Board of Directors Favors Tunnel for Center Springs Park Connection

Three proposals to repair the culvert that runs under Edgerton Street vary in their costs and potential for the expansion of Center Springs Park.

The Board of Directors reviewed three possible options to repair a culvert that runs under Edgerton Street that would also potentially link Center Springs Park to Broad Street and the redevelopment efforts that are going on there. 

The report, delivered by Director of Public Works Mark Carlino and an engineer from Fuss & O'Neill, an engineering firm the town has employed to designate he project, was a follow-up to town directors received in late June about the park expansion and culvert repairs that left them with many questions. 

Under the three scenarios unveiled to the board as part of its monthly meeting Tuesday, the culvert underneath Edgerton Street would be replaced, allowing the road which has been closed to vehicular traffic since August of 2009 to be reopened, while also maintaining the existing trail that runs along the old Cheney Railroad embankment. 

But the costs and the potential expansion ability of the park out to Broad Street differ under all three proposals. 

Under the first proposal, a new 60" steel culver would simply be "jacked" into the embankment where the failed culvert now sits. That phase of the project would cost $487,500 for construction and an additional $75,000 in design and permit fees, for a total of $562,500, but would potentially limit future access to the park from Broad Street. 

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Under the second proposal, an "open cut" culvert would be installed into the embankment, along with a 10 by 35 foot metal arch tunnel for pedestrian access through the embankment, which would preserve the potential for future pedestrian access to the park from Broad Street. This proposal would cost $417,000 for construction and an additional $100,000 in design and permit fees, for a total of $517,000.  

The third scenario would involve the same "open cut" culvert, but would also see the installation of a 90-foot pedestrian bridge across the embankment, which would preserve the possibility of both pedestrian and vehicular access from Broad Street. That option would cost $690,000 for construction and $125,000 in design and permitting fees. 

A PDF of all three proposals have been attached to this article. 

Tuesday's report also included an additional phase for the second and third options that would see the town acquire the former Fuji Buffet property that abuts Broad Street, landscape the area and construct a parking lot to link the park to Broad Street. That phase would cost an additional $661,000. 

Voters allocated $1.5 million in a November 2011 bond referendum for the culvert repairs and park connection. 

Directors seemed to favor the tunnel option, but passed a resolution to refer the matter back to the Manchester Redevelopment Agency, which has been tasked with redeveloping the Broad Street area of town, for its opinion before making a final decision. The redevelopment agency is expected to offer its opinion to the board by its first formal meeting in October. 

"The tunnel option keeps the park looking like a park," Lisa P. O'Neill, a Democratic member of the board of directors, said during discussion of the proposal Tuesday night.

