Submitted by Dan Quigley, Greenwich
Last spring, the RTM voted in support of the Arch Street and Grigg Street intersection improvements. Subsequently, the project’s path to become reality has led to some changes in the original design plan that address concerns by residents in the debate last Spring. This decision is now before the RTM. I strongly support its passage, and urge my fellow RTM members to do the same.
The plan to streamline and redesign key intersections on the Avenue is in lockstep with the main tenets of the Town’s Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD). One of the POCD’s many goals was to make downtown more walkable and safer for pedestrians, seniors and people with disabilities. At the intersection of the Avenue and West/East Elm, the first phase of safety enhancements has proven to be a success. The elevated crosswalks are level with the street, and the shorter distances to cross and red brick pathways make crossing options clearer and safer for all. In fact, the Department of Public Works was the recipient of an ACE (Achievement in Civil Engineering) award in recognition of it being an exemplary project that showcase engineering expertise and innovation.
Pedestrian safety is at the forefront of this project, however aesthetics also play an important role. In the case of West Elm, the plantings and park benches are pleasing to the eye and show that Greenwich takes pride in how it presents itself to residents and visitors alike. As time passes and the plantings mature, they will provide a respite of natural beauty for passers by and pedestrians out for a stroll. This will also ring true at both Arch and Grigg Streets.
In the Spring, opponents of the Arch and Grigg Street improvements focused on questions surrounding the 10-12 additional parking spaces the project will produce. Since that has been debunked, their focus has turned toward how the safety improvements will alter the landscape of downtown. The fact is, what makes this historic district historic, is the alignment of the structures and monuments that inhibit it, particularly the Senior Center (old Town Hall), the Havemeyer Building and the RH Building (formerly the post office). None of these will be altered in any way as part of the project. Importantly, the Bolling Monument and the WWI Obelisk will also remain as is and DPW has confirmed that not a single tree will be removed.
I have a great respect for the opinions of those who value our town’s history, but doing so, we must also embrace the fact that Greenwich Avenue has undergone continual change throughout its own history. On the eve of the twentieth century, the Avenue was still a dirt road. It has since seen trolley tracks, pavement and changing from a two way thoroughfare to a one way street not so long ago. Buildings have been knocked down and rebuilt, high school playing fields transformed into public parks and our police and fire stations demolished and rebuilt to accommodate the needs of modern infrastructure. This project does the same for our most traversed intersection by bringing it up to code to meet the needs of our community and the lifestyle of its residents today and into the future.
Lastly, cost is always a concern in the municipal budget process, and this capital improvement is not immune to that scrutiny. That being said, both the Western Connecticut Council of Governments and the CT Department of Transportation have placed such a high priority on the enhancements to the Avenue, that both entities have pledged grants that would fully reimburse the Town of Greenwich of all costs associated with these important public safety measures
Greenwich residents take pride in our town. In District 1, downtown is not only a place of commerce, it is our community. It is our neighborhood. So we take a particular interest in how it looks and feels. I have a great deal of confidence, that if passed, these safety improvements to the Avenue will become a source of pride for our residents for years to come, and that we will all benefit from the upgrades that come with it.
As former British Prime Minister Harold Wilson once said; “He who rejects change is the architect of decay.”
ARCH STREET/GREENWICH AVE PROPOSAL: