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Mushak: Fairfield Avenue truck accident could have killed people

NORWALK, Conn. – An accident Sunday in Norwalk came close to fulfilling a frightening prediction made by Michael Mushak.

In advocating for a heavy truck ban on Fairfield Avenue, Mushak has in the past said that if a large truck lost control as it came down the road’s steep grade into SoNo, it would come perilously close to a children’s playground at the bottom of the hill. At 2:21 p.m. Sunday, a dump truck owned by Grasso Companies and three other vehicles were involved in an accident, a collision that took place at the corner of Fairfield Avenue and Flax Hill Road, across the street from the playground at Miracle Temple.

Six people were taken to Norwalk Hospital by ambulance, according to a Norwalk Fire Department press release. “None of the injuries appeared to be life threatening at this time,” the release said.

A small box truck on its side had a Chevy Malibu pinned against a telephone pole, the release said. Firefighters used the jaws of life to rip off the Malibu’s roof and rescue an injured man, the release said.

There also was a Norwalk taxi involved. The taxi had rear end damage and the truck had front end damage, the release said. All four vehicles were towed, and Norwalk Police are investigating the accident.

Grasso is in bankruptcy, Department of Public Works Director Hal Alvord said recently. Grasso Companies LLC was recently refused a contract with the city because of unpaid taxes. Grasso is currently doing paving work on Taylor Avenue.

Last spring, Mushak and other members of the Golden Hill Association pressed for an ordinance that would prohibit trucks that weigh more than 26,000 pounds from using Fairfield Avenue.

“There is a very steep hill on Fairfield Avenue lined by residences the entire length,” Mushak said to the Traffic Commission in April. “It’s a half a mile from Exit 14 to Flax Hill Road. It is a completely residential street lined with condos, rentals, some public housing. In general, there are 3,000 people, many low-income and minority people, that have a very high rate of asthma in that community. The diesel exhaust from trucks aggravates asthma, as we all know. And with a steep grade on that hill, there have been a lot of concerns of people over the years.”

Alvord opposed the ban, citing the exit ramp from Interstate 95. The Office of the State Traffic Administration said municipalities cannot put a weight limit on a road that has an off ramp for a limited access highway, he said.

Mushak said Sunday that the Golden Hill Association has been trying for eight years to get a heavy truck ban on Fairfield Avenue.

“We were lucky this didn’t happen on a weekday,” he said. “… It could have killed dozens of people.”

Fairfield accident 2-001
A Grasso Companies dump truck is towed away Sunday from the scene of an accident at Fairfield Avenue and Flax Hill Road. (Contributed photos.)

Comments

12 responses to “Mushak: Fairfield Avenue truck accident could have killed people”

  1. Suzanne

    It’s the stop sign at the intersection: the government will wait until there are fatalities, and not before, to install the needed traffic signs or actions are taken. These were “just” injuries – when the inevitable deaths come and with the well-publicized warnings about Norwalk’s inaction taken into consideration, get ready for the understandable law suits. Among many other things, the City is supposed to protect their residents – especially from inevitable accidents that could possibly kill them.

  2. Mike Mushak

    Thank you Nancy on Norwalk for publishing this article about a major accident that the Hour hasn’t even mentioned in today’s paper. Thank you for independent journalism! Please show your support and donate to this important news site in the window in the upper right side of this page.

    It was a miracle no one got killed in this horrible accident. If it happened on a weekday, there could have been an accordian-style pile-up with numerous deaths, including the possibility of the runaway truck plowing into a daycare playground just opposite the site of the wreck in the photo, crushing children and their adult supervisors at the Miracle Temple. The steep grade on Fairfield Ave exceeds the city’s own safety standards, and was not designed for heavy truck traffic through a strictly residential neighborhood.

    The route for DOT-rated heavy-duty trucks (over 26,000 lbs.) should be on the road that was designed and built for them off of Exit 14: Reed Street, which continues straight off of Exit 14 down to West Ave., and has NO curb cuts from any property at all unlike Fairfield which has numerous busy driveways of residential properties where lots of accidents have occurred and has the notorious steep grade.

    This is a matter of protecting public safety , and will be brought up again at the next Traffic Authority meeting. DPW must act now before another tragic and preventable accident like this destroys innocent lives and families.

  3. Scott

    How will you enforce this ban? Can oil trucks make deliveries? Can a paving company repair someone’s driveway? Are the police to stop every truck and ask them where they are going? It’s an impossible enforcement task. I am also curious about the statement of “exceeding city safety standards” in reference to the grade of the road. Is there such a thing? Even if there is I’m sure that Fairfield Ave. existed long before they were created.

  4. Casey Smith

    Thank God no one was killed! That’s another intersection I avoid as there are too many cars moving in too many directions. I’m not going to blame trucks, accidents happen. I’ll let the police determine what happened and how it happened. I’m just glad no one died.

  5. Mike Mushak

    Scott, you ask good questions. There would be exceptions for local deliveries, just as there are on any other road with restrictions. Most local deliveries would be below the 26,000 lb threshold anyway, as UPS and FedEx trucks are below that weight limit. This proposed restriction only applies to the heaviest trucks, the semis and dump trucks, that require a CDL license to operate. The city safety standard for “Minor Arterial”, in the 1991 Road safety Standards, on page 22, states that the maximum grade for these streets should be 6%. On the steepest part of the hill on Fairfield, just south of Golden Hill Street, , we have a 30 foot drop in 200 feet which is a 15% grade. This also exceeds the safety maximum listed in the CT DOT Highway Manual.

