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Rowayton Avenue accidents detailed by Norwalk councilman’s research

Norwalk Common Councilman David McCarthy (R-District E) is chairman of the Public Works Committee.

NORWALK, Conn. – At least two motorists were involved in an accident under the Rowayton Avenue railroad bridge in recent years – as many suspected was possible, they bumped mirrors.

That accident report is one of eight that Norwalk Common Councilman David McCarthy (R-District E) produced Tuesday to correct one aspect of what he called a “continual stream of misinformation” regarding the Rowayton Avenue construction project, which involves lowering the road north of the railroad station, over the previous two weeks.

“I heard two weeks ago there had never been any accidents,” McCarthy said, referring to a comment Mike Mushak made at the Jan. 7 Public Works Committee meeting. “Now I guess there’s been one or two. Well, there have been 13. I actually went through them, read them. I actually took out five of the 13 because I thought they could be chalked up to careless driving or whatever. I’ve actually provided a copy of the eight that were documented by the Norwalk Police Department. Four that were part of the actual application, which is what I cited in the committee meeting, add to them another four besides the five, as I say, chalk it up to irresponsible driving.”

“There is no accident history at this location,” Mushak said at the Jan. 7 meeting. He later explained that he had called the Norwalk Police records department and asked about accidents. The person he spoke to couldn’t find any, he said.

Here are the accident reports McCarthy had Tuesday:

January 1997

A 1998 Toyota slid on ice while going south and hit a tree at 295 Rowayton Avenue.

February 1997

A 1995 ford hit a utility pole just past the driveway at the westbound side of the railroad station when it slid on ice after the driver slowed down for a vehicle coming out of the railroad station.

June 1997

A bus slowed down because the driver didn’t think there was enough room on the roadway to share with an approaching vehicle, the driver said. The bus was rear-ended by a 1985 Honda at Rowayton Avenue and Belmont Place.

September 2006

A Nissan Stanza was involved in a hit and run accident – another vehicle backed into it and then sped away. The Stanza came up behind a vehicle that was stopped because the road was closed. This was near the intersection of Rowayton Avenue and Thomes Street.

July 2010

The side mirrors were damaged on both a Ford F550 and a Chevy Suburban when the vehicles went past each other as they went under the railroad bridge in opposite directions. The road was under construction and the lanes were very narrow. The collision was unavoidable, police said.

Sept. 2010

A 13-foot tall Ryder rental truck suffered severe damage after the driver tried to go under the bridge, which had an 11-foot clearance.

June 2011

A 2003 Volkswagen was stopped due to construction and was backed into by a 2011 Audi. Both vehicles were going south. The Audi’s driver said he had tried to turn into the railroad station parking lot but the police officer handling traffic had opened up the northbound lane. He then backed into the Volkswagen while trying to get out of the way of oncoming traffic.

July 2013

Another tragic backing accident:  A woman driving a 2001 Chevy backed into a 2003 Saab because, she said, she didn’t see it. No location is specified in the police report other than Rowayton Avenue but the drawing indicates that it was in the railroad station parking lot.

Asked after Tuesday’s meeting why he thought the accidents were relevant, McCarthy said, “They’re all relevant. Have you every driven down there? Go down there, park, and look to get out. … All you can do when you pull out is pray that somebody isn’t coming over that hill.”

The point wasn’t that accidents were the only reason to do the project, he said.

“I’m just saying, people said there were no accidents,” he said. “I said, ‘no there were 13, five of them were really minor, eight of them are legitimate.’ There were three or four that were exactly in that intersection and it’s a blind spot in both directions. To the left it’s improved. … from the right you cannot see because of that hill.”

Mushak said none of accidents McCarthy listed were relevant to the project.

“As you can see, not a single accident over 17 years was related to the need for this project, and none were serious, with only one with minor injuries,” he said in an email Wednesday night. “They were all based on driver error, and in two cases, lack of proper sanding of the road during ice storms, as reported by the police who called the DPW from the scene to sand the road both times after cars slid off the road (only one was on the hill, as the driver stopped suddenly on the icy road to turn into the station).

He also said concerns about trucks hitting the bridge were not borne out in the data.