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Frank September 06, 2012 at 03:08 PM
Nicholas a police officer wouldn't even be a good solution as we can tell from the fact that the Mpd is unwilling or unable to even keep the stop and shop parking lot free of permanent trespassers illegal king living there. I like how when I looked at the tunnel picture from the fuss PDF I got scared for the biker and the runner. Perhaps an accurate drawing with shandies, tarps, and broken bottles would be better. Let's build a spooky creep tunnel 50 yards from a methadone clinic, what could possibly go wrong?
Greg September 06, 2012 at 03:37 PM
Bob Hetzel September 06, 2012 at 03:50 PM
I support the tunnel entrance to Center Springs Park because it will allow the restoration of Edgerton Street, preserve the Cheney rail bed for posterity and new uses, and provide an impressive entrance to the park from the Broad Street area, including the future South Parkade development. A broad, open tunnel with great visibility is no threat to anybody, and will provide easy access for walkers, bicyclists, picnicers and strollers, meeting a town goal of increasing park visitations.
Frank September 06, 2012 at 04:11 PM
Bob, let's be honest no one is ever going to develop the south parkade. Also did u see the drawings? Does this look like a broad open tunnel with great visibility? If you read the article it says that option 2 and 3 preserve pedestrian access to the park and the cheap creep tunnel option potentially limits future access to the park from broad street. Every plan the bod or redevelopment agency reviews needs to be judged on whether or not it will attract crime, deter crime, or be crime neutral. I believe creep tunnel option will attract crimes such as drug use and homeless squatters ANd deter legitimate visitors to the park. People will not visit the park if they don't believe it is safe and it seems just from the comments on this article that people don't think this option will make the park seem safer and more welcoming.
Brian Hurlburt September 06, 2012 at 04:25 PM
I agree with Frank's comments. A tunnel would provide protection from the elements, and allow those who choose to misbehave a place to do so. The tunnel would be marked with graffiti, and become an eyesore quickly. This is an opportunity to create something nice, with a long term attractiveness, so let's do this right. Think about this Bob: if one bad crime happened in the tunnel, how would you feel? Sure, a heinous act can occur anywhere, but the opportunity to do so needs to be limited. Also, there is no need for vehicular access, so that option could be removed.
David Moran (Editor) September 06, 2012 at 05:44 PM
Frank, just to clarify something, the third option, with the pedestrian bridge, at "full build out," which includes the second phase and potential property acquisition, would actually cost an estimated $1.78 million, slightly more than what was in the bond referendum.
Frank September 06, 2012 at 06:37 PM
David my math wasn't great you are correct. Probably though because of the poor state of the construction industry the town could probably get a deal and still come in on budget. Either way it is worth the cost.
Greg September 06, 2012 at 06:48 PM
Has the tunnel idea been reviewed for comment by the police, fire and paramedics? If so can you publish their reactions?
Bob Hetzel September 06, 2012 at 08:55 PM
Gentlemen, when my wife told me she would never enter a tunnel to go to the park, or anywhere else, I went for a second look. The best tunnel fot Center Springs Park (I think) is on the Tankerhoosen section of the Vernon rail trail, well maintained by Vernon. To see it, go to Vernon Commons on Route 30, opposite Hillside Avenue, and park behind Allstate. Follow the trail to the right a short distance to see two tunnels supporting Route I-84, one in each direction. Each tunnel is about 24' wide, 112" long and 12-15' high. Visibility is very good, the trail is packed dirt and completely clear, no litter, no sign of the homeless, and the inevitable graffiti has been painted over. The stone facade is impressive, and such a tunnel would make a dramatic, welcome entrance to Center Springs Park. Please note the image in the Photos and Videos section of this site. But don't take my word for it: Go see. Thanks.
Brian Hurlburt September 06, 2012 at 09:09 PM
Different location Bob. The tunnels you mention are not easily accessible by foot for those who might hang around and cause potential problems. I'm not saying those tunnels couldn't be visited by troublemakers, but the likelihood is greater if it is accessible to a greater number of people. Location is the key.
Bob Hetzel September 06, 2012 at 09:28 PM
Brian, the first time I went here to take snapshots there were two young boys on bikes doing jumps on a nearby dirt pile. A woman walking her dog, Toto, stopped to talk. Today, there were two middle-age adults on bikes (in the photo). The goal of the BOD as I heard it is to bring more people into the park, make a more dominant and inviting entrance to the park, and open it to new development in the area of South Parkade and the former Nichols property. It seems to me that any successful project to open up the park will necessarily require - and result in - a greater presence both in maintainers and visitors. Isn't that the point?
Frank September 06, 2012 at 10:31 PM
Bob, you make a great point we do want more people to Use the park however the main reason people don't use the park has nothing to do with the lack of a welcoming gate from broad street. The reason people don't use the park is because the town/Mpd allows people to illegally live in and around the park. The proximity of the park to the methadone clinic, CHR centers/housing, and the MACC shelter means the park attracts a Crowd of folks who don't make the place feel Welcome and safe. In turn this draws our most irresponsible and insupervised teens There to fight, do drugs/drink, and have sex. We dont have moms with strollers there we have people who aren't allowed to stay at the shelter because the refuse to receive mental health care or they refuse to not take drugs/alcohol or you may see the white haired guy who likes to deficate in neighboring yards and start fires in the woods. I live in this neighborhood and I can tell you exactly where these people illegally live and I have dealt with the consequences of the fires, the feces, the teen crimes and the like. Building a dark tunnel here doesn't seem like the best idea. I'm guessing the Vernon park doesn't have the same problems. I want a nice park right I'm the center of town that all law abiding Manchester citizens can enjoy without fear. Good, well thought out design is a major element of creating this ideal park.
