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Opinion: Connecticut should take note – Norwalk needs crosswalks

By Michelle Maggio

Common Councilwoman, District C

NORWALK, Conn. – A recent story in the news noted that crosswalks have been added to the area around Shake Shack in Westport after only three pedestrians had been killed.  Well, it’s about time.  While I am aware that crosswalks put in place without additional safety measures (traffic lights or a stop sign) are actually more dangerous to pedestrians, the time has come for the state to stop playing chicken with our lives.

The Post Road, Connecticut Avenue more appropriately, has been the scene of many horrific accidents involving pedestrians.  Yet, there are only a few crosswalks, and all of them at the widely dispersed intersections.  Keeler Avenue has three crosswalks.  Rampart Road has two, the other side is a driveway.  Richards Avenue has only one of four possible routes covered.  Taylor, Cedar and Stuart have one. Scribner, Price and Fairfield have none.  The Exit 14 off ramp area also has none. 

More surprisingly, the areas in between, where pedestrians are likely to want to cross are left naked, even where there are traffic lights.  Most noticeably and dangerously is the main entry of Walmart, followed closely by the vast expanse between Keeler and the entrance to the Darinor Plaza.  This entire stretch of the Post Road is heavily traveled by pedestrians and bicyclists and is dotted with bus stops.  The thought of someone hurrying to catch a bus that they can see on the opposite side of the street, while dragging a small child behind is frightening when I consider how people now drive in this area.

In February 2012 a pedestrian was killed in the Darinor Plaza area.  There have been two other pedestrian deaths in the Keeler Avenue area in the just slightly more distant past.  In fact, the number of pedestrian and bicyclists involved in accidents is staggering.  You can see all the accidents here.   I’m sure many different things happened and we can’t jump to conclusions based on just this sort of data, but the volume of accidents suggests that the state of Connecticut needs to focus on this part of Norwalk now.

The rest of the story is something we all probably realize, but maybe don’t understand completely.  While the city of Norwalk has converted most of its traffic signals to ones using sensors that can detect travelers and adjust times and synchronization, the state of Connecticut feels that every intersection for which it is responsible has a need for a fixed timed cycle, regardless of the time of day or traffic volumes.  That is unfair and wasteful.  The light on a main thoroughfare should never turn red, unless there is an active line of cars waiting on the side street.  Once those cars clear, the light should immediately switch back.

The technology for this exists, and is most likely already there in the control boxes.  Detectors are necessary (not underground loops, but equipment that can actually sense whether or not a car is present, like Norwalk has) and should be prioritized along with the cross walks.  This sort of safety and traffic flow is of much greater importance to me than a fancy new rest stop on Route 95, but it just doesn’t get the political bang, I suppose.

These sort of “unfair” traffic controls encourage reckless driving such as speeding to beat lights and making ill-advised turns.  That is what causes pedestrian accidents.  Step one is the immediate need to boost pedestrian safety, but immediately behind that should be a comprehensive program to upgrade traffic signals.  We all must work together to make the state prioritize these reasonable changes.

Michelle Maggio

East Norwalk

Comments

5 responses to “Opinion: Connecticut should take note – Norwalk needs crosswalks”

  1. Mike Mushak

    Great letter from Ms. Maggio, and I support her position on improving public safety as do many others. However, the reality of her past decisions as a Common Council member, along with her fellow GOP councilmembers who routinely politicize and compromise on public safety (numerous examples all around town, to be shared whenever they spew forth their temporary election-year concerns for public safety as is happening here), clearly does not match up with her concerns in this letter.

    Hundreds of her neighbors and folks all over town were disappointed and even angry when city officials, with Ms. Maggio’s support, put in the dangerous sharrows instead of the designated bike lanes the experts recommended in several professional studies on Beach Road. In fact, Norwalk officials ignored federal design guidelines which state that when there is room for bike lanes, which there is on Beach Road, you should NEVER install sharrows. Also, city officials ignored the guidelines that sharrows should NEVER be used where speeding is common, which is EXACTLY what the problem is on Beach Road because the road is dangerous by design, being 4 lanes where only two are necessary to handle peak traffic loads.
    Ms. Maggio was silent in this debate, and voted for the stupid and illegal compromise for sharrows which are highly unpopular and even dangerous, and which earned Norwalk a “Loser Award” from the Tri-state Transportation Campaign. I highly doubt that she would send her young kids out onto Beach Road into speeding traffic to enjoy the “Sharrows” in the middle of the drag strip she supported and voted for. What a shame, and a lost opportunity for the city to finally do something right, which experts recommended.

    I respect Ms. maggio but find it highly ironic she is writing about public safety on our roads when she clearly betrayed the safety advocates including myself that met with her for hours and wanted the road diet or bike lanes on Beach Road which she initially supported. The GOP machine took over this project, headed up by the biggest betrayer and back room deal maker of them all, Dave McCarthy, and literally threw us all under the bus because of the stupid and irrational fear Mayor Moccia has of actual designated bike lanes in Norwalk. Beach Road is a monument to GOP stupidity, and they all will have blood on their hands when someone inevitably gets hurt or killed there with the current layout, as some folks nearly did recently when a car flipped onto the brand new dangerously narrow and poorly designed sidewalk in front of Marvin School as they were speeding along on the 4 lane highway to nowhere.