“… Only one bridge strike was reported to the police in 17 years since 1997, and that was for a 13-foot truck hitting the current bridge height of 11 feet, so even after spending $2.8 million to lower the road to increase the clearance to 12 feet, this accident would still have occurred.”

Mushak repeated his call for better warning signs.

“I still think better signage is needed despite the claims made by Mr. McCarthy that it is adequate, as they are only numerical signs, not ‘low clearance ahead’ that are needed at the road entrances at the top and bottom of Rowayton Avenue, the same as Darien now has on the Post Road.”

 

18 comments

SilenceDogood January 30, 2014 at 6:14 am

Some thoughts-

Mr. Mushak alleged on January 29, 2014 in an email to NON that the accident reports cited by Mr. McCarthy did not exist, indeed that they were “phantom accidents”. Mr. McCarthy is deserving of a sincere apology from Mr. Mushak.

NON published the accident reports without any redactions. The police are required to produce copies under FOIA as received by NON, but NON could have and should have removed critical identifying numbers before publishing (dates of birth, insurance policy numbers). To remove these pieces of information would not have compromised the story and would have reduced the opportunity for identity theft.

YankeeC January 30, 2014 at 6:42 am

Silence, you are missing the point. You are missing the forest for the trees. The fact is that McCarthy stated the accident reports proved the need for the project. Now that they have been released they prove the opposite. You have it backward too — McCarthy owes Mushak an apology!

H Henry January 30, 2014 at 7:50 am

I’ve been backing out of my driveway at 299 Rowayton Avenue for 40 years and never had an accident – probably because I take my time and look both ways several times. AND, I can see perfectly whether or not there is a southbound car coming down the hill. YankeeC is correct, Mr. McCarthy owes Mr. Mushak and the rest of us an apology.

Suzanne January 30, 2014 at 8:00 am

If you divide 2.8 million by the eight accidents cited here, it means that each accident was worth $350,000
over a period of sixteen years (1997 to 2013.) If this was then extrapolated and applied to any other area with similar types of accidents, which basically would apply to any area during an ice storm where sand has yet to be applied to the road surface and, using the logic of Mr. McCarthy with these accidents as justification for the Rowayton project, pretty much the entirety of Connecticut Avenue would need to be lowered – much busier with, I am sure, a lot of “sliders” during those big ice incidents. So, on balance, $350,000 per accident is hardly a justification for this project.

the donut hole January 30, 2014 at 11:28 am

The most amazing thing about all of this is that anyone who would buy a house near the rail road tracks would expect nothing to ever be done to a 120 year old line. You should have bought a cabin in the woods far away from here.

Jlightfield January 30, 2014 at 12:24 pm

Norwalk Council reps should be asking themselves why there is no legislative effort to open data from customer service, police and fire. Informed decisions come from complete analysis.

Mike Mushak January 30, 2014 at 1:39 pm

Mr. McCarthy told the Public Works Committee that the numerous accidents justified the project. My comment that there were no accidents was meant to mean there were no accidents that were related to the need for the project. All minor driver error stuff, or city-caused by inadequate sanding on two separate occasions, according to the police on the scene. I apologize to Mr. McCarthy for the unintentional emotional stress I caused him.
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Now, let’s get to the issue at hand, which was Mr McCarthy’s repeated intentional mis-statements to promote this over-engineered expensive boondoggle to other Commin Council members and to the public. He violated the public trust by doing this, a serious offense for a public official. He said the accidents justified the project, that emergency vehicles need clearance, and that this will not cost Norwalk taxpayers anything as it is fully reimbursable from the state. All false statements, refuted by the facts.
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Even the truck strike issue is non-existent, with just one truck strike in 17 years, by a 13 ft truck that would have hit the new 12 ft bridge anyway after we spend almost 3 million to “fix” it.
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We have since found out that city staff time to supervise is not reimbursable, as well as landscaping, which can be a substantial cost on a project like this, up to 10% of a project cost on average, putting the cost just for landscaping at $2-300k. So,as you can see, this project has been approved based on lies, no matter what Mr. McCarthy says to spin it.

This project should have been paused for a major redesign to cut costs to taxpayers and fix what actually needs fixing, like new footpaths all over the area that the community has been begging the city for for years.

