State backs changes at dangerous intersection

BETHANY - The dangerous intersection of Route 69 and Rainbow Road may - at last - be getting attention for safety improvements if a state agency's recommendation is heeded.

First Selectman Craig Stahl reported to fellow board members last week that the State Traffic Commission, after many months of study and review at the town's request, is recommending that the crest of the hill on Route 69, north of Rainbow Road, be lowered to increase visibility at the intersection and to reduce the possibility of more accidents there.

The state commission has sent its request to the South Central Connecticut Council of Governments, which reviews and approves applications for federal funding.

Stahl told selectmen that there have been two accidents at the intersection in the last six months alone, and more in the past.

Although the state said traffic counts are not sufficient to warrant a stop sign or traffic control, it is endorsing lowering of the highway hill north of the intersection as a "long range" plan.

Town concern about the intersection dates to at least 1997, when then First Selectman John Ford wrote the State Traffic Commission requesting that trucks be prohibited on Rainbow Road. Following a study the commission denied the request, saying it was safe to allow through truck traffic there.

Last December road residents asked the selectmen to close the Route 69 end of their road to solve the safety problem. While this was "not viable," Stahl responded, the long-term solution was to improve sightlines by lowering the crest of Route 69. He also asked the traffic panel to at least provide some warning device or signage for northbound and especially southbound drivers about the "hazardous" intersection.

This spring Stahl again wrote the traffic commission about action on the dangerous location because of another accident there. He said the town is compiling a report of the number and severity of accidents at the intersection for the past three years. The state then replied it was recommending the project for federal funding.

In earlier correspondence with the town's insurance carrier regarding possible town liability for the Rainbow Road intersection, the carrier said, "something is needed to warn north and southbound drivers" on Route 69 about the intersection. It was noted that the white stop line on Rainbow Road is 26 feet back from the highway and that drivers have to edge out into potential traffic to gain any visibility at all.