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Rowayton ambivalently reaps reward of $2.8 million in road work

NORWALK, Conn. – Rowayton can see the results of $2.8 million of work and months of inconvenience – the work on Rowayton Avenue is almost done, according to Norwalk Department of Public Works Director Hal Alvord.

While one man who lives next to the tracks called the work “beautiful,” three Rowayton residents on Sunday expressed a lack of enthusiasm.

“We have gotten a lot of compliments,” Alvord said.

“The most I hear is that it was a waste of taxpayer money,” Sixth Taxing District Commissioner Tammy Langalis said.

The project lowered the hill north of the railroad station and altered the road widths, making it 4 feet narrower north of the bridge and 2 feet wider south of the bridge, in a deal worked out between Norwalk’s Department of Public Works and the Connecticut Department of Transportation (CDOT). The federal government paid for 80 percent of the work and the state paid for 20 percent. The state agreed to widen the bridge on the condition that the city modify the road in the manner described above.

That’s all according to information doled out nearly a year ago, when the $2.8 million contract was approved by the Common Council, despite an effort to stop it.

Nothing but good things would come out of the project, Alvord said in February. “When this project is complete, people are going to look at it and say, ‘Wow, that looks nice,’” he said.

Last week, he said everything was done but the cleanup work. The centerline was likely to be striped Sunday or Monday night, as were some parking lot lines, he said. The landscaping was in but it would take a year or two for the junipers to cover the ground on the hills north of the bridge, he said.

DPW worked with property owners in the area and was accommodating to some requests, removing trees that were considered hazardous and clearing out brush, in line with the budget, he said. “What we have gotten is a lot of thank-yous from people,” Alvord said, asserting that project manager Vanessa Valadares had gotten kudos.

One Rowayton resident described it last week in the manner predicted by Alvord.

Joseph Pupello

Joseph Pupello does some work in his yard last week next to the Rowayton Avenue Metro-North bridge.

“It looks beautiful,” said Joseph Pupello, who lives next to the railroad tracks on the southern side of the bridge. “They did a great job and the crew was great.”

One of three people who were in downtown Rowayton Sunday also used the word “great.”

“Hard to find $3 million there,” Frank Slater said. “They got a great wall structure. It looks good and everything. But we were supposed to see the road dropping. I can’t see a difference there. But that may be a layman. I’ve been down there and I can’t see it. … I wish they had taken the money for other projects in town.”

“I didn’t see much difference,” said a woman who declined to be identified. “It looks neater, that’s all I can say. I pull out of there every day from the train station. It doesn’t look any different.”

“I guess once they’ve got their minds set on something they’ve got to go through with it. Whether it was needed or not, I don’t know,” Dana Laird said.

What about DPW’s desire to improve the sightlines to make the road safer?

“If you improve visuals it improves the speed people go,” Laird said.

Langalis opposed the project.

“They like the improved sidewalks,” she said. “The stone wall on the corner of Belmont Place and Rowayton Avenue is so high that you cannot see over it when approaching the intersection from either direction, thus impairing visibility, rather than making it better as was the goal.   All the stone walls are too high. It is miracle that there were no accidents or even fender benders during all the construction and we were able to keep the train station in full operation.”

The new view heading north on Rowayton Avenue.

The new view heading north on Rowayton Avenue.

5 comments

Amy December 8, 2014 at 6:17 am

Nancy – I love your website but I need to clarify: Joe lives on Staten Island and was simply working in the yard at 299. He is correct, the crew has been, for the most part, great but I’m with Tammy, what a waste of money. And the speeding? Dana’s right, it will become more of an issue. More than one worker commented on the fact that even with the police directing traffic the stop signs were mere suggestions.

Lauriston Avery December 8, 2014 at 7:37 am

I believe it is great improvement to the safety of the exit of the outbound side of the railroad station. I find it to be very much improved, and I think you can see the amount of money spent. The rebuilt walls along the actual property lines seem to have been done with consideration for the homeowners, who had gotten used to thinking of the state property as their own.

Just another view from a Norwalk resident December 8, 2014 at 8:27 am

The bridge and surrounding roadway needed to be replaced but not for $2.8 million of taxpayer dollars. While the road is wider and people now have safe sidewalks around the train station, we didn’t need to spend all that money on rock walls and granite curbs.
BTW NoN – as predicted by some opponents, truck traffic has increased and a couple of large trucks have already been stuck under the bridge – one hit the overpass and one stopped short of hitting it and needed to back up which disrupted traffic.

Oldtimer December 8, 2014 at 9:32 am

It certainly looks nice, but it was an awful lot of money. They probably should consider signage warning about the bridge height where a truck driver would be turning into Rowayton Ave. There will be people going faster and it is hard to believe that will not lead to more accidents. People who live in Rowayton preferred the country road look before all this was done and believe it kept most people from speeding. We’ll see.

Mike Mushak December 9, 2014 at 12:41 am

My grading of the project, for whatever it’s worth: The massive walls are too tall (D-, as they say “Welcome to Fortess Rowayton”, but cheap leafy Boston Ivy can cover them in 2 years to create a green corridor easily bumping them up to a C+; driveways too steep (E); the potential for accidents increased from speeding without the natural traffic calming of the old road profile (F); landscaping on the north side of the southbound station access driveway which is on the north side of the bridge, with the row of hefty Green Giant arborvitaes (A+), landscaping on the south side of the same driveway which can get fixed easily with more plants on the spring (currently a D but can be an A or B if improved with more plants including some grasses and a weeding budget put in place); less steep sidewalks on the north side of the road both under and north of the bridge (A+); better pedestrian access into southbound station driveway (C, but would be B or even A if it was continuous to platform); height of wall south of bridge at intersection with northbound driveway (C as it blocks sight lines although it is an all-way stop so not so bad, and an A for quality of masonry); road width of 28 feet would be A if bike lanes added (two 10 foot travel lanes with two 4 foot bike lanes would help slow traffic and carry bikes through busy area in separate lanes before they blended into sharrows north and south of the station where there is no room for bike lanes).

Overall, the project gets a C, meaning it could have been better and it could have been worse.

The entire project could have been done for about $1 million instead of 3 million with less grading and massive wall work , but it’s done, and we should now concentrate on making it the best it can be, which involves improving plantings including ivy on the walls, and integrating it into a broader Rowayton Ave/Richards Ave bike/pedestrian corridor from Cudlipp up to Fillow at Fox Run School, past the busy Norwalk Community College.

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