Feedback on DPW Plans for 8 Greenwich Ave Intersections: Comply with ADA, Skip the Bump Outs

The Greenwich Dept of Public Works recently held a public hearing to share plans for improvements at 8 intersections on Greenwich Avenue.

The goal is to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Deputy DPW commissioner Jim Michel said none of the intersections were in compliance and that plans conform to Pubic Right-of-Way Accessibility Guidelines, “PROWAG” for short. PROWAG talks gives guidelines for slopes and calls for 8-ft access aisles for ADA parking spots and ramps with direct routes onto a sidewalk.

While Mr. Michel said curb extensions, aka bump outs,’ were necessary to meet ADA compliance, residents were skeptical.

Several people pointed to the shortcomings of the Elm Street intersection where there are bump outs on all four corners. That entire intersection is raised up to form one big speed bump.

Vehicle stopped in the middle of the intersection at Elm Street to let pedestrians cross. June 9, 2024 Photo: Leslie Yager

At Elm Street, planting beds in the bump outs feature double curbs and there is often confusion over whose turn it is to cross when cars are queued at the stop sign and there are numerous pedestrians.

Mr. Michel explained that there were conditions on $450,000 of BET funding in the 24-25 fiscal year budget toward the project.

He said the release of BET conditions on the funding was anticipated for July 1.

He said DPW would replace sidewalks and curbs before repaving of Greenwich Avenue, which is anticipated to be this fall or next spring.

Mr. Michel said some work on sidewalks had already begun.

New sidewalks at the top of Greenwich Avenue. June 9, 2024 Photo: Leslie Yager

Tree well with a newly planted tree on Greenwich Ave between Grigg and Railroad Ave. June 9, 2024 Photo: Leslie Yager

A new 4 ft x 8 ft tree well with a newly planted tree at the bottom of Greenwich Ave. June 9, 2024 Photo: Leslie Yager

“The work that has started is work between the intersections, especially at the top of the Avenue,” he said, adding that sidewalks were already being replaced in preparation for the overall repaving of Greenwich Avenue.

He mentioned DPW might be able to add tree wells in the process and that through collaboration with the tree warden they had designed a new, standardized, 4 ft x 8 ft to be installed where possible.

An ADA parking spot in front of Mediterraneo “displaced” by an outdoor dining node was moved to the other side of the street by Fawcett and will become ADA compliant, tucked in beside a bump out.

An ADA parking spot by Mediterraneo was displaced and a new one put in across the street at the corner of Fawcett.

Empty bump out at corner of Fawcett where a compliant ADA space is proposed. June 9, 2024 Photo: Leslie Yager

ADA Stalls

Also Mr. Michel said DPW had tried distribute the ADA stalls equally from the top to the bottom of Greenwich Avenue, with focus on destinations such as Greenwich Commons park and St Mary’s Church.

The May 30 presentation (which is available online) included schematic designs showing current and proposed ADA parking spaces and curb ramps.

Overall, four standard parking spaces would be lost, and two ADA accessible spaces would be added. The total number of ADA parking spaces would be 19. The total spaces overall would be 403, down from 405.

New street lighting is proposed for the Amogerone Crossway intersection, but new fixtures would match the existing ones. At other intersections, the existing lights would be relocated to be closer to the roadway. Also, the work involves moving three fire hydrants.

Bump Outs at Greenwich Ave at Route 1

Cars turning left from Putnam Ave onto Greenwich Ave where bump outs are proposed as part of a plan for ADA compliance. June 9, 2024 Photo: Leslie Yager

Schematic design shows proposed bump outs at Route 1 at the top of Greenwich Ave.

 

At the intersection at Route 1 DPW proposes bump outs and to replace a non-compliant ADA spot with a compliant one that includes a dedicated ramp. They also propose to relocate a light post.

Mr. Michel said a CT Dept of Transportation Encroachment permit would be required for the work at the intersection at Route 1.

