Traffic, trees and parking spaces: State seeks to balance interests
Trees, parking spaces, traffic flow — those are the variables.
Ridgefield’s beloved Main Street has sidewalks, shops and windows, a hot dog cart and an ice cream store. It has Town Hall, the new library, and beautiful Ballard Park. It has three major intersections with traffic lights, and eight crosswalks. And Main Street has 54 trees, and also 54 parking spaces.
State planners met with a roomful of about 40 “stakeholders” — merchants, landlords, town officials, interested citizens — Tuesday night, Feb. 28, outlining four different plans for renovating Main Street to improve its traffic flow. And they listened. The listened to concerns, complaints, suggestions.
It was the state Department of Transportation team’s third meeting with a large group in a year. They’ve been working with a smaller committee as well.
“We got a lot of feedback,” said Sal Aresco, the state’s project engineer.
“Trees are very important. And parking spaces are very important.”
At Tuesday’s two-and-a-half-hour meeting, the state team presented four variations of a plan to improve traffic flow on Route 35, Main Street, through the village — Plans 5, 5A, 5B, and 5C — after beginning with a brief recap of plan 4.
- Plan 4, which locals had previously objected to, prompting all the Plan 5 variations, would cost 10 parking spaces, with Main Street’s total going from 54 down to 44 spaces. And it would mean replacing 14 trees, eight which aren’t in good condition, but also six that are healthy. The projected construction cost is estimated at $2.8 million.
- Plan 5 would cost nine parking spaces. It would replace nine trees, eight of them in poor condition anyway. The estimated cost is $1.25 million.
- Plan 5A would mean a reduction of five parking spaces and the replacement of 10 trees, two of them healthy, for a cost of $1.5 million.
- Plan 5B would mean the loss of four parking spaces, the replacement of 10 trees, with a construction cost of $2 million.
- Plan 5C would retain the current total of 54 parking spaces, though some would be lost to traffic flow improvements and replaced with new ones in different locations. It would mean replacing 11 trees, three of them healthy. The estimated cost is $2.25 million.
The work the state is now envisioning would be “a mill and pave project with re-striping.”
This means that they wouldn’t be rebuilding the road, putting in new drainage, re-doing curbs. They’d just mill down the existing road’s surface and repave it.
Turning lanes would be added on Main Street at the intersections by restriping — painting lines onto the new pavement. Many of the parking spaces that would be lost or relocated are in places where turning lanes would be added to reduce backups at major intersections.
Earlier plans also added turning lanes on Catoonah Street, but those have been dropped in favor of allowing room for people to pull over and allow emergency vehicles coming out of the firehouse to pass.
In the plans, the width of the travel lanes through town would be reduced from 11.3 to 10 feet.
Wayne Addessi adamantly opposed plans — in every version outlined — that would reduce the angled parking spaces in front of his block from 16 to 12.
“To me, my neighbors, my tenants, we don’t want to lose parking,” Addessi said. “To lose three, four parking space is a major impact.”
Several people had reservations about the different plans’ approach at the north end of Main Street, where the state would relocate the CVS driveway to be directly across from Prospect Street — its look, primarily.
“CVS is one thing completely out of character with our town …” said Ellen Burns of Books on the Common, “whatever screening could be done.”
Sean O’Kane, an architect who’s on the committee that’s been working with the state, was troubled by versions of the plans that would recover parking spaces lost elsewhere by adding them on either side of Main Street at the northerly end — near the re-worked CVS parking lot driveway and Prospect Street.
“You’re talking about Main Street, and making it 16 feet wider than it is,” O’Kane said.
“I’m totally against widening Main Street.”
Some ideas were thrown out in the back and forth:
- Could the two alleyways running east off Main Street be made into pedestrian accessways, while still being available for emergency access by fire trucks and ambulances?
- Should landscaped “bump-outs” narrow the street in some spots — by town hall, and by the mid-block pedestrian crosswalk, which the state plans to keep?
- Could parking spaces be added along Bailey Avenue’s north side?
- Might Bailey be made two-way on the lower end so tanker trucks going to Casey Fuel don’t have to make the turn off Main Street?
Wing Biddle of Urstadt-Biddle, which owns the block north of Bailey Avenue to Big Shop Lane, said his firm might be interested in closing the alleyways to cars, and adding parking on Bailey Avenue.
Bailey is the town’s road, not the state’s, so that decision is local — the police department and its commission will look into it.
The meeting ended with plans for a group to work with First Selectman Marconi to put down some markers in the real world — tape on sidewalks — so people could walk around and get a better sense of the proposals.
“It’s very hard to visualize from plans,” O’Kane said.
Although many concerns came out on specifics, people thanked the state team for its interest in local opinion.
“This is a huge improvement over where we started with you guys,” Ellen Burns said. “I think all appreciate your willingness to work with us to preserve the character of our town.”
It was sentiment echoed by several speakers, including Conservation Commission Chairman Jim Coyle.
“You’ve listened to us for every parking spot and tree,” he said.
Aresco left the crowd with the idea that the state’s interest in accommodating every local concern may eventually wear out.
“If no one’s happy with Concept 5,” he said, “I don’t know what we can do for you.”