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Metsopoulos pitches Citizens Advisory Council in East Avenue widening

John Metsopoulos

Democratic District C Common Council candidate John Metsopoulos talks about the East Avenue widening project Tuesday in the East Norwalk train station parking lot.

Election Day is Nov. 3.

Election Day is Nov. 3.

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.”

One comment

Mike Mushak October 28, 2015 at 3:47 pm

A very reasonable and smart proposal. Good job John.

East Ave after widening should not be just another dangerous corridor of speeding traffic, but a real attractive gateway to East Norwalk as well as as a walkable and bikable destination in and of itself, lined with trees and brick sidewalks with flower baskets, and new businesses with residences above like any real American small town “main street”.

In a nutshell, it should be well-planned, with “Complete Streets” principles designed for all users of all ages and abilities. It must also allow traffic to flow through smoothly at high volume but low speeds. It can be awesome!

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