    Perhaps Ms. Maggio will put her money where her mouth is next time and actually advocate for bike lanes and pedestrian safety improvements in her own district, and her own neighborhood with her vote, instead of caving to the old-fashioned GOP establishment of Mayor Moccia and McCarthy that still don’t get it, who support illegal and dangerous “improvements” like sharrows where cars speed and pass, and narrow brand new sidewalks in front of Marvin School that are exactly what the neighbors and safety advocates explained clearly that did NOT want when they showed a powerpoint on the wall of the Common Council Chamber last year (showing narrow sidewalk where kids come within inches of speeding traffic, exactly what taxpayers paid tens of thousands to build in front of Marvin School not long after those photos were shown to public officials including Hal Alvord, Dave McCarthy, and the rest of the inattentive crew who are responsible for the saftey of our streets and sidewalks.

    Obviously all that hard work by the public to advocate for a safer Beach Road fell on deaf ears, including those of Ms. Maggio, which is highly disappointing in that she would betray her own sincere concerns for public safety in favor of GOP party loyalty, and vote for the short-sighted and illegal sharrows on Beach Road which is a death or serous injury just waiting to happen just around the corner from where she is raising her family.

    Ms. Maggio’s betrayal of public safety on Beach Road struck deep and will not be forgotten by those of us who were shocked at how she let herself get sucked into the whole ugly spectacle of Moccia’s and the Traffic Authority’s corruption in this so-called “improvement” that no experts recommended. She could easily turn this around and repair her reputation by making an immediate demand for designated bike lanes on Beach Road, which there is room for. The big question is, does she have the nerve to defy the Moccia/Mccarthy/Scialabba nasty attack machine to protect the lives of children and adults who ride their bikes and walk along Beach Road? It would not take much money or effort to restripe Beach Road and put in real bike lanes (imagine that!!!) that other cities are doing across the country.

  2. spanner

    Mike I have to agree with you but there is yet another way to look at the whole situation if your seeking safety first.

    Vets park is missing lights,with cars coming and going to let off children for sports and other cars with boat trailors you have to wonder where people have been killed and injured over the years why did other intersections get lights that had them already before this obvious hazardous one still goes without?

    You can see all the accidents here. Not even close to the facts or even updated correct me if I’m wrong.One cycle accident there at vets park disturbed most reporters that to this day still talk about that one as one of the worst they have ever seen.

    Now changing gears when we fought for crosswalks in Rowyaton it was suggested by Hal crosswalks give a false security to those who use them,to this day we are still without false security in many places on Highland ave and Wilson ave,

    “This sort of safety and traffic flow is of much greater importance to me than a fancy new rest stop on Route 95, but it just doesn’t get the political bang”,this is a Republican sickness we saw it last Election there was major underground contamination under the buildings and had migrated off the lot Darien deserved better from the State it was a long time coming.So the new plaza employs 27 Norwalk residents this type of progress some Republicans simply can’t fathom unless they can take credit.Environment doesn’t seem to have a place in the Republican party in Norwalk it I guess playing that card didn’t work well.Those piles of dirt were not heading for Oyster Shell park they were tagged for cradle to grave disposal.

    Deering never really cared for safety the accidents many more than were listed were from West Ave when city hall ran the lights ask Harry Riling his department did nothing but complain when Deering put the lights on that stretch on blink causing backups on RT 7 and many accidents,the purpose was to eliminate hiring an officer for traffic control.The city changed the locks on the traffic boxes making it impossible for our own police dept from preventing backups and accidents ask any one of them I doubt if they would deny it.(2 years this game played out)That was safe that was a Moccia move before the contributions came rolling in.There were many accidents there during construction where are those facts?

    Yesterday the person hit by a car on West Washington and MLK was on a Norwalk road maybe that was a traffic related problem we shall see,

    We all must work together to make the state prioritize these reasonable changes.

    What about Norwalk didn’t we just receive millions for this traffic light replacement and new installments?Where are those facts dig enough and you may have some some concrete numbers to dispell the State needs to act faster than they have.

    Timed cycles work fine when there is no power failures and we have plenty of those in Norwalk the State may be in charge of some of the lights but they still have to buy the power from someone.

    How much grant money has Norwalk been given for all this new light work?Was it all done in the most dangerous spots in the city,from what was said no and why was that who was in charge of that process?

    I do know by watching the news Dick likes cookies I hope he uses milk to wash them down.Some of us are having a hard time swallowing this opinion maybe this next election will make it easier to pass with some fresh politicians.

  3. Andrea Light

    Great letter Michelle, I absolutely agree with you on the CT Ave situation and appreciate your effort to put pressure on the State to reconsider crosswalks. Personally I would like to see more crosswalks on our city streets, a lot more, in areas such as Water Street, South and North Main for example. I remember the poignant victory when Kelly Straniti (esteemed member of the local GOP), with hard work and lobbying, secured a vital crosswalk in Broad River. Kelly was an effective leader, through negotiation, listening, advocating, using the press intelligently, and not through histrionics, attacks and ultimatums.

  4. M. Murray’s

    Over the past few years, both the City and the state have been putting up an excessive number of stop signs and traffic lights in areas where they are not really needed.

  5. spanner

    I sat with some State troopers today trading some thought on the new plaza’s showing them online what our councilor had said about the rest areas.They were speechless.Each plaza done over includes a State Police sub station with things well planned for more security and closer response to places like Norwalk.What ever reason this was an issue with her needs to be looked into Norwalk should have councilors who are team players not playing the team that most of us depend on.I could go on and bash some more but really what is the point Norwalk is blessed with great people who help the city and those who are just driftwood at city hall shuld be thrown out.

    Returning today after touring and talking to State reps I realize Rowyaton has dangerous streets with no sidewalks at all maybe Dave can control further outbursts and suggest a subjects that need our support.I found many in and around the post office in Rowyaton who are taken back by the crap going on by our councilors who have shown little insight to a city that we all are trying make safe and desirable.

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