Editorial: Main Street concerns

Emotions run high whenever Main Street — its tree-lined beauty, its inviting sidewalks, its eclectic business community — is perceived as under threat.

And that’s how some folks view the traffic flow improvement project under discussion with the state Department of Transportation. The proposals state officials have presented to a local committee that’s working with them — turning lanes added, intersections changed, some trees replaced — are scary to people who love Main Street as it is.

Some folks also felt left out of the process, once larger meetings with 30 or 40 people were replaced by smaller sessions with the state team running its proposals by a seven-member committee.

First Selectman Rudy Marconi and committee members feel critics are overreacting. Everyone loves Main Street. No one wants to hurt it. The state is being cooperative. There will be public hearings once a proposed plan has been worked out.

The frustrations of people who feel locked out of the process are understandable — but so is the argument that nothing gets done with 30 people in the room.

One critic raised the concern that, by the time there’s a public hearing, the state design team will have invested so much time and money in their proposal that they won’t really be open to substantial changes. That can happen, even when people mean well.

Here’s an idea: Have the committee hold some informal sessions, getting feedback from the wider group of whoever’s interested, before the state team invests heavily in elaborate preparations for a formal hearing.

People care deeply about Main Street. And when they feel like they’re in the dark, they worry.