Updated, 10 p.m., height of CL&P line truck added.
NORWALK, Conn. – The director of Norwalk’s Department of Public works has comforting words for people who think the work planned for Rowayton Avenue will increase the number of speeders on what is, in some ways, a bucolic country road.
“We’re going to use some landscaping which has the tendency to slow people down. We’re looking at the radar thing that tells you how fast you’re going,” Hal Alvord said as he explained that the road is not being appreciably widened but there will be room for a bike lane on one side when it is done.
The project, the finishing touch on alterations that were requested more than a decade ago, will lower the hill north of the railroad station by three feet to improve the sight lines for drivers. That will also slow them down, Alvord said, as they will see the bridge sooner. The road north of the bridge will be narrowed from 32 feet to 28 feet. The road south of the bridge will be widened from 26 feet just south of Caroline Court to 28 feet, to make the stretch uniform.
Opponents of the project, which received final approval by the Common Council last week, say it goes much further than residents originally requested. They got the wider space under the railroad bridge that they wanted but not the sidewalks to allow people to walk there from downtown Rowayton. Lowering the road under the bridge will encourage truck drivers to use the stretch, they say.
Alvord and Councilman David McCarthy (R-District E) said there was a misinformation campaign before last week’s council meeting.
“There will be no widening,” McCarthy said at the council meeting. Tractor trailers will not have access to Rowayton via the road as the railroad bridge will not have enough clearance, he said.
McCarthy’s speech is in the video below. The accidents he references are listed in the story here.
Some speakers at the meeting said the project did not take the historic nature of the neighborhood into account.
“We have documents from the state historical preservation office and the DOT (Connecticut Department of Transportation) that all of the historical reviews that were required were done. In fact, we did archaeological excavations in the area,” Alvord said.
Neighbors of the train station have been traumatized by the seven-year project to widen the roadway under the bridge, which was done at night, Alvord said. This project will take one construction season and may even be done by Thanksgiving, he said. The construction will be done during the day.
“Rondano (Inc.) has good plans to do the walls and everything first so it won’t disrupt traffic, and then, when they get that done, they can minimize the amount of time it takes to do the roadwork,” he said.
Alvord said solar-powered speed monitors will be permanently installed in the vicinity of Arnold Lane, the project’s northern limit, to draw attention to the speed limit. Based on past experience, speeders going over a set point – maybe 45 miles per hour – will be told simply to slow down instead of being told how fast they are going, which is seen by some as a reward or a challenge, Alvord said.
“We could petition for a reduction in the speed limit on the north side, same as on the south side,” he said.
But, he said, “There’s no speeding going on there right now. The police have gone out there and sat there from time to time and haven’t tagged anybody.”
The road needs to be lowered because, when it was widened, it was necessary to put thicker steel beams in the bridge, reducing the height clearance, he said. Trucks have hit the bottom. Those are the type of trucks that have been going in and out of Rowayton for years, he said. The “normal deliveries” include box trucks bringing furniture in and, now, Peapod trucks from Stop ‘n Shop. Connecticut Power and Light (CL&P) line trucks cannot get under the bridge at present, he said.
The height clearance was 12 feet. It is now 11 feet. It will be 12 feet, 4 inches. Alvord said a tractor-trailer needs 13 feet. Mitch Gross of CL&P confirmed Alvord’s comment about line trucks – they need 12 feet of clearance.
The grading needs to be leveled out so trucks aren’t approaching the bridge at such a slant, Alvord said. DOT specs call for two 12-foot lanes and two two-foot curbs, he said. The city will put in striping to make a bike lane on one side, he said.
The construction project was approved two years ago. Last week’s vote was to authorize the construction company to do the work.
The federal government is paying for 80 percent of the work and the state is paying for 20 percent. The state agreed to widen the bridge on the condition that the city modify the road in the manner described above. The state would have demanded $500,000 back if the city backed out, Alvord said.
Not going ahead would also have cost the city good will in Hartford, Alvord said.
Norwalk has gotten more than $49 million over the past 10 years in state and federal grants for infrastructure projects, he said.
“One of the reasons that we have been able to get those funds is that when our mayor signs an agreement they know that the city is committed, that the city follows through on its commitment and they know that we’re going to get the project done in an efficient manner.”
Nothing but good things are coming out of the project, he said.
“When this project is complete, people are going to look at it and say ‘wow, that looks nice,’” he said.