Frank September 06, 2012 at 10:41 PM
also i Write these posts on my phone usually and said phone sometimes makes crazy auto correct errors, please forgive it and me.
James Bond September 06, 2012 at 11:18 PM
I say we include a rail service and a D and D in the tunnel.Or how about a toll?
Brian Hurlburt September 07, 2012 at 02:58 AM
Bob, it seems you were at the park on a great day. Yes, we do want people to use the park. However, we need it to be a safe environment, and we need to consider that element in the design. Because as Frank said, there WILL be irresponsible and reckless people who will use the park also. If my daughter were to visit this park with her friends, I would recommend to stay away from any area that is out of plain sight, and a tunnel is out of plain sight. The best self defense you have is to not put yourself in a situation that could compromise your safety, and the town is obligated to consider this in their decision making process.
Bob Hetzel September 07, 2012 at 10:08 PM
Frank and Brian, I agree with everything you write, except the "dark tunnel," that is "out of site." The tunnel I describe is 112 feet long, and supports four driving lanes and one breakdown lane of I-84 eastbound. It is made up of sections, and can be as short or long as the situation reguires. One hundred twelve feet compares with 90 feet from the pitcher's mound to the batter's box. Think of it as the arched foundation of a bridge, in this case, the rail bed. The issue of improving the park itself, I think, is a separation conversation - and I look forward to it. Perhaps Patch will pose the question, "How might Center Springs Park improve its image and use?" Meanwhile, I invite you see it; pictures don't convey its scale.
Bob Hetzel September 08, 2012 at 01:27 PM
I meant to write "a separate conversation," not "separation." Also, I think the word 'tunnel' carries a lot of emotional baggage - long, dark, scary, etc. 'Arches,' though, have a long and storied history; at the least, from Roman aquaducts to modern highway bridges. Incidently, the floor space of the structure I mention as an example is more than 2600 square feet of open space.
Brian Hurlburt September 08, 2012 at 06:37 PM
Hi Bob. Do you feel a tunnel is a better option than a foot bridge? If so, why? At the risk of sounding condescending, I need to point out that the distance from a baseball pitcher's mound to home plate is 60 feet 6 inches. Perhaps you meant the distance between bases on a baseball field, which is 90 feet.
Frank September 08, 2012 at 07:45 PM
The Vernon tunnel Is great for the park in Vernon not for the park in Manchester. I trust the designers drawings because they are the designers. The drawing they submitted looks like a still shot from The 1979 film "the warriors".
Frank September 08, 2012 at 07:59 PM
Also bob the Vernon tunnel would not be so nice If it was in Rockville. Like imagine two tunnels. One is in downtown willimantic and the other is on the town green in Greenwich Mayhaps you can admit that the two identical tunnels may end up being used for different purposes because of the different makeup of the two communities. This is the vital piece you keep missing.
Bob Hetzel September 09, 2012 at 02:54 PM
Hi Brian. First, it is clear I don't know much about baseball. I should have used some other example to illustrate the space in this tunnel. Also, the length of the tunnel would be dictated by the shape of the berm and the design of the abutments. The reason I prefer the tunnel is primarily that I would like to see the entire width of the right of way preserved for possible future uses; first a hiking/bicycle trail from one end of Main Street to the other, connecting two existing or planned bike trails, and second, a more remote possibility of a trolley way between the Cheney apartments near the south gate to Main Street and a passenger train depot at the north end. This would not be inconsistent with the Manchester 2020 community development plan as currently drafted. "The document also calls for creating a 'master plan' for better connections between public lands and bikeways, hiking trails, and multiuse paths and includes the goal of purchasing more land to create an 'emerald necklace' of trails. Other recommendations include the possible development of an 'intratown' transit system..." [Journal inquirer, 9/6/12]
Bob Hetzel September 09, 2012 at 03:25 PM
Frank, for the purposes of this conversation, I take as a given that the town government intends to connect Center Springs Park with the Broad Street area. The question has been how best to do this. Some prefer to lower a wide section of the rail bed down to grade level, with or without a bridge, and some prefer a tunnel. My interest is to preserve and hopefully restore the rail bed. In further answer to Brian's question, why do I prefer the tunnel option, I believe the semicircular arch is a very stable and time-tested base for the trail overhead, it is used in modern bridge building for that reason, it will make a dramatic entrance to the park (which is desirable and missing to date), and will facilitate the restoration of Edgerton Street. Also, in light of economic constraints, I question whether a bridge would ever be built.
Frank September 09, 2012 at 04:20 PM
