Greenwich Avenue, Elm Street Intersection Enhancement Project Takes Next Step
By Richard Kaufman
The Board of Selectmen granted Municipal Improvement status on Thursday to a project that would enhance the intersection and public safety at Greenwich Avenue and Elm Street. The item will now go before the Planning & Zoning Commission.
The Board received a presentation on the proposal a couple of weeks ago, but there were questions on how emergency vehicles could maneuver the area once the project was complete.
Part of the project, which has a preliminary estimated cost of $300,000, includes the installation of “bulb outs” — sometimes referred to as “bump outs” — which would extend the curb-line to the edge of the existing parking areas on east/west Elm Street, and the angled parking areas on Greenwich Avenue.
On Thursday before the Board voted, First Selectman Fred Camillo said that the police and fire department conducted a demonstration with their vehicles.
Jason Kaufman from the Department of Public Works Engineering Division, said the simulation was a success.
“We had the fire trucks do turnings on all corners after setting up cones in the locations where the cured bump outs will be. I’m happy to report that there were no issues, and the fire department successfully turned all the corners that we had some concerns about,” Kaufman said.
The purpose of the bulb outs are to increase the visual connection between pedestrian and driver, and reduce the crossing distance and crossing time for pedestrians. They would create a 41% reduction in crossing distance and time across the Avenue, and a minor decrease for Elm Street, according to Kaufman.
The project also includes the building of a raised intersection to alert drivers that they’re entering a heavily trafficked pedestrian zone.
All sidewalks within the project limits would be replaced, and the area paved. The center of the intersection will be retrofitted with a decorative crosswalk material, similar to what is seen on Sound Beach Avenue and in front of the Senior Center on Greenwich Avenue.
Additionally, the project addresses green space around the intersection. Currently, within the proposed work area, there is about 340 square feet of green space. DPW is looking to increase that by 1,860 square feet — or roughly 550%. DPW is coordinating with the Parks & Recreation Department to assist in the landscaping plan, which has been done before in other various downtown locations in recent years.
Two permanent bicycle racks would be installed at the northern corners on Elm Street, and town benches would be added with spaces for wheelchairs.
In the presentation a few weeks ago, Kaufman said four parking spaces will be lost on Greenwich Avenue south of the intersection.
“I think we need to really seriously pull together the right team of people and come up with some alternate solutions, because parking seems to be a root cause for several things being as attainable and as experiential as need be for the Avenue,” Selectperson Lauren Rabin said on Thursday.
Camillo said the town needs to “double down” on finding solutions to parking problems. He mentioned the idea of a trolley service that would run from Town Hall to downtown.
“Everything should be on the table, because we want more spaces opened up for customers, for residents and non-residents alike, visiting the Avenue,” Camillo added.
Four decorative light poles in the area, which are owned by Eversource, would be moved closer to the new intersection to improve visibility for pedestrians and drivers. Also, the project would relocate catch basins and manholes on the north side of the intersection, and add two catch basins to improve drainage.
The project now goes to Planning & Zoning for consideration. After that, DPW would go to the Board of Estimate and Taxation, since there are conditions placed on the funding.
If the approval process goes as planned, DPW hopes to begin construction in early spring 2021. The project is anticipated to take 8-12 weeks to complete. During that time, access to all businesses in the area will be maintained.