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Norwalk Traffic Commission ponders road changes

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The Norwalk Traffic Commission — from left, Commissioner Charlie Yost, Mayor Harry Rilling and Commissioner Fran Collier-Clemmons — works its first meeting Monday.

NORWALK, Conn. – A potential scandal was avoided Monday in Norwalk when no one broadsided Mayor Harry Rilling.

“I came up Elizabeth (Street),” Rilling said. “The way cars were parked, some of my sight lines were blocked. I thought I was going to get broadsided at my first Police Commission meeting, and guess who’s fault it would have been?”

The former Norwalk Police Chief got the laughs he was looking for from the new Traffic Commission, Department of Public Works Director Hal Alvord and Norwalk Police Chief Thomas Kulhawik as they discussed two potential traffic changes that Rilling has had on his mind.

Rilling has proposed reversing the one-way directions of Elizabeth Street and Haviland Street in SoNo, where the police station is, and putting an all-way stop at the intersection of Scribner Avenue, West Cedar Street and the Best Buy driveway. The former would also involve taking out the diverter island in the Best Buy driveway.

Alvord told him that would probably require a traffic light, at a minimum cost of $200,000.

“I’m going to have to think hard on that one now,” Rilling said.

He said making Haviland and Elizabeth both one way should have been considered when the police station was built.

Southbound drivers who would like to turn left onto Haviland Street are often frustrated because cars are blocking the intersection, he said, thereby blocking traffic to North Main Street. Drivers trying to leave the police station parking lot onto South Main Street have to turn left or right and cannot go straight, he said.

“I thought making Elizabeth Street one way towards the water and Haviland Street one way towards South Main might alleviate some of those problems,” he said.

Alvord said reversing the direction would be easy but there are ramifications.

The parking angle on Elizabeth would have to be reversed, and there are issues with the turning radius of tractor trailers coming out of the street now, he said. The entrance for the Haviland Street parking deck is slanted in the direction that cars go in now, he said. Parking spaces could be lost on South Main Street, depending how the turning radius of trucks work out.

He said there might be other solutions to the problem, like a “block the box.”

“The only thing that would do is cause more problems for the police department, I imagine,” Rilling said.

Alvord said he was suggesting, not advocating.

“We get residents who would want us to do it all over the city,” he said. “They say it works great in New York City and yes it does, because there’s a police officer standing there with a ticket book three out of five days a week. So that would create another demand on police department resources.”

Alvord said the idea would be studied, as well as the Scribner Avenue idea.

In other news:

 The Traffic Commission approved on-street metered parking in the area of the Waypointe development under construction and on North Water Street, where Sono Ironworks is being built.

The latter is for seven new spaces.

Commissioner Charlie Yost asked about the curbs at 20 North Water St., saying they are “way out into the roadway.”

Alvord said the curbs and the catch basins are a foot too high due to a miscommunication between the developer and the contractor. The building was raised a foot when the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) changed the flood plain elevation requirements. “The contractor put them in thinking the original plan was what they were going to do,” Alvord said. It will all be adjusted.

The curbs will be pushed back two feet to make room for parking and normal-size travel lanes, he said.

That was unanimously approved, as was the on-street parking for Waypointe, where the plan is to have up to 16 parking spaces on Orchard Street and nine parking spaces on the north side of Merwin Street.

This is in addition to the parking garage being built. Alvord said the idea is to encourage shoppers to go to the retail stores that will be on the bottom level of Waypointe.

The commission also discussed other improvements.

 An all-way stop was put in at Meadow, South Main and Wilson Streets, on Route 136, Alvord said. This was requested from the state nearly two years ago, he said.

“It actually is a lot safer,” Alvord said.

 A stop sign has been requested for Newtown Avenue and Chestnut Hill Road.

 The city is asking the state for street parking modifications for Main Avenue.

This is in the area of a popular Venezuelan restaurant, Alvord said. Rilling asked that the ingress and egress from the Duchess parking lot also be considered, as the restaurant’s owner had spoken to him.

 An all-way stop sign is being considered for West Cedar Street at Colonial Village, where the Norwalk Housing Authority is building a new community center, Alvord said. This would be just north of Price Avenue, dependent upon where the NHA is putting its new driveway, he said.

Comments

13 responses to “Norwalk Traffic Commission ponders road changes”

  1. michael foley

    While the Commission is considering changes , please consider putting a 3-way stop sign at First & Cove in east norwalk very dangerous intersection .

  2. How about CORRECTING that monstrosity newly built on Strawberry Hill Avenue. Ya’ know, the one that jettisons out to the middle of the road thereby taking a right turn from SHA onto Sunset Hill you are rotating your steering wheel 180 degrees to the right and within-in milliseconds rotating back to the left 180 degrees. All the while not hitting another car.
    *
    I guess that is why I see SO many cars not bothering to right themselves 100% and drive over the double yellow lines.

