Ridgefield Main Street rebuild to improve F-graded traffic flow in downtown

RIDGEFIELD —  Downtown Ridgefield's "Main Street Project" is about 90 percent complete and is expected to be fully finished by the end of the year.

"This has been a major project and a rebuild —  mostly infrastructure and paving," Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi said.

The goal of the $4 million project, which began last year, is to improve traffic flow on Main Street.

"The intersection at CVS and Prospect Street is currently at a level of service of F —  it fails, prior to the completion," Marconi said. "Hopefully, it'll be at a level of service at a C, which means cars will not be stopped as long, trying to get through. We're not saying that you're gonna drive through, no matter what time of the day, at 25 miles an hour. But hopefully the backup of traffic will not be as bad."

Jane Didona, a landscape architect, was retained by the town and worked closely with the state Department of Transportation and residents to create a comprehensive landscape plan, according to an announcement from the town. 

There are now new trees and plantings, new sidewalks, and a repaved street with dedicated turning lanes at each intersection.  

"The plantings are comprised of pollinator-friendly native and nativar plants that will connect the pollinator pathway gardens established at the library and Keeler Tavern," the town's announcement states. "Along with the mature trees along Main Street, the new trees will create a diverse canopy of flowers in the spring, shade in the summer, and color in the fall, as well as more opportunities for holiday lights. The shrubs and perennials are also pollinator-friendly natives that can withstand the unique conditions of a streetscape and provide a four-season display of flowers, vegetation, berries, and fall color."  

Marconi said most of the work involved in the project was performed underground.

"All the utilities have been upgraded," he said. "The only thing that wasn't touched was the water line but it's a new water line that was done maybe 10 to 15 years ago from Catoonah Street South. All of the electric, all the gas, telephone work, and lines were lowered. New lines were put in."

The town is waiting for the polls to put up new lights. 

"We confirmed that they are to be the same colors as the current ones — black, and there are six or seven from the Governor Street intersection with Main Street, the Catoonah-Bailey Avenue section of Main Street and the Prospect CVS intersection. All of those will be all new traffic lights," Marconi said. "Additionally, the crosswalks will be all new as well."

He said he expects all the work to be complete by December. 

"They're going to be painting the poles next week or so and then installation by mid-December, hopefully," Marconi said.

Project goals, costs

Another goal of the project is to make the streets more "pedestrian friendly." Crews added "bump-outs" at the intersections, Marconi said. 

"For example, in front of the (Ridgefield) Conservatory of Dance, you'll see the curb line goes out to the travel lane that allows people to be 6 feet or so closer. If you add it to the other side, it reduces the actual legitimate crossing by about 10 to 12 feet, by the time you step off the curb," he said. 

Additionally, he said the town worked closely with CVS, which added 16 parking spots at its space at 467 Main St.

"We want to be thankful to CVS and their cooperation as a merchant, as a landlord in our community," Marconi said. "We're very, very lucky to have a landlord that's very cooperative and understanding and will work with us."

He said next year, CVS plans to redo their entire parking lot. 

"That's an important part of our community because as you come into the downtown area, that's one of the first places you see," he said. "So, their effort, combined with our effort to upgrade that area, have been in unison."

There are no costs to the town for the project. Twenty percent of the project is being funded by state dollars, and the remaining 80 percent is being funded by federal dollars. The overall design was evaluated and approved by the town of Ridgefield and the state department of Transportation (DOT), with input from residents and Main Street merchants.

Project beginnings

The idea for the project began about 15 years ago.

"We started with a Route 35 traffic study back in 2007," Marconi said. "It was the initial assessment of that entire route from Route 7, all the way to the New York state line."

At Redding's request, work was done in that town first to support that community's project at the Georgetown Wire Mill. 

"Then, we took the next turn in the application process, which takes years and years, and then the engineering and survey work —  that took a couple of years at least," said Marconi, adding the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the start of the project further.