    Obviously Fairfield is a historic street and can not have its profile altered to adhere to our safety standards, But it can have its traffic usage easily altered with simple signage and occasional enforcement, to save lives. At what cost will saving a few minutes drive time into SoNo for the heaviest trucks be tolerated? How many accidents will it take? How many deaths, and cases of asthma? My dear friend Kurtis Evans who lived on Fairfiled Ave in an apartment right on the hill died of an asthma attack alone, in the middle of the night, on July 5th, 2012. He was 46. The black soot in his building from the diesel exhaust from trucks struggling up the steep hill at full throttle was so think you could slip on it in the hallways. He complained about it for years and nothing happened. I am determined in Kurtis’s memory and for all the other folks who live on this street and in this neighborhood to fight for a solution to this horrible situation.

    As far as enforcement goes, it could be an occasional traffic stop like they do for drunk drivers on West Ave., which acts as much as a deterrant as it does to actually catch anyone breaking the law. Education with signage will also be important. “All Heavy-Duty Trucks over 26,000 lbs, Straight and Left Turns Only” at Exit 14, and “Steep Grade Ahead-Check Brakes” will help. There will be no way to keep all heavy trucks off of Fairfield, but if you watched as we do the lines of heavy trucks backing all the way up the hill at peak hours, or speeding down the hill, or spewing clouds of thick black diesel exhaust laden with dangerous asthma and cancer-inducing particulates into apartment windows and the playground as they labor up the steep grade, you would agree with us that something has to be done.

    It is clearly a major public health and safety issue for an entire neighborhood, and there is an easy solution. Saving on average 3 minutes by taking this dangerous shortcut while endangering health and lives is NOT what Norwalk should be about. That is why Mayor Rilling and Fire Chief Denis McCarthy, as well as Senator Bob Duff, Rep Bruce Morris, and our local Common Council representatives have all supported this idea in the past. Cheif McCarthy is especially concerned that emergency response times from the Fire Headquarters on CT Ave. are hindered by the heavy trucks that back up in this narrow stretch, a major gateway to SoNo.

    We have a neighborhood with thousands of residents in danger, including anyone on the narrow sidewalks which is heavily used by families and children including several bus stops. Imagine the slim chance of survival of a mother pushing a baby carriage with a couple of kids, a common site on this stretch of road, walking at the same spot where those cars were pushed up onto the sidewalk after they were crushed. Or imagine the carnage in the daycare playground at the bottom of the hill, of a heavy runaway cement truck or dump truck crashing into it. It is a miracle no one died here because it happened on a Sunday with little traffic.

    Next time, we may not be so lucky. We should not just sit back and wait for this potential tragedy to happen when it is clear that we have a dangerous and easily remedied situation here.

  6. Oldtimer

    Mike certainly has a point, diesel truck exhaust, on well maintained trucks, does not put out that oily scum he talks about. If you can see black exhaust smoke, the truck is in violation and can be ticketed for defective equipment. A little enforcement on dirty exhaust violations would bring remarkable results, especially if a few warning signs were posted at turnpike exits that Norwalk does enforce dirty truck exhaust laws.

  7. Oldtimer

    It will be interesting to see what violations are cited in the accident investigation.

  8. Iolanda

    We have lived in the neighborhood for 38 years and we avoid Fairfield Ave to Washington street in the winter, it is very dangerous! It is so easy for a car to go out of control leave alone a truck that could kill someone! Don’t understand why the city doesn’t have a sign for trucks to use Reed to West Ave. A sign is less expensive than some one getting injured or losing their lives. It would be a shame for the city to wait for an accident with a truck to injure (don’t want to think of killing) the children that play in the play ground day care. Lets take some preventative measures!!!

  9. Scott

    You don’t think a car is just as deadly as a truck? The winter reference is ridiculous because ice is ice whether you’re in a truck or a car. The only issue are the diesel truck emissions. A proper running diesel engine especially a newer one with the new emissions equipment ( particulate filter, DEF injection, or both) is actually cleaner than a gas engine. The problem is older vehicles with tired engines that are out of tune. Find a way to regulate that and you’ve got something. Was this accident because it was a truck or just driver error. Would we be talking if a car had done the same thing. People are scared of trucks. It is irrational.

  10. > The problem is older vehicles with tired engines that are out of
    > tune. Find a way to regulate that and you’ve got something.

    So, instead of getting the State’s permission to put up a $50 “Local Trucks Only” sign, you suggest we change the regulation of diesel vehicles and replace every old diesel truck in the entire nation?

  11. Suzanne

    Please. A dump truck or larger out of control vehicle is much more dangerous than a lighter weight car. Great weight at speed causes more damage and risks more lives. Period. This is not a simple diesel out of whack problem – it is that AND a safety issue. Signs and traffic enforcement for both could solve a potentially fatal situation. Believe me, once a hefty fine is issued among a few truckers, other truckers will avoid the street and the sting. Pop out a few cops at random, put up the signs and solve this problem.

  12. Jim Lato

    This comment was disallowed for violating our policy against unsubstantiated allegations and potentially libelous content.

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