Updated, 5:30 p.m., ETA for East Avenue widening
NORWALK, Conn. — A proactive approach would make the East Avenue widening project go more smoothly and open up opportunities, Democratic District C Common Council candidate John Metsopoulos said Tuesday.
A citizen’s advisory committee would be a conduit between the business owners and residents, the city and the Connecticut Department of Transportation, Metsopoulos said, citing his experience as an economic development director in South Florida.
“I would work with the mayor to establish this citizen’s advisory committee. Mayor Rilling has been open to the idea that we establish this,” Metsopoulos said.
The East Avenue widening project has been planned for years and involves lowering the roadway under the railroad bridge. East Avenue will be widened under the bridge to make room for a bike lane. The bridge also will be replaced in the project, now scheduled for 2018, according to Department of Public Works Director Bruce Chimento.
It’s a massive project that has drawn concern from residents, some of whom protest that lowering the road will increase truck traffic.
Coordination and communication would avoid problems, Metsopoulos said, explaining that the impact on businesses and surrounding neighborhoods needs to be minimized. The project can be improved, Metsopoulos said, throwing out ideas for pavers in crosswalks, decorative lighting like that in SoNo and planters to increase eye appeal.
A Tax Increment Financing District might help East Norwalk, Metsopoulos said. That had been done while he was economic development director in Florida and opened the door to federal grants, he said.
Like the mayor’s task forces, the committee wouldn’t have power beyond an advisory capacity, Metsopoulos said.
“We can address the issues before, while and after,” Metsopoulos said. “One of the things too, once the project is over, there are what we call punch-card issues, issues that haven’t been addressed. Maybe a curb isn’t low enough, maybe the storm sewer grate isn’t to the grade of the road. So you want to be able to address those minor things, not allowing the owners of the businesses, the owners of the properties and the neighborhoods to get very frustrated.”