Bob, the footbridge will be on the cheney trail bed and it preserves it good enough, also obviously I have little confidence that the trail will be preserved as the town has owned it for ages and it is only used as a homeless hangout and teen crime area. Economic Constraints (finally you admit that is a concern) is not a legitimate concern as the voters already approved 1.5 million and option 2 (including footbridge) is well below that budget. The voters don't want the BOD to be cheap on this one. I know the BOD believes that being cheap at any cost is the only way to get reelected in the city of village charm however on this one I think that if the BOD builds a homeless crime tunnel they will pay the price at the polls. Honestly I think the BOD members are probably already getting an earful from the voters regarding their horrible tunnel plan and will probably hear more of it at the next public comment section of the directors meeting. If you put this to a referendum and asked people in town to decide whats better - tunnel or footbridge I would guess footbridge would get 95% of vote, tunnel would get the 5% vote of the homeless, the criminals, and the drug addicts who stumbled to the polls. Of course if you asked voters what is more important- being cheap or having nice things in town then probably we would end up about 50/50. The cheneys are gone if we want nice things then we must pay for them, its called "self-government"
Dean September 09, 2012 at 04:44 PM
Bob, if Manchester is going raise it's property values, the town has to make tough choices. 1. We have to stop catering to the the homeless and drug addicts. Nobody wants to raise there kids in a town where they don't feel safe to use the local parks. People with money that help the tax base move to towns where homeless squatting is not tolerated. 2. If Manchester is going to develop economically, we can not consider the Cheneys in every decision that is made. They are gone, Manchester must move on and the rail has to go. If we are stuck with this tunnel, then at least can we have bright lights and loud music playing in there 24/7, also constant police harassment of squatters, and finally start putting makeshift homes in the land fill. They are property, it is litter.
Frank September 09, 2012 at 06:16 PM
You know the reason Manchester gets poorer and poorer each year (which we do) is not simply a function of our proximity to Hartford. Glastonbury and South WIndsor are equally close to Hartford. Why aren't they facing the same problems we are? Part of the answer is a history of poor decision making on the part of our government officials. Instead of biting the bullet and paying our own taxes we gambled on the idea that a mall and a ton of apartments would be like the new Cheneys. They would pay our taxes so we wouldn't have to. Where has this gotten us? It has not increased our tax base it has eroded our tax base as we must increase our spending on schools as our property values drop like a stone as a result of our refusal to enforce blight laws or do something about crime and homelessness. If the choice is to spend a tiny bit more today to get a whole lot back tomorrow (like fix up the center of town to attract young families and gay people who will fix up the historic houses and increase our tax base) then we should do it. In the past we have always tried to save a little bit today and pay everything latter (like building a homeless crime tunnel in the middle of town to continue attracting the criminals and drug addicts from all surrounding towns into our center and devaluing our whole town and scaring away the young gays and families that we should be trying to court). Manchester BOD stop being penny wise and pound foolish. NOW IS THE TIME!
Bob Hetzel September 10, 2012 at 12:18 PM
Gentlemen, I have had my say, and I have enjoyed the challenge of defending my position. There is much to be improved within Center Springs Park, but that is another conversation. To the doubters, I invite you to click on page 20 of the pdf at the beginning of this article and note the bridge vs. "metal arch" comparison. Next, click on the photo from Vernon (below the pdf) and compare the tunnels. These are not "homeless crime tunnels." Ask anyone who has gone there. Best wishes. Bob Hetzel
Frank September 10, 2012 at 11:06 PM
Bob I have also enjoyed it but you keep saying how great the Vernon tunnel is but that has almost nothing to do with this article. It doesn't matter how beautiful whatever they build is, if it can protect people from the elements the center springs park creeps will use it for crime. You could build a perfect replica of the arch de triumph there and it would still be used as a shanty town. Vernon either doesn't have homeless and criminals in their park or they have a police department that enforces the law, either way that isn't the situation in Manchester therefore the Vernon tunnel is an unexceptable example.
Bob Hetzel September 12, 2012 at 06:35 PM
Frank, the "center springs park creeps" are there because the park is hard to find, hard to get to, and seldom visited by most of Manchester's 150,000+ residents. The creeps are all over town, but they like to stay out of sight, and this park is a good place for that. What to do? Bring in more people, open the park up. A new, accessible and dramatic entrance is one approach, especially from a major development and traffic area. But there are so many other park improvements that might be considered, I have tried to avoid that conversation until another time. That the tunnel I like is in Vernon is irrelevant; the one the committee used is near Exit 1 of I-384, on a bike path. There are others; one on Route 6 in Andover, one at Bolton Notch, another on Tunnel Road in Vernon. And some prefer a bridge in any case. But the real question is the park itself. I am looking forward to that conversation.
Frank September 28, 2012 at 01:49 AM
I agree with everything you say I just think a tunnel isn't the welcoming dramatic entrance that will bring more law abiding visitors to the park. I also think it should be open. I think we should actually cut down the trees and make it more like walnut hill park in nb. That is a park surrounding by many creeps but the park is nice because it is open.
Bob Hetzel September 30, 2012 at 09:15 PM
Frank, the Board of Directors will hold their regular monthly meeting on Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. in the Lincoln Center Hearing Room. The meeting will be opened "to electors or taxpayers who wish to be heard on any subject within the jurisdiction of the Board of Directors." I expect the 'tunnel vs. bridge' issue to come up, in part because at last word, the Redevelopment Agency prefers the bridge option. In the meantime, we mostly agree about the trees; there is knotweed and brush to clear out, and we could certainly talk about fences, railings, handicapped access, and particularly, closing the park - and patrolling it - at night. More benches, new picnic areas, better walkways, and so on.


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