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Norwalk political notes: Seaview Avenue, Norwalker engagement and a hopefully soon-to-be-released study

Assistant Director for Transportation Services Garrett Bolella, lower right, outlines a new Transportation, Mobility and Parking focus on Seaview Avenue, during Thursday’s Common Council Planning Committee meeting.

NORWALK, Conn. — Some Norwalk political notes for you:

  • Next on TMP’s list: Seaview Avenue
  • Typical: 1,000 Norwalkers interested, 51 speak up
  • Still waiting on train station study

Improving East Norwalk

A $32,000 investment would get the ball rolling on improving Seaview Avenue, Norwalk Assistant Director for Transportation Services Garrett Bolella said Thursday.

The Common Council Planning Committee greenlighted the request to hire VHB to see if it’s feasible to implement a Complete Streets model on the Seaview/First Street corridor. It will go to the full Council for a vote and would likely mean community meetings next summer, after VHB collects data and develops alternatives for consideration.

Best case scenario, federal money would be available to do the actual construction, as early as 2024.

Seaview Avenue is a pedestrian nightmare, a .4-mile-long corridor with just one crosswalk, but at the same time, it needs to be car-friendly, Bolella said.

“We’re not throwing away the car, we recognize it’s an important east-west connection between SoNo and Cove Road,” he said. “And we just want cars to flow but just to flow at safe speeds for all roadway users. We certainly recognize that parking is a is very important to the community, and we’ll look for every opportunity to incorporate additional parking in the final design.”

It’s likely the proposal will include the promenade along Veterans Park that was postulated in the East Norwalk Transit Oriented Development (TOD) plan; VHB, in a client authorization summary memo, suggests a 12-foot-wide sidewalk between utility poles and a minimum of other work, to maintain “the wonderful existing tree line, without detrimental impact to the root systems.”

Based on preliminary data, VHB believes East Avenue can be reduced to one lane where it meets Seaview Avenue, and “a mini-roundabout can provide significant benefits to all users at the intersection.”

Finally, VHB suggests the intersection of Seaview Avenue at First Street should be considered as an all-way stop intersection “and quite possibly, as a raised intersection to highlight the pedestrian active area.”

“For those of you familiar with the end of the street, it turns abruptly, it’s a 90-degree angle. And there’s some confusion for motorists that are navigating and maneuvering that turn. There’s not really a true curb line to follow. To complicate things, there’s a driveway that enters into the center of that intersection,” Bolella said. “… You have a lot of adjacent businesses, but really, really narrow sidewalks. And, you know, we love to create more pedestrian space, there’s also some city owned property that provides access to the water that we’d love to open up to the public and make it more accessible.”

Seaview First ave proposal

Analytics provided by Norwalk Senior Planner Laura Kenny.

Who’s weighing in on the Waterfront Land Use study?

Analytics show “1,034 unique individuals” have made 2,709 visits to the Norwalk Industrial Waterfront Land Use Study’s community mapping page, Norwalk Senior Planner Laura Kenny said Thursday.

The mapping page seeks community input on the ongoing waterfront land use study, which will result in new zoning regulations.

“Of those 1,034 individuals, 51 made comments – we can consider these people ‘stakeholders’ since they are invested enough to comment at this early stage.

Those 51 stakeholders made a total of 123 comments meaning that on average they each made more than two comments,” Kenny wrote.

Planning and Zoning Director Steven Kleppin, speaking to Council members Thursday, characterized this participation as being consistent with City meetings: “You usually have a lot of people who are interested in (the topic), but then there’s that core group that really are the ones who participate, make comments and then are active in those meetings.”

Besides the online outreach, P&Z has “boards up at the lobby of City Hall, the South Norwalk library, the main branch library, and also at the Senior Center,” Kleppin said. “I think we got about another 30 comments from those boards. And we’re going to leave those up for a couple more weeks. And then we’ll incorporate that data directly into the findings here.”

Kleppin said he asked Utile, the firm conducting the study, about the participation. “They thought the response rate was really good,” he said.