  3. Mike Mushak

    Please consider a new 4 way stop sign on Couch Street at Elmwood. Lots of bad accidents there from speeding including recently had a car flip over nearly killing folks in the car and on the sidewalk. The officers at the scene agreed something needs to be done here.
    .
    We also have been waiting for years for 10,000 lb maximum weight limit signs on Fairfield Ave, between Exit 14 and Flax Hill, to limit heavy truck traffic that uses that completety residential route as a shortcut to 95, especially since Rowayton banned trucks. It is a serious safety and public health issue as the trucks accelerate heavily going up the steep hill, spewing diesel exhaust into homes and playgrounds, and speeding trucks descending the long hill jeopardize pedestrian safety on the narrow sidewalks. We also have no idea how teh heavy trucks are affecting the historic utility infrastructure under the street, which was not designed for the heavy trucks including semis and fully laden dump trucks.
    Mayor Moccia and DPW ignored the neighborhood for 8 years despite our begging for relief. A good friend of mine named Kurtis Evans who lived on that hill, and who was concerned over this issue for him and his neighbors, died of an asthma attack in the middle of the night on July 4th, 2012. This public health and safety issue must be addressed. Thank you.

  4. Betsy Wrenn

    On the subject of helping the Scribner/BestBuy intersection, Nancy reports, “Alvord told him [Rilling] that would probably require a traffic light, at a minimum cost of $200,000.”

    Huh? I use Scribner and BestBuy’s parking lot regularly, and am certain a 4-way stop is the solution. Drivers do yield to one another, but stop signs would help to guide who goes next.

    Suggesting a traffic light there is like saying you can’t tell time without a Rolex watch. Keep it simple and everybody will be happier.

  5. A Better Norwalk

    Ah, good ol’ Mikey attack on Moccia. DPW is your problem since they do the work or lack thereof as you say. Is it that difficult to post a No Thru Trucks sign? Seems simple enough.

    Do us all a favor… Work with what you have FIRST! Re-Time 3/4’s of the lights in town to reflect traffic changing conditions, enforce those that run them as well.

    Same for the state roads, these need to be addressed. Since they can change them with “just a call” from what was described during the BJ’s debacle, that should be an easy fix right?

    Then, maybe by enforcement revenue could be off-set for future expansion of traffic lights and physical changes.

    What’s the point of having traffic lights when so many people ignore these putting others at risk?

    It’s time NPD enforce traffic lights on the roads, otherwise, why have them or add new?

  6. Mike Mushak

    Hal’s solution to anything he doesn’t feel like doing is to exaggerate the cost without any documentation, and in the past Common Council memebers nodding in agreement. Our past South Norwalk councilmebers Geake and Hilliard were famous for that. For years we heard there was no solution to Fairfield Avenue’s truck ban, Geake and Hilliard did nothing about it, until we found out from our state rep that a weight limit was totally legal and could have been done years ago. The signs were promised last year, and still no signs. Until Mr. Alvord is held accountable, there will still be no signs there next year.
    .
    The same with the sidewalk maintenance issue. We have ordinances on the books that go unenforced. Just look at the sidewalks all over town that are covered in ice and snow, even in downtown areas. Most of these are the responsibility of the owners, according to Ordinance 95-10. The fine is $250 a day for each day the violation continues. The city could be pulling in thousands a day in fine money from lazy or negligent landlords, who seem to be in the majority after years of no enforcement under Moccia. Check out the property on Wall Street next to Fat Cat towards the bridge. This busy downtown sidewalk is totally impassable with solid ice. But Hal recently said a study needed to be done to figure out sidewalk maintenance. We dont need an expensive study, we need enforcement of existing ordinances.
    .
    Why does Public Works Chair Dave McCarthy ignore this issue? If we need a full time enforcement officer, then hire one, as it would more than pay for itself with the fine money within weeks, same as other smart cities do it. After 8 years of Moccia’s bad management, we need to start looking at these issues, and stop kicking the can down the road as was the lazy policy of the Moccia era. It is a disgrace that we have trash covered sidewalks (Ordinance 95-4), tall weeds that are never trimmed on sidewalks (Ordinance 95-7), deep potholes on unmaintained sidewalks (Ordinance 95-9) and snow and ice covered sidewalks (Ordinance 95-10), all responsibilities of adjoining property owners regardless of who owns the sidewalk, with fines of $250 a day. For crying out loud, start enforcing them already! I didnt even mention the trash ordinances that are ignored all over town, with often lazy slumlords in our dense neighborhood allowing their tenants to put out bags that are in uncovered cans or no cans at all, that are ripped apart by animals or bad weather, leading to the abundant trash stream that flows continuously around the city and into storm drains and into the harbor (take a look at the banks of the river and harbor and Norwalk islands some day if you haven’t-lined with piles of trash, most of which has flowed off of our streets into the storm drains every time it rains).
    It is DPW’s job to enforce these ordinances. The question is, are we going to hear more excuses from Hal over the next 2 years, like the $200,000 price tag for a light on Scribner and Best Buy where a cheap 4 way stop would suffice immediately, or are we going to start demanding action and accountability? McCarthy, Public Works Chair, are you listening?