JoeC January 30, 2014 at 4:09 pm

Thank you, Mr. Mushak, for your clear explanations of the accident history around the underpass and its irrelevance to the proposed project, and for bringing to light potential costs to Norwalk not yet explained, or shall I say, admitted to, by anyone else. What has me scratching my head is why the support for something so unnecessary is so vociferous. There is obviously no public safety hazard that would be ameliorated by the proposed project, and just because it could be done for “free” (though not really, eh?) is no rationale at all. Norwalkers all can point to many ways that kind of money could be used to improve roads and walkways all over town. Hopefully the state-level powers that be will reassess the scope of the proposed project and pare it way down to truly useful essentials of drainage, signage, lighting and sidewalk development. Has anyone raised the possibility of adding a stop sign or other traffic-calming device on the southbound side of Rowayton Ave., somewhere north of the bridge? Why not look for relatively inexpensive ways to slow approaching traffic?

Mike Mushak January 30, 2014 at 5:42 pm

My point exactly, JoeC. The Democratic Common Council members, led by John Igneri, who represents that district by the way, voted no to force the state to redesign the project to the proper scale for the area, solving some minor issues with sidewalks and retaining wall renovation, but eliminating the excessive regrading of a country road into a state-highway standard monstrosity for 800 feet north of the station. It is engineers gone wild, on taxpayers dime, as if the millions for this unnecessary project grows on trees. We know the state would not have forced the city to repay money spent, as right of ways would still be necessary for wall and sidewalk work, and the DOT higher ups would have approached this with an adult attitude, instead of the nasty retribution threat that some low level DOT project managers threw out at the last meeting to scare our city officials into approving this awful boondoggle. It was like Norwalk was being held hostage to accept a bad project that nobody wanted.
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Just wait until they start building it, and watch the reactions. It is a shame the Democrats were not a majority on the Council, as now we have a project starting that nobody in the community wants, while bike and pedestrian improvements go unaddressed all over Rowayton, things the community have been requesting for decades from the city with little action. In other words, the DPW’s priorities are misplaced, and do not reflect modern concepts of roads being for all users, not just speeding cars and trucks.

Oldtimer January 30, 2014 at 6:10 pm

The 64 dollar question in my mind is: Why in the world is McCarthy so determined to waste taxpayer money on this project ? What possible benefit or gain for anybody does he envision ? He sounds like a salesman working for a big commission.

irishgirl January 30, 2014 at 7:01 pm

The 100 million dollar question is “Why isn’t Rilling doing ANYTHING about it???!!!”
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Eh-hem, he’s the mayor elected by “the people” for hope and change…

Mike Mushak January 30, 2014 at 9:49 pm

It is well known that the project takes away part of the front lawn of a property owned by one of McCarthy’s political rivals. That seems to be the only plausible reason he would push this boondoggle so hard, while ignoring the things his political rivals support, and the community wants, which is more footpaths and bike lanes all over Rowayton, none of which have been installed since McCarthy was elected the first time over 2 years ago, and has served as chair of the Public Works Committee the whole time. Community leaders have wanted safety improvements for children around the schools in Rowayton for years, and McCarthy has done nothing to help.
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That’s why he concentrated so hard on the mosque issue in West Norwalk during the last election, spreading lies in a flyer about the issue and about many individuals named on the flyer including me, since he knew he was despised in Rowayton where he lives and needed the north side of his district to push him over. He only won with less than 3% of he vote as it was, and the flyer he distributed all over West Norwalk full of inflammatory language during an ongoing lawsuit, just to win an election with no regard for the consequences, ironically may actually become relevant in the case.

the donut hole January 30, 2014 at 10:48 pm

OMG. Only 2 paragraphs? Less than 5000 words? Hint: “McCarthy is bad” will give you more time to balance the meds properly.

