Peter Libre is co-chairman of the Bike Walk Task Force, but these comments do not necessarily represent opinion of the Task Force.
To the Editor:
East Norwalk has almost nothing to gain, and much to lose, from the proposed widening project for East Avenue between the railroad bridge and Myrtle Street.
1. The roadway beneath the bridge became impassable during Irene and Sandy because sea level rose up from the Mill Pond to the drains. Lowering this roadway 3 feet to accommodate trucks will make the road frequently unusable, preventing residents from leaving and emergency vehicles from entering. This safety issue alone should disqualify the entire project, especially since sea level will probably rise 3 feet more this century.
2. Increasing clearance under the bridge would bring truck traffic into the heart of East Norwalk by providing an alternate route to and from the South Norwalk mall, and a bypass for I-95 traffic. The noise and pollution will discourage walkers, make local shops less appealing, and reduce property values.
3. Northbound congestion is due to the intersection at I-95, not insufficient lanes nearer the bridge. There are already 4 lanes north of Myrtle. The proposed “improvements” – adding a fourth lane in front of the churches and gas stations, and adding a third lane under the bridge – will only cause cars to drive a little faster between red lights until they hit the congestion at the overpass.
4. Congestion could be improved by encouraging walking and biking. (In NYC, the bike rental program alone accounts for 1 million trips monthly. Without bikes, there would be millions of additional car and subway trips each month.) However, the proposed work for East Avenue will not encourage biking or walking.
5. Wider roadways, wider lanes and higher speeds all increase the risk of pedestrian fatalities. This project would do all of the above. The proposed new rail bridge would allow train riders to walk over East Ave. But the street level crossing would be widened from 38 to 58 feet, which would endanger pedestrians and discourage walking to East Ave. shops.
6. The road work would not enable new bike lanes. Eminent domain issues will likely prevent widening north of Myrtle Street; sharrows are the only option. South of Myrtle, the present 40-foot roadway could already have 5-foot bike lanes if the three lanes were repainted to 10 feet (the lanes north of Myrtle are already 10 feet). Under the bridge, there is already room for two 10-foot lanes and 5-foot bike lanes – which would also create a very safe 20-foot pedestrian crossing. Adding bike lanes to reduce car traffic and improve pedestrian safety requires a few thousand (dollars) for paint, not millions for construction.
7. The problem of stuck trucks could easily be prevented by hanging warning chains from a bar ahead of the bridge. This simple solution was suggested years ago – was it avoided in hopes that stuck trucks would aggravate the public to support an otherwise irrational boondoggle?