Letter: Simpaug neighbors are concerned about proposed baseball field

This letter was sent in by  Tim and Jennifer Keyes, of Redding, who live near a site where a new Ridgefield Little League baseball field is proposed to be built. The site, at the corner of Simpaug Turnpike and Route 7, borders Redding.

Dear Redding/Ridgefield Neighbors:

We and many neighbors are very concerned about the impacts of the proposed athletic field that Ridgefield intends to build on the old Walpole site at the intersection of Route 7 and Simpaug Turnpike (see link below).

http://www.theridgefieldpress.com/86515/batter-up-new-baseball-field-gets-hearing-in-may/

Additional outdoor recreation options for this general area are a great idea, but the specific location chosen has serious drawbacks. The site plan includes light towers, loudspeakers, concession and other facilities, as well as parking for about 60 vehicles. Moreover, the proposed development likely conflicts with the planned route for the Norwalk River Valley Trail (http://www.nrvt-trail.com/). The site, owned by the State and managed by DEEP, has been leased to Ridgefield for $1/year, expressly for recreational purposes. It is in a flood control area, surrounded by an historic cemetery, wetlands, the Norwalk River, and within feet of a busy highway.

Our largest concern is around traffic safety. The lot in question will be served by a driveway off of Simpaug Turnpike, which despite its misleading name is actually a fairly narrow two lane road. Noting the proposed site plan, the entrance to the facility is very close to the corner of Route 7 and Simpaug and the parking lot configuration is long and thin, requiring drivers to slow to almost a dead stop in order to turn into the drive from Simpaug and then immediately stop again in order to navigate either a right or left hand turn in the lot and park their vehicles. Given the nature of practices and games, traffic flow to the field will be "lumpy" with higher volumes of traffic just before and after activities. With the proximity of the driveway to Route 7, any more than a few cars trying to enter the facility at any one time will cause a backup and dead stop along Route 7. The site is simply too close to the intersection. It should be noted that there is no left hand or right hand turn lane at this point on Route 7, nor is there a traffic light at this intersection (nor do we want one), so that traffic turning onto Simpaug from either the north or south bound lanes will be easily congested more than it already is.

Add to this that the Ridgefield Little League (RLL) practices and games during the week (per the current RLL schedule) occur during peak rush hour along Route 7. RLL estimates that approximately 35-50 cars will be driving to and from the parking lot with a very short distance to a stop sign at Route 7. We anticipate this number to be too low, considering back-to-back games and tournaments are envisioned. Northbound Route 7 between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. is frequently stopped, making turns either right or left from Simpaug onto Route 7 very difficult. We have lived in this location for 18 years and have frequently experienced wait times of two to five minutes before being able to turn onto Route 7 from Simpaug at rush hour. Traffic on Simpaug and Route 7 will be completely ensnarled, impeding local residents' travel and more importantly any north, south or Redding-bound emergency vehicles.

The result of this congestion will be to drive traffic onto eastbound Simpaug from the facility parking lot and onto Redding roads, instead. As readers may be aware, Simpaug narrows further and passes through the historic one-lane railroad underpass and toward the Metro-North railroad tracks. At this point drivers may also be impeded by train traffic, further congesting the area and creating a total blockade for residents on Simpaug and Topledge. Once past the tracks, drivers presumably will proceed to westbound Topstone Road which is equally as narrow as Simpaug, but with more-significant commuter traffic, creating further issues.

Connecticut DOT publishes a report on average daily traffic for hourly Route7 traffic volumes at the intersection of Simpaug at Route 7 (www.ct.gov/dot/cwp/view.asp?a=3532@q=567276).

As of 2013, peak load at this location was over 1700 vehicles an hour between 4 and 7 p.m. on weeknights, and does not appear to have slackened since then. That works out to about 28 cars a minute, or roughly a car every 2 seconds, which is not nearly enough time for this new surge of vehicles to safely negotiate the intersection. Cars will necessarily back up onto Simpaug trying to exit the field for long periods of time. Northbound Route 7 is frequently stopped due to traffic volume, however southbound traffic proceeds at or above the speed limit. This creates a very dangerous situation for people turning onto Route 7 from Simpaug, one that has resulted in serious and deadly accidents in the past. We understand that Town of Ridgefield employed a traffic engineer to study the impact on Route 7 and local roads, and he has concluded there should be no issue.

To resolve this conflict (between an independent State of Connecticut analysis and an Ridgefield analysis), we think a "trial run" whereby we test the impact of offloading 35-50 cars from the proposed site, while onloading the same number during rush hour on a weekday, be conducted to gauge traffic impacts. We believe this could be facilitated by Ridgefield and Redding police using volunteers from the local area and RLL. By the way, a trial run should also be done to show the impact of noise and lighting on surrounding neighbors, as we have been informed that “we should not be bothered.” We and several close neighbors would be happy to participate in any trial run.

We commend the Town of Ridgefield and the RLL organization for wanting to provide their resident families with such a nice facility. However, we feel the proposed location is unsuitable to this development and imposes undue costs on neighbors who are mostly Redding residents, but also anyone traveling on Route 7. A traffic light at this intersection would only exacerbate an already frustrating travel experience, and is not the answer either, given the proximity of the site to the intersection. This facility would be better suited to a developed area in Ridgefield such as Branchville or downtown where services such as parking, restaurants and shopping are easier to reach for users of a park, and roads are more suitable for travel for RLL participants (there are no surrounding businesses or services anywhere near the proposed site).

We find it difficult to understand how this development can be a ‘signature facility’ for Ridgefield RLL when participants will experience the same increased level of traffic anguish, reducing the positive experience this facility is attempting to provide, notwithstanding the safety issues described above. We feel strongly that the Ridgefield families who will enjoy the benefits of the park should also consider the total costs of this project including the costs in terms of travel impacts and impacts to the peacefulness of the rural setting for all of their neighbors. Ridgefield and Redding are such wonderful places to live, a view we believe we all share, but as everyone knows the most negative aspect of our location is the traffic, which no development should consciously worsen.

Please plan to attend a public hearing on the park, currently scheduled for Tuesday, May 16 at 7:30 p.m. at the Ridgefield Town Annex (monitor Town of Ridgefield websites for date/time/location changes).

Also, don’t take our word for it, drive by the site during rush hour, and formulate your own opinion. Think about being stuck in traffic for more than you already are. Think about children playing within feet of Route 7.