Work to reduce traffic on Ridgefield’s Main Street starting soon. Here are details of the $4 million project.

RIDGEFIELD — A $4 million project to improve traffic flow on Main Street is set to start within the next few months, according to Planning and Zoning Commission Vice Chairman Charles Robbins.

Robbins was tapped by First Selectman Rudy Marconi to serve as a liaison to state Department of Transportation officials working on Main Street’s realignment. Twenty percent of the project is being funded by state dollars, and the remaining 80 percent is being funded by federal dollars.

Soon, Eversource, along with a Westport-based contractor, will complete utility work at the intersection of Main and Prospect streets, near the entrance to the CVS parking lot. During this phase, workers will install a new transformer, underground vaults and wires and cables that extend into CVS and other properties. The work will take between two to three months to complete and will be conducted at night so as to not disrupt drivers and businesses during the day, Robbins said.

In the second phase of the project, which is set to break ground next spring, the DOT will mill, pave and re-stripe Main Street between Governor and Prospect.

“The people did not want Main Street widened at all, so everything we’re doing is from curb to curb” as it exists, Marconi said.

In addition to realigning the intersection near CVS, workers will add three dedicated turning lanes to the thoroughfare, install bumpouts and pedestrian push buttons at crosswalks and add new trees and plantings along the sidewalks. Ridgefield has retained registered landscape architect Jane Didona to work closely with state officials to ensure the landscaping is consistent with the rest of the town.

Robbins said the construction will take approximately six months, bringing the overall project to completion by Thanksgiving 2022.

“There is a net loss of four parking places in this entire project, and the dedicated turning lanes … will allow the flow of traffic to improve substantially,” he added. Additionally, “all of the traffic lights will be sequenced — right now, they’re not.”

A case against realignment

The following are transcriptions of the videos commissioned by two local business owners in response to the impending Main Street realignment project:

Parking at Main Street and Catoonah

The diagonal parking has a designated area for cars to pull out and wait safely without impeding traffic. Drivers can wait off road to rejoin traffic in a specific lane.

The new proposed change has drivers wait in traffic for current parked drivers to exit their spots, only causing a potential jam every single time someone wants to park and every time someone wishes to exit parking. The changes are not an improvement but rather create safety hazards and stunt traffic flow for those on Main Street.

CVS Parking

The current foot traffic allows for seniors, kids and teens to walk along the known paths with relative ease. The current entry from the road to the parking lot is situated in the center, and allows drivers a better view of pedestrians, also allowing teens an easier shortcut that doesn't involve traffic.

The new proposition has the entry point much closer to (Ballard Park) with the tree line possibly obscuring the corner turn, and with no crosswalk at the park entrance into the parking lot, there is a higher chance of jams or possible accidents without proper supervision or traffic lights.

One of those dedicated turning lanes will allow drivers heading north on Main to turn left onto Catoonah Street, but some merchants there are concerned that the new layout will make matters worse.

Wayne Addessi, who owns Addessi Jewelers at 387 Main St., argued that the turning lane at Catoonah would “cause more accidents and create more of a hazard,” he said.

Addessi and Elizabeth DiSalvo, who owns Trillium Architects at 409 Main Street, commissioned two videos that demonstrate the current traffic and pedestrian flow at the intersections, and what those would look like after the project is completed.

“The turning lane would interfere with the diagonal parking in front of the building ... and make it more difficult for businesses to get their deliveries,” Addessi said. “Supplying a loading zone is an important thing.”

Ridgefield Hardware co-owner Jennifer Rabin said she believes the loss of the loading zone as well as parking spaces would have a “negative impact” on Main Street’s businesses.

“I don’t feel congestion is all that bad currently … (and) parking is difficult in Ridgefield as it is,” she added, noting that sometimes “people have to go out every one to two hours to move their cars so they don’t get a ticket.”

Robbins indicated that the project’s subcommittee, which comprises Main Street merchants, were “very supportive” of the plan from early on. The owners of the CVS property, he added, are also “in favor of it.”

“We’ve given the green light to the DOT to get this project done,” Marconi said, “and if we were not to do it now, it’ll never happen — not in our lifetime.”