Kenny wrote:

“Big picture this means over 1,000 people are interested in what is happening on the Norwalk waterfront. Many of them are coming back to check on the map more than once. But only a small percentage (51 out of over 1,000, or approximately 5%) is really invested and has opinions about what is good or bad, and what should happen – those are the people making comments at this early stage. The people who do make comments have multiple ideas/comments about the waterfront that they want to share. We expect that as the process moves forward, and we offer alternative scenarios for the public to review (expected late winter/early Spring), more people will feel comfortable providing more feedback.”

 

Where’s the train station study?

In 2019, State Rep. Chris Perone (D-137) got funding for a Wall Street train station study. In June, Connecticut Department of Transportation Director of Communications Kevin Nursick said it’s in progress.

So where is it?

“They’re still completing the feasibility study,” Norwalk Chief of Economic and Community Development Jessica Vonashek said in November. “The last time we talked to them. They wanted some parking numbers. We updated them with parking numbers, and I haven’t heard about it since.”

It had been about three months, she said.

On Nov. 23, she forwarded a statement from the Connecticut Department of Transportation: “Our internal review of the final report from AECOM is currently underway and we will be in touch once our review is complete. Hoping to wrap up the study by the end of the year.”

5 comments

Erica December 3, 2021 at 9:12 am

A Wall St train station? Why don’t we work with what we already have? East Ave Train Station is an embarrassment. Both my husband and I commute into NYC daily and after a few years commuting from E Norwalk, we traded in our Norwalk train pass gladly for the westport train station which is well-run, has surrounding area businesses that make life easier, ample parking and a ‘normal’ platform. Wall St needs help and has been an underserved gem since we moved here over a decade ago, but no money is ever concentrated in that area and businesses cannot survive (unless you count the 4 barber shops all next to each other and the dollar store). Is a train station the answer or do we need better lighting, festoon lights like on Washington, better parking and the ability to have sidewalk tables? Be proactive Jessica, are you seriously sitting around waiting for others to get back to you? that’s not how the world works. excuses.

Audrey Cozzarin December 3, 2021 at 9:17 am

Regarding CT-DOT and the study for a possible Wall Street station, isn’t it a rather long time to wait 2+ years and still the study has not been wrapped up?

When I attended a VisionZero conference in New Haven in 2019, a transportation expert from another state pointed out that CT cities are at a deficit because we do not have city-level DOTs. A state-level DOT, he said, is not “nimble” enough to respond to the needs of individual cities. Certainly this recent study is an example, and I do wish the City of Norwalk would press CT-DOT harder to get things moving here–for the safe and highly functional transportation we need.

John O'Neill December 3, 2021 at 2:36 pm

@ Erica: Right on — Your comments are the most intelligent thing I’ve heard on this subject. One other point – The pandemic has changed commuting forever. That $ 250k has been tossed out the window. But hey, I’m just happy the invisible man actually surfaced.

Tom In East Norwalk December 4, 2021 at 11:57 am

I fail to see the need to spend our money for the study on Seaside Ave / First Street. What is the major problem being addressed? I live along the route, see the traffic, parking etc. at all hours and don’t believe there is any big issues.

Minor issues: The utility poles along the water side of Seaview Ave in the middle of the side walk makes the side walk useless. Who are the morons who put it utility poles in the middle in a sidewalk???

Parking on Frist Street in front of Mr. Frosty’s blocks traffic and forces cars into oncoming traffic. Possible common sense solution – take 18″ to 14″ of the very wide sidewalk in front of Mr. Frosty’s and widen the lane.

A rotary at East Ave / Seaview would just waste our money and needlessly disrupt traffic flow.

Likewise, A 4 way stop @ Seaview and First Street would just waste our money and needlessly disrupt traffic flow.

It seems someone is looking for ways to waste taxpayers money. The goal should be to solve existing problems, not to create problems.

David Muccigrosso December 6, 2021 at 6:26 pm

@Tom: Widening the lane will just encourage cars to drive faster through that section, and force pedestrians on what’s already a pretty crowded Frosty’s sidewalk out into a now-more-dangerous street.

Put up a K-block or some plastic bollards to keep people from parking over there in front of Frosty’s. They’ll find other places to park, like Vets park or further down the street, and get a short walk to help burn off some of that ice cream; PLUS it will make the area safer for pedestrians. If you’re concerned about Frosty’s losing business, put up a sign directing ppl to dedicating overflow parking wherever you put it. Frosty’s probably ends up with more business due to higher foot traffic in the area.

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