With traffic at the top of the list of residents’ concerns in this year’s Greenwich Police Department survey, the town is considering an aggressive new traffic calming program.
New signs, pavement marks, increased enforcement, speed bumps, traffic circles, partial street closings, and curb extensions may all be solutions residents may support or decry during public hearings about speeding and traffic violations in town.
Kevin Conroy, project manager from Fuss & O’Neill, the civil and environmental engineering firm hired by the town’s Department of Public Works (DPW) to address traffic problems, presented a plan to the Board of Selectmen at its Feb. 14 meeting.
Mr. Conroy said the firm wanted to take a two-tiered approach, which he claimed was the “primary way communities across the country have addressed these issues.” In Tier I, people would submit neighborhood requests. If the streets qualified for traffic calming, the traffic engineering department would review the neighborhood and implement sound recommendations, including new signage, pavement markings and increased enforcement. Those solutions would be evaluated during the next six to eight months.
If the recommendations didn’t work, Tier II would go into effect. A traffic committee would develop a more intense plan, subject to neighborhood review. If two-thirds of the neighbors approved it, it would then go to the selectmen for consideration. The more aggressive methods under Tier II might include putting in speed bumps and constructing traffic circles, diverters or partial closings or curb extensions.
“We want to develop effective solutions,” Mr. Conroy said. “We don’t want to put something out there just for the sake of putting something out there. We want to address problems that exist. We have a method of identifying those problems and techniques we can use to address them.”
But while developing solutions to traffic issues, Mr. Conroy stressed the firm’s commitment to public safety and following the accepted design process. He said the firm didn’t want to come up with ideas that put traffic or pedestrian safety at risk. This includes making sure emergency services are not negatively impacted by changes.
“Some of the goals are to respond to neighborhood concerns about traffic issues, but we also wanted to consider all the users of the public works system, including emergency services, police and fire,” Mr. Conroy said. “Some of the techniques we’ve used have caused some difficulties for fire departments in the past and [for] any policy we do adopt, we’d want to take into consideration the response times.”
Mr. Conroy also told the board the firm would be looking to avoid solutions where problems were transferred to other neighborhoods.
“We don’t want to take traffic from one street and just put it on another,” Mr. Conroy said. “We want to take a comprehensive approach toward these problems.”
Selectman Peter Crumbine asked Mr. Conroy if there really were cases where the company put in speed bumps and drivers would take different routes to avoid them. Mr. Conroy said there was research to indicate people did that, but it depended on the location and such factors as the number of parallel streets.
The cost of any potential solution was something else Mr. Conroy addressed. He said he anticipated there would be “quite a demand” for traffic calming from the neighborhoods in town, but the firm realized there would not be an unlimited budget and the changes made would be within budget.
Mr. Conroy said the first thing the firm did was review the town’s existing policy, note which calming programs were already under way and look at neighboring towns to see what was working there. With any of the changes, Mr. Conroy said, steps would be taken to build public support.
“We want to make sure anything that’s undertaken has a wide base of support,” Mr. Conroy said. “We will be meeting with neighborhoods to address their concerns as they come in.”
No decision has been made on what, if any, changes will be implemented. However, before the board has a chance to vote on the program, residents may voice their opinions.
Public hearings on traffic calming are scheduled for Wednesdays, Feb. 28 and March 14, at 7 p.m. in the Town Hall Meeting Room.
After the hearings, town Traffic Engineer Garo Garabedian said, he would come back to the board with a draft proposal. He said he was hoping to be ready by the selectmen’s April meeting, but it may be in May.
First Selectman James Lash said one concern he had about the project was that its efforts might conflict with efforts already under way by the town’s neighborhood associations.
“I don’t want to set up a process that basically undoes the work that has already been done,” Mr. Lash said. He later added that he had read the policy draft outline submitted and had no technical problems with it.
Francisco Gomes, a Hartford-based community planner hired by the school district to work on the Safe Routes to Schools Program, which sought to make conditions safe for neighborhood children walking to school, said he thought installing the process would be a positive step, but admitted it might be a rough go at first.
“Ultimately this is something I think would help,” Mr. Gomes said. “In the beginning there might be some confusion about what the priorities are and it could cause a little instability, but there needs to be a structured process in place to get complaints and requests about streets and sidewalks.”
Mr. Garabedian said notice of the project had been sent throughout the community to “stakeholders” in it and he would make sure they were aware of the upcoming public hearings.
© Copyright 2007 by by Hersam Acorn Newspapers
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