Oldtimer January 31, 2014 at 9:40 am

Without getting the governor directly involved, it may be too late now to rein in the “we must spend the money” crowd, led by McCarthy and Alvord. In my opinion it would still be worthwhile to reach out to the governor and offer him a chance to save a bunch of taxpayer money and make a few more friends in the process.

irishgirl January 31, 2014 at 1:05 pm

A chance for Rilling to show the people what he is made of; regardless of the outcome.
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Why isn’t Mike calling Rilling out on the carpet here in the public view like he has against Alvord and McCarthy?? Some of his tirades should be directed to Rilling now that he is mayor and has the authority to address Malloy on this “boondoggle”.
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Hmmmm…..

lael February 4, 2014 at 11:43 pm

I think Bruce Kimmel’s (who’s always the voice of reason and intelligence. Why isn’t he mayor?) op-ed piece in The Hour really laid out the reasons for this project and provides some omitted history in this discussion here.

Quote from Kimmel: “…discussion of the project began in the early 1990’s during what was called a “commuter revolt,” had been endorsed by three mayors, the federal and state governments and had bee approved by the Common Council in 2011 after lively debate. Plus, a special sub-committee had been set up the the Council’s Public Works committee to address any resident concerns and we agreed to address those concerns even if they fell outside the official scope of the project, such as addition of more sidewalks leading to the railroad station…”

Hmmm….looks like Jlighfield there’s been plenty of “complete analysis” from all “data sources” for years.

And it’s clear that Mr. Mushak is doing what he ALWAYS does–hurl shrill distortions and insults at the republicans he can’t stand. At no point, on ANY issue can I recall Mr. Mushak agreeing with or seeking to collaborate with those with whom he disagrees. It’s a always win-lose with him.

I was present once in a public meeting that Mr. Mushak literally took over. He interrupted the speakers and DEMANDED to talk about the issue he wanted discussed. Never mind the 100 or so other people there to hear the speakers. Never mind the formal agenda. It was ALL about HIS point of view and HIS issues. It was rude and inappropriate. His vicious attacks on people like McCarthy come across as small-minded and hateful. I find his perpetually angry tone of voice hard to take. I’m sure I’m not the only one that goes sighs and goes “oh no, Mushak again” when he’s off ranting on something.

This project has had YEARS of scrutiny. To reduce this to an opportunity to attack–without basis–those on the other side politically is not doing what’s best for us as community. This divisiveness is bad for Norwalk. Until recently, I’ve seen the politicians disagree over they years–sometimes vocally but always– until now–without the rancor and hate. I hope we can get back to the civility and respect we once enjoyed as a city and our new mayor’s promised.

lael February 4, 2014 at 11:51 pm

@Irishgirl

Excellent question!

I think the answer is of course that because Mr. Rilling is a democrat and Mr. Mushak was a big supporter of Mayor Rilling’s campaign, you’re not going to see any of that anger directed at any fellow democrat—and certainly not ever at Mayor Rilling.

Mike Mushak February 5, 2014 at 6:05 pm

lael, you clearly hate me! Why not use your real name when attacking someone so viciously? You make no mention of the facts presented, only attacks on me personally. The accident data does not support the need for this project, period. That is not “shrill distortion” as you put it.
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If you can find an accident in the reports that does support this project, among the moinor fender benders and bumped mirrors,, please share it with us, and prove I was making a “shrill distortion”. I suspect we’ll not here anything back!
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We were also told that this project won’t cost Norwalk taxpayers anything (which in itself is ludicrous as state and federal money is also paid by all of us), but we were told repeatedly by Mccarthy and Kimmel that it was FULLY remimbursable. Oh, wait, landscaping and city staff time is not, as we found out recently, which may add up to hundreds of thousands. So why are Kimmel and Mccarthy continuing to claim it is a fully reimbursable project, contradicting the facts? Is that a shrill distortion?
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Your reference to the Kimmel letter explaining how marvelous this process between teh city and the community has been over all these years is interesting. Here’s a link to a story in 2011 by none other than Nancy Chapman, when she worked for the Daily Norwalk, that describes how upset community leaders were at that time for being ignored by the DPW.http://norwalk.dailyvoice.com/news/rowayton-demands-more-details-bridge-project.

Is that a shrill distortion, lael? I believe the shrill distortions are coming from you, to discredit someone who is exposing this farce for what it is: a classic government boondoggle completely out of scale for the area and which doesn’t address any of the actual problems the community is concerned about, like better footpaths all over Rowayton and safer routes to school, which the city has ignored.

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