NORWALK, Conn. — Norwalk is pushing the state to make adjustments to the East Avenue widening plan, Department of Public Works Director Bruce Chimento said Tuesday.
Chimento, giving NancyOnNorwalk an update on various projects, said room would be made for East Avenue bike lanes by allowing only three vehicle lanes under what would be a new railroad bridge scheduled to begin construction in 2018. Streetscaping would be aimed at giving the area a “little village” feel, Chimento said.
Chimento also talked about getting the state to pick up some of the tab for work on the Harbor Loop Trail. Although one political candidate complained recently about a “helter skelter” approach to road paving, Chimento said the schedule is followed with few adjustments. It was hoped that West Norwalk Road would be done this year, but it will probably wait for spring, Senior Civil Engineer Drew Berndlmaier said.
There was a meeting Monday about the East Avenue projects, Chimento said. This includes the state project to rebuild the railroad bridge and lower the roadway beneath it. In conjunction with that, work will be done on East Avenue. All of this has been proposed for years.
Some residents are in favor of the work, some opposed, suspecting that the state wants to increase truck traffic in East Norwalk, Chimento said.
“That is not true,” Chimento said.
The bridge’s height will be increased to meet state and federal guidelines and “the state wants to stop trucks from hitting the bridge,” Chimento said. “Because when that happens, they have to go out and inspect. … If it’s serious enough, they may have to shut down Metro-North traffic, which is not a good thing. So they have to be careful about that.”
Chimento doesn’t see truck traffic increasing at all because of the project, although it would open up Van Zant Street to larger vehicles. People have said trucks that are heading for the mall would use East Avenue but, “That’s ludicrous to even think that,” Chimento said.
“We are now negotiating with state on some changes,” Chimento said. “We are trying to see if we can talk to them about what’s called a beautification of the area. I have discussed with them shortening the project, don’t go all the way up to St. John Street.”
In return for a lesser scope of work, the state would make changes that would include three travel lanes under the bridge instead of the four that have been planned, he said. That would make room for two small lanes for bikes and a five-foot wide sidewalk on either side.
Other things being discussed:
- Stairs on both sides of the bridge, to make it easier for pedestrians
- More platforms for trains; instead of the current two, there would be four
- “The possibility of putting in decorative lighting from Fitch to Winfield Street and some other streetscape enhancements to make it look like the little village that it is.”
Streetscaping has never been discussed before, Chimento said. This would include the type of street lighting you now see in SoNo and on Cedar Street; “dressing up” the area from St. Thomas Church to Winfield Street and The Station House restaurant would “make it look like a little village-type thing.”
Bike lanes would connect to the new ones on Fitch Street and create connectivity to the beach.
The state also is planning to “redo” the Strawberry Hill Avenue bridge over Interstate 95, Chimento said. The bid will go out next year.
The Harbor Loop Trail
The state is being asked to include work on the Harbor Loop Trail in its plan to renovate the Yankee Doodle Bridge, Chimento said.
Norwalk Redevelopment Agency Senior Project Manager Susan Sweitzer explained that the projects dovetail: The city has been planning to make room for a bike path and pedestrian access under the bridge by moving Hendricks Avenue slightly inland, and the state is planning to do that as well.
Getting the state to do the work “would be nice,” although state projects tend to bog down, she said.
The city’s plan has been to spend $260,000 on that project, which is expensive because a new road bed must be built, she said.
Although Council at-large candidate Jim Feigenbaum said road paving is done “helter skelter,” Chimento and Berndlmaier said there is little deviation from the plan that has been in place for years.
The only thing that changed this year was work on the Fairweather Drive area, as Common Council members responded to requests and complaints from residents, he said.
Residents wanted all the curbs replaced, but Council members voted to stick with DPW’s plan, as it would have cost an additional $93,000 to do what the residents wanted, according to Berndlmaier’s account in September.
The roads adjacent to City Hall – Sunset Hill Avenue and Eversley Avenue – were finally paved this week, Chimento said. Other roads in the neighborhood should be done soon, he said.
The roads have been torn up for months. That’s because the utility company Eversource needed to replace all the gas mains and gas connections to the houses, Chimento said. There was a sanitary sewer relining and CL&P installed conduit on Sunset Hill.
“I haven’t seen a truck in West Norwalk in months,” Feigenbaum said.
Road paving is done in clusters, Chimento said.
“We don’t want to move the paving people and the milling people from spot to spot,” he said.
West Norwalk Road is on the list for this year, but it doesn’t look like it will get done, he said.
“Depending on what happens with weather, it’s a push,” Chimento said.
Berndlmaier said the 1.5-mile project will probably wait for spring because there are four or five catch basins that need to be reconstructed. He wants to go through the street with Highway Superintendent Chris Torre and make sure any maintenance issues are taken care of before winter, he said.
“After these couple of rains, I want to take a look out there and see if there’s any drainage improvements we can make,” Berndlmaier said.