How can Norwalk improve Route 1’s most congested corridor?

Michael Ahillen, from FHI Studio, answers questions from residents at the Route 1 Corridor Study open house. (Photo by Kelly Prinz)

How can Norwalk improve three of the most congested, hazardous miles of Route 1, running from the Darien border up to just past Jefferson Elementary? How can the road be made safer and more accessible for a variety of users–pedestrians, drivers and residents?

Yesterday, a new study took its first steps in attempting to answer these and other questions, with the help of Norwalk residents. 

Community members gathered Monday for their initial opportunity to participate in a public workshop for the Route 1 Corridor Study, a project that’s being run by the City of Norwalk and the Western Council of Governments, or WestCOG, with $300,000 of funding from the Federal Highway Administration. More than a dozen attendees–including transportation advocates, business owners, and residents–gathered at Jefferson Elementary School for a presentation about the reasons behind the study, its goals, and its role as a platform for future projects. 

“This corridor means something different to different people, but we’re trying to capture a lot of different uses and develop outcomes that can be implemented and bring meaningful change,” said Michael Ahillen, who is leading the project for consultant FHI Studio.

Ahillen noted that the corridor includes everything from Norwalk Community College to big box retail stores, like Target and Costco.

“For some people it’s how you get to school. For others it’s how you get to work. For some it’s where you shop, where you recreate. For people who live here, this is their neighborhood,” he said. “So we’re very mindful of all of these different uses in the corridor.”

This map highlights the section of Route 1 and the surrounding areas that the study covers.

Garrett Bolella, Norwalk’s assistant director of Transportation, Mobility, and Parking, emphasized that while parts of the study are long-range, they’re also hoping to find some lower hanging fruit, like better sidewalks, to address sooner.

“There’ll be some long-term, 25-year-out recommendations. But we worked really hard with our Western Council of Governments, WestCOG, to make sure that the study itself was scoped to provide really short-term, competitive funding applications and quick implementation projects,” he said. 

Mayor Harry Rilling said the corridor needed to be made safer for all users, particularly as more pedestrians and cyclists try to navigate the area.

“This is really an exciting project as well as an important point,” Rilling said. “We know Route 1 from Van Buren Avenue all the way to Connecticut Avenue is a highly traveled area—over 20,000 cars a day pass through that roadway. There’s a lot of curb cuts from the different businesses. There’s also a lot of intersections. And we also know that the cars tend to go a little bit faster over there. So we want to try to make this as safe as we possibly can.” 

Ahillen emphasized the safety messaging, noting the “high prevalence of congestion in this area.” 

“When it comes to safety, it has two of the six highest-crash locations within the city,” he said. 

Bryan Baker, a principal planner for Norwalk, discusses land use in the Route 1 corridor. (Photo by Kelly Prinz)

After the presentation, participants had the chance to visit four stations: Bicycle/Pedestrian; Transit/Congestion; Land Use, Aesthetics, and Environment; and Economic Development/Business. They left feedback on maps of the area and could speak with city staff about ideas for improvement. 

Some residents proposed improvements at specific intersections, such as Scribner Avenue and Connecticut Avenue, while others asked for protected bike lanes and dedicated bus lanes. Still others highlighted the need for enhanced traffic-light timing to improve traffic flow or for eliminating some curb cuts to reduce the number of vehicles entering traffic from different directions.

Ahillen said that this was the first opportunity for public engagement. Over the summer, the study will host a walk audit of the corridor, open to the public, where participants can view first-hand some of the trouble spots, as well as pop-up events at transit stops. In the fall, there will be a workshop for community members to weigh in on the proposed draft. 

“Our goal is to leave here understanding the needs and the concerns of the community,” Bolella said, “What some of the strengths and weaknesses of the corridor are, and some of the challenges and opportunities.”
Residents can learn more about the study and find ways to get involved through WestCOG’s website.


2 responses to “How can Norwalk improve Route 1’s most congested corridor?”

  1. Bryan Meek

    Prepare to add this study to the shelves full of studies never enacted upon. And only $300k.

    Maybe the term should be, “those that can’t do, study”.

    This is a total failure of leadership.

    RT7 and 15 need to be connected. Rt1 should be more than 1 lane from France to Cablevision. And the traffic lights we are paying $10s of millions on should work as designed.

    The Fairfield Ave bridge incident should have been a call to real action, instead we get more studies.

  2. Bryan Meek

    And how about fixing potholes and paving roads people use.

    Instead we get the self congratulatory posts on dead end cul de sacs with 10 houses on it (Honeysuckle).

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