NORWALK, Conn. – The outcry from Norwalk’s dedicated cyclists has been heard: Room has been made for bicycle riders in Norwalk’s West Avenue landscaping redesign.
Also new in the latest unveiling of the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency’s work: lighting under the Interstate 95 underpass, crosswalks at all the intersections and plantings that would draw attention to the Mathews Park complex.
The updated master plan, a response to public comment, was presented Wednesday at the Stepping Stones Museum for Children by Jason Williams of Milone & MacBroom, a civil engineering firm, in the third and final community gathering on the topic.
Norwalk Redevelopment Agency Executive Director Tim Sheehan and RDA Special Projects Manager MaryGrace Weber said funding sources have been identified to support the work, should the Common Council approve the plans.
“I would say over the next two-plus years we will be in the process of implementing major portions of this plan,” Sheehan said.
Weber said the first priorities will be updating the existing medians, including irrigation to support the plants, and the crosswalk work. Work on medians might begin in the fall, she said.
The plan has been designed to create a cohesive impression along the mile-long stretch, including brick crosswalks and a brick sidewalk under the I-95 overpass. The intersection of Connecticut Avenue and West Avenue, at the entrance to Mathews Park, will be defined by those brick crosswalks and a different tone within the square.
“This area cannot just be handled by putting in new sidewalks, new street trees; it really needs an all-encompassing design around this intersection for people to feel it’s pedestrian friendly and usable,” he said.
Making the square “a little bit difficult on the eye for the driver” will slow down traffic, he said, and “make people think and maybe notice what is going on in this area.”
That will draw attention to the Lockwood Mathews Mansion, he said, and “get people interested and invited into eating lunch in this park.”
Existing banners will be extended to West Avenue, Williams said. Shrubs and trees will encircle the intersection, and new landscaping will make Heritage Wall more appealing.
The overpass will be lit up from below with LED lighting that will be programmed to change colors with the seasons, he said. There will also be pedestrian lighting on the walls.
Sculptures in the art park, in the island of dirt formed by the entrance ramp for southbound I-95 and Route 7, will be removed and replaced with landscaping that Williams compared to sculpture. Closely planted birch trees will have wispy grasses underneath and two types of dogwoods behind them.
The medians are designed to be more narrow, allowing room for bicycle lanes in the road. The inside travel lane is planned to be 11 feet wide, while the outside lane is planned to be 14 feet wide.
“We clearly heard that the biking issues were a big concern,” Sheehan said.
Lampposts will be replaced, and will feature smaller lights shining down on the sidewalks. Pedestrian plazas will feature bus shelters photovoltaic panels, urban wind turbines and benches.
Weber is optimistic.
“I think that we are very aware at the Redevelopment Agency that Norwalk in general does a lot of planning,” she said. “It’s good to do planning but it does nothing for your city unless you implement it. This is all part and parcel of our work to physically improve. I think we’ve been pretty successful up to now in getting the grants to execute this.”
A PDF of the plan is posted on the ConnectNorwalk website.
Correction made, April 27.