  7. A Better Norwalk

    Well then Mike, I vote that you march right into the next meeting(s) and DEMAND that these issues become enforced! It seems illogical that we (taxpayers) are seeing this lack of accountability of rules/laws in accordance with the city of Norwalk and we all end up with lost revenue which is easily obtained just by enforcement of these ordinance rules.

    .

    Rilling said he would be more proactive in such quality of life matters in his campaign but unless there is some accountability and some level of action, then it’s just same old promises during a campaign. Then he’s just an empty suit lead by the unions along with former failed administration of tax and spend (Knopp) he now uses as his resource.

    .

    Between ordinances that are ignored and traffic lights that need to be re-timed and more importantly, enforced, we are all seeing our quality of life in this city deteriorate at a fast rate. We also lose revenue from the fines. Fines that can be used to correct some deficiencies needing the most attention.

    .

    Rilling needs to start acting like a mayor for which he was elected. The campaign is over, it’s time to take actions or stop making promises that he cannot keep or has no control over. I’m sick of hearing of all these meetings and not a damn thing getting done except “ideas” “good suggestions” and “we will look into it” And don’t say “he’s only been in office x amount, give him time” His “time” started on DAY ONE! Lead or be left behind. In other words: Carpe Diem.

    .

    The buck stops with him as Mayor of Norwalk.

  8. jlightfield

    Developing good policy does take time, so let’s give Rilling some time to assemble a real team of people who not only understand policy, but have the subject expertise on current Norwalk policy. From my observation good talks are happening in certain areas, and in some others we will all have to wait and see.
    .
    Effective policy does need to review untended consequences and identify impacts of change, both internally and externally. I’d rather see a measured approach, rather than a rush to answer the proverbial squeaky wheel.
    .
    However, not one to miss an opportunity to squeak the wheel a bit here. 🙂 The Fairfield Avenue Truck bypass issue did make it to a public works committee meeting a long time ago. The general response was that it wasn’t enforceable without legislative change and funding. There’s a degree of truth to that argument, but the in today’s GPS driven logistics world, Norwalk has got to move forward on these issues because without making the map changes, nothing will change. The enforcement issue didn’t stop the effort to ban trucks on the part of 136 through Rowayton. And getting back to the unintended consequence of policy, the heavier truck traffic on Fairfield Avenue is a direct result of that policy.

  9. I think if there is an ordinance that homeowners/landlords pay fines if walks are not cleared, then Rilling MUST start ordering fines to be given out. He’s the mayor, for a month now!!!
    *
    When is Rilling going to start having a spine? Or is he going to be a weak liberal wrapped in campaign promises – oops, now they are lies.
    *
    A Better Norwalk hits the nail on the head (but then all the liberals will start whining that Rilling needs to review and to give him time)
    *
    EXCUSES EXCUSES EXCUSES from all the Rilling cheerleaders, led by NoN and Mushak

  10. Mike Mushak

    McCarthy is Chair of the Public Works Committee, not Mayor Rilling. Since DPW is responsible for enforcement of sidewalk and trash ordinances, McCarthy would be the one in City Hall responsible for putting this on his committee’s agenda and solving it.
    .
    The Fairfield Ave truck restriction South Norwalk residents are requesting is NOT a thru-truck ban that occurred in Rowayton, but just a weight limit that the city has every right to do for public safety and infrastructure protection. There is no conflict with state law for a weight restriction. UPS trucks and smaller trucks would still be allowed. Any suggestion that this change is not allowed under state law is not accurate. The Fire Chief supports it to improve response time as there are often long lines of huge trucks backed up on the hill waiting to just to get their 3 block shortcut from 95 into South Norwalk instead of heading straight down Reed St off exit 14 to West Ave, a route that is designed for trucks and is only a minute or two longer than the Fairfield shortcut through a wholly residential neighborhood on a narrow dangerous and steep street that was not designed for heavy trucks. This is so simple to fix. What’s the delay?

  11. Don’t Panic

    For 8 years the ordinances went under forced under Mr. Moccia, but it’s Mr. Rilling’ s fault? Classic.

  12. TG

    Ugh, that is ridiculous that a $200,000 light must be out in at The Best Buy intersection. Right now we’ve got nothing- stop signs alone would be a huge improvement. Also agreed that there could be an incredible amount of city revenue brought in enforcing our ordinances, which would then cause people to be more responsible. Also agreed on Strawberry Hill Ave. those were some poor changes.

  13. Casey Smith

    Maybe they could remove the light from Strawberry Hill and Tierney and install it on Scribner by Best Buy. Then just straighten out the odd angle at Tierney back to the old way, and put back the stop signs.
    .
    Those stop signs worked for me and I liked them better than the stop light. People were less likely to rev their engines knowing they were going to have to stop on that stretch and for those of us pulling out from Tierney onto Strawberry Hill, we actually had a chance to do that at a reasonable speed rather than flooring in with the hopes of getting into the proper lane before the guy barreling down the straight away rammed you.

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