Main Street improvement: State planners to float ideas Tuesday

Toned-down in deference to town aesthetic concerns, a concept for improving Main Street will be aired by state planners before village merchants and landlords — as well as town officials and the general public — next week.

The gathering is Tuesday, Feb. 28, at 5:30 in town hall. It is not a public hearing in the official sense, but rather a feedback session designed to get reactions to plans the state Department of Transportation (DOT) is still developing.

“A working group meeting to discuss various conceptual ideas that have been going on for the last several months,” First Selectman Rudy Marconi said.

State planners presented a few different concepts to a meeting of about 30 Main Street “stakeholders” last summer, then went to work with a small committee chosen from the larger group — seeking an approach that could improve traffic flow, without diminishing the tree-lined charm that Ridgefielders cherish in their Main Street.

Outline and listen

Charles Robbins, chairman of the smaller committee that worked with the state planners, said engineers want to outline where their plans are now, and listen to reaction.

“The meeting is open to those approximately 30 people, and anyone else that wants to attend,” he said. “We look forward to community input.”

They will then go back to work, and try to come up with a plan that townspeople will like.

“Once that group agrees, which is a good cross-section of the community, that idea will be put into a plan that will be a presentation for a public hearing to the people of Ridgefield,” Marconi said.

Presentation parts

The state has been revising its plans in collaboration with the smaller committee.

Here are some of the major elements that are expected to be part of the presentations next Tuesday:

  • Turning lanes will be added on Main Street to allow the continued flow of through traffic while cars stack up and wait to turn onto side streets. By proposing narrower lanes than it initially did, the state won’t have to push back curbs — saving trees that in earlier versions might have had roots damaged by the curb relocation. Marconi described it as a “repave and restripe” project, rather than a widening of the road.

“The lanes will be somewhat narrower than originally proposed in order to be sensitive to the streetscape and town character,” Robbins said.

  • The intersection of Prospect Street and the CVS shopping center will be realigned to reduce the “offset” and facilitate the timing of traffic lights there with those at the Catoonah/Bailey and Governor Street intersections. “Prospect Street and Main Street are still proposed to be realigned to improve traffic flow,” Robbins said. “The exact design has yet to be approved.” Sean O’Kane, a local architect who serves on Robbins’ committee, expressed concerns about this realignment — though he noted that these are his personal thoughts, and not necessarily the view of the full committee.
  • Catoonah Street will no longer have turning lanes added, which will save landscaping on the corner near the Carnal Insurance building. “Catoonah will remain fundamentally the same as it is now,” Robbins said.
  • The “loading zone” in front of the Addessi block, just south of the Catoonah Street intersection, is regarded as a safety problem by state planners and they intend to eliminate it regardless of other potential changes to the plan. “This elimination will likely take place under any circumstance, as the loading zone creates a serious safety hazard for pedestrians and is not consistent with ensuring the safe passage of vehicle and pedestrians,” Robbins said.
  • The state’s plans reduced the number of parking spaces in front of the Addessi block, raising objections, and that concern remains unresolved. “There is no final decision yet on the reduction of parking spaces in front of the Addessi site,” Robbins said. “Further presentations and discussions will help finalize how many may have to be removed. The meeting of Feb. 28 will provide more clarity.”
  • The town clock near St. Stephen’s Church was to be relocated in some versions of the plan, but that idea has been dropped. “No relocation,” Robbins said.

The feedback session next Tuesday was “requested by the DOT, their meeting,” Marconi said, and reflects the state’s desire to come up with a plan that will be acceptable to the town.