocked at the railroad tracks between Farmington and Capitol avenues as workers construct the CTfastrak busway.
Because there will be many buses and trains when the busway opens in 2015 and commuter rail expands the following year, the street will be closed to vehicular traffic. Neighborhood residents, business owners on Capitol and others have battled with the state Department of Transportation for months over whether Flower Street will be permanently closed to bicyclists and pedestrians as well. A decision is expected momentarily from a state hearing officer.
It is, to be sure, a challenging location. The site adjoins the elevated I-84 viaduct, making it difficult to bridge. DOT officials say they've looked at every possible way of getting pedestrians through the Flower Street busway crossing, but couldn't come up with a workable plan. They want to run a walkway up to Broad Street, about 100 yards away. Though the city has acceded to the Broad Street plan, we urge the DOT to take one more look at Flower Street.
Urban street grids are wonderfully convenient. Hartford's was compromised by the disastrous decision decades ago to run I-84 through the heart of the city. Further constricting the grid seems like a giant step backward.