Cro Boulevard Closing: Trials and Myths

During the past week, motorists trying to pass through Cro Boulevard have been impeded by jersey barriers and orange gates. The roadblocks may be indicative of campus developments to be made through Connecticut College’s anticipated 2017 “Master Plan,” which will feature pedestrian safety as an essential concern. Right now, Cro Boulevard is blocked as a kind of test; access is restricted to see if access restriction works.

If the term “Master Plan” sounds eerily similar to the recently-released “Strategic Plan,” that’s only because of the nebulous name. The content, according to vice president of Finance and Administration Rich Madonna, is different: “The Strategic Plan is comprehensively about the curriculum, athletics and student resources,” whereas the “Master Plan” concerns itself with facilities management.

“The Master Plan gives us a roadmap to support the Strategic Plan,” he added, presumably without pun intended.

Whether a permanent closure of Cro Boulevard makes it into the 2017 Strategic Plan remains to be decided.

Madonna called the current configuration a “pilot program,” noting that other configurations will be tested for efficacy. “We need to understand how this will affect emergency vehicles and delivery vehicles,” he commented.

Victor Arcelus, dean of Student Life and a participant in Spring 2016’s Pedestrian Safety Working Group, clarified that students should not worry about a complete ban on vehicles in the coming academic year; rather, they might expect Cro Boulevard to become unusable for through traffic, as throughout the year, Conn will be “piloting the best approach possible to make [Cro Boulevard] an effective parking lot.” This development was allowed by the new loop road that reaches around the back of central campus, built over the past summer, which Arcelus noted was originally mandated in the College’s 1998 Master Plan.

Though closing Cro Boulevard to motor vehicles entirely is not on the table for the coming academic year, it remains a long-term goal. Arcelus noted that a combination of results from studies done by Fuss & O’Neill, a consulting firm contracted by the College to assess pedestrian safety and make recommendations, and surveys conducted by the Pedestrian Safety Working Group deemed Cro Boulevard the “most concerning” area on campus for pedestrians. In the future, Arcelus hopes to make Cro Boulevard a pedestrian-only space featuring green areas and large sidewalks, which would be wide enough to allow for emergency vehicles when necessary and regular cars on move-in day.

“It’s a cultural adjustment,” director of Facilities Management Trina Learned commented about the prospect, “We can either say that that block of Cro Boulevard is a perfect place where pedestrians should feel safe, or people could look at it and say: it’s actually the spine of the entire campus, which means that everybody needs to go through there, including cars.” She added that future pilot efforts might include organizing activities on Cro Boulevard so that students may test it as a gathering area, wondering: “For instance, during Floralia, is there an activity that would actually go in that space?”

Learned considered it essential that the College collect input from the community on the pedestrianizing of Cro Boulevard. “We should have a process of gathering opinions on it,” she said on March 31, “but I realize it has only been three days.”

Regarding feedback, Madonna recommended: “Students can email me directly or work through SGA.” Before the pilot program began, he clarified, SGA was made fully aware of the plans through a presentation.

Questions of further student interest might regard parking accommodations and the improvement of safety on Rte. 32. According to Arcelus, the College plans to move parking to the perimeter of campus. The road behind Knowlton and Harkness, he explained, used to feature parking, as did the space behind Fanning where there now stands a blue sculpture.

In terms of what’s in store for Rte. 32, Arcelus reported that Fuss & O’Neill recommended “using what the Department of Transportation calls ‘demonstrating complexity,’” by narrowing lanes and incorporating grass-covered medians. This approach aims to make the stretch of Rte. 32 by the campus feel more like a residential road than a highway, thus subtly encouraging motorists to drive more slowly.

Though proposed changes to the roads on and around campus will not affect all current students, they present a loud and clear call for student feedback. To voice their thoughts on the fate of Cro Boulevard, Rte. 32 and parking areas, students should reach out to Rich Madonna.