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Norwalk looks for state funding for roundabout near South Norwalk School

An example of a roundabout. The city is looking to install a roundabout in front of the South Norwalk School with state funding. (Courtesy of Norwalk)

In an effort to improve the traffic conditions in front of the site for the new South Norwalk School, the city is looking for a $2.5 million grant to construct a “modern roundabout.”

The Public Works Committee of the Common Council unanimously advanced a request to apply for a Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development grant to build a roundabout at the intersection of South Main Street, Meadow Street, and Wilson Avenue, which all come together in front of the school.

Kyle Benjamin, a traffic analyst for the city, said the intersection was a great fit for a roundabout, as it will help the traffic slow down to make it safer for pedestrians in the area while also moving traffic more efficiently since cars won’t be stopping at stop signs for a long period of time.

“We think that a roundabout will be a perfect solution in this area, especially with the issues in both traffic crashes and pedestrian safety, especially with the school going there,” Benjamin said, adding that the roundabout will also allow for “trucks and buses and the many types of vehicles that are going to be going through that intersection” to navigate it safely.

Council members said they were looking forward to the roadway improvements in this area.

“I think this is really great,” said council member Jim Frayer, who chairs the committee. “This is a great opportunity to clean up that whole area down there where the new elementary school is going to be. It’s always been kind of a crossroads—all roads lead down there.”

Council member Barbara Smyth called it “a game-changer” for the students going to school in South Norwalk, particularly because Benjamin said state Senator Bob Duff would also be advocating for the funding.

“I’m really excited that we have this opportunity to apply for these funds,” she said. “I know Transportation, Mobility, and Parking did a study in terms of improving safety for the children who will be going to the South Norwalk School…I know we don’t have a guarantee but when Senator Duff is involved, we know he gets things done for the city of Norwalk. So I have every faith that we’re going to get this money and we’re going to be able to move forward with this.”

Benjamin also said they believed the roundabout would make the intersection safer by eliminating some of the confusing turns.

“It forces you to slow down as you enter the roundabout, which you know as you slow down, generally it’ll cause less not only will it cause less accidents because you have more time to react and more time to hit your brakes because you’re slowed down, but also the accidents that would occur are going to be side swipes and minor fender benders,” he said.

Some council members questioned how trucks and larger vehicles, like a fire engine, would navigate the roundabout. Benjamin pulled up example roundabouts that showed how there are main car lanes and then ramps and curbs that allow for trucks to make a wider turn.

“Most modern roundabouts are basically designed so that regular cars will go through on the roadway, but trucks can then go on the roadway, and they are able to mount this curb if they have to get around—basically kind of hop the curb and get around so that they’re able to make it through the roundabout without any damage to their vehicles or damage to the roundabout,” he said.

In addition, he said, roundabouts have shorter distances for pedestrians to cross, which makes it a little easier to navigate an intersection.

“Vehicles will be slowed down, so that gives you more time to look,” Benjamin said. “And then also, being a shorter crossing, you’ll have more time to make it across to the pedestrian island and then to the other side.”

Council member Heather Dunn asked about bike access through the roundabout as “we’re near a school, kids might be riding their bikes to school.”

Benjamin said that while the design isn’t finalized, he’ll make sure they take that into account. The full Common Council will vote to approve the grant application at its meeting next Tuesday.

Comments

4 responses to “Norwalk looks for state funding for roundabout near South Norwalk School”

  1. Becca Stoll

    Just to echo Ms. Dunn’s comment, obviously the above photo is an example not a proposed design, but if the majority of this school’s students will be from the neighborhood, walking and cycling should be the priorities in design decisions. A roundabout with smart bike lanes (perhaps extra-wide to protect younger less experienced riders) seems like a great way to calm traffic and facilitate safe and efficient pick-up/drop-off. Don’t forget bike racks at the school itself!

  2. Bryan Meek

    This looks like it would require acquiring more land from existing industrial businesses in the immediate area.

    Here’s a dumb idea. Cut bait and stop building housing and schools in heavy industrial / fema flood zones. Admit the mistakes and move on before spending more good money on bad ideas.

    Acquire WB Masons and surrounding warehouses and build the schools and housing on the bottom of Woodward. Move WB and whoever to MLK where they will be closer to 95. You will have made a significant contribution by creating a neighborhood, preserving an industrial zone, and sparing children and residents from having to deal with heavy truck traffic, pollution, and dust.

  3. Skip Hagerty

    Based on the rendering, it looks like they can probably squeeze an apartment or two in the middle of the roundabout. It will generate tax revenue. And, since the roundabouts improve traffic flows, comrade Duff should chase down funding for about 30 more for Norwalk.

  4. John O’Neill

    I’ve had the privilege of driving on streets with round abouts in the Midwest. They are sometimes confusing when there’s no one in the cross walks. I can’t imagine what they’ll be like 20 minutes before and after school.
    Assuming there will be kids attending this school, and crossing these streets, anyone with common sense will know street lights work and round abouts do not.
    Regarding Bicycle Paths — Before spending money on Bike Paths I would do a study on how many current students in the entire city take bicycles to school.
    I can honestly say I’ve never seen a student riding a bicycle to school in the all the years I’ve lived in Norwalk.
    I’ll keep an eye out in September and report back.
    Game Changer ? This project will be the equivalent of putting lipstick on a pig…There’s manufacturing/scrap yards lining that area.
    Who’s kidding who?

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