 

Bike riders headed north on Greenwich Ave. June 9, 2024 Photo: Leslie Yage

Havemeyer and Arch Street

At the intersection of Arch Street and Havemeyer, anchored by historic buildings, DPW proposes to shorten the crosswalks for pedestrians through the use of bump outs.

Previously, bump outs were part of a controversial proposal at this intersection that pitted townspeople against each other.

At the time there was $2.8m state funding available for intersection improvements, but in December 2022 the RTM voted against approving an Municipal Improvement. (The motion to reject the MI was: 114 yes to 72 no, with 12 abstentions.)

Unlike that proposal, however, the current proposal does not include a slip lane for trucks or a pedestrian island.

Nor does it include paving some of the lawn in front of the Havemeyer building (in the town right-of-way) to straighten out the intersection or the addition of a dozen diagonal parking spots along Arch Street.

Mr. Michel assured residents that the proposed improvements would not include raised intersections like the one at Elm Street.

“We’re not planning on replicating that design on any of these intersections,” he said, referring to the giant speed hump in the Elm St intersection.

Mr. Michel said curb extensions, “bump outs” had many safety benefits.

Several residents disagreed.

Non compliant ADA spot at the top of Greenwich Ave. June 9, 2024 Photo: Leslie Yager

Revenge of the Bump Outs?

During public comment, Pam Fontana applauded efforts to comply with ADA, but spoke against bump outs, starting with the one proposed at Route 1.

“Was it really necessary to narrow Greenwich Ave at the top at the Post Road?” Fontana asked, adding. “People turning left onto the Avenue utilize that apron.”

Fontana suggested that the bump outs went beyond the objective of ADA compliance.

“You never spoke to the fact that so many residents complained about the bump outs originally, and said, we don’t actually want more bump outs,” she said. “It seems as if in incorporating these ADA compliant ramps, rather than moving deeper into the existing sidewalk, you’ve moved out into the existing road, and suddenly in some of the spots there are bump outs that we all vocally said we don’t want.”

“I’d like a presentation that’s not only ADA compliance with beautification, but ADA complaint, period. Without these bump outs encroaching on the driver’s space – I’d like to see a different proposal.”

Fontana suggested that most collisions on Greenwich Avenue did not take place at intersections, but rather resulted from drivers maneuvering in and out of parking spots.

“This additional objective of not just ADA, but suddenly bumping out, may have started increasing our chances of dangerous situations in backing out and parking.”

JoAnn Messina, the former Greenwich Tree Conservancy director who lives near the top of Greenwich Avenue, said she was surprised sidewalk work had begun prior to the DPW public hearing, and that she’d spoken to a contractor on site the previous day who explained that bump outs were proposed there.

“I do have some concern watching that intersection,” she said.  “Narrowing (the roadway) right there is going to be difficult. People, as it is, try to get through the red light and there are  pedestrians. It’s a really difficult intersection.” 

Greenwich First Selectman Fred Camillow, DPW project engineer Jason Kaufman and DPW Deputy Commissioner Jim Michel at the ribbon cutting for the bump out at the Elm Street intersection with representatives from FGB Construction. June 21, 2021 Photo: Leslie Yager

Former RTC chair Beth McGillivray also criticized the bump outs.

“Our community is deeply concerned about the proposed changes to this historic and beloved area under the guise of safety and modern recommendations,” she said.

“The Elm Street bump out has been very difficult for older people, moms with strollers, kids running around – this narrowing–it’s very difficult maneuvering, and adding that (bump outs) at each intersection is only going to complicate the use of the Avenue,” McGillivray said.

“Moreover, the flooding concerns cannot be overlooked. The bump outs have caused a lot of pooling and exacerbated drainage problems. I think those bump outs into the road makes it very difficult for snow plows to get around in the winter.”

Nan Levy said she had visited some of the retailers at the Elm Street intersection to learn about the impact of the project.

“One showed me a picture today of a large commercial truck trying to go from west to east on Elm Street and turn down the Avenue after tying up traffic almost 10 minutes – they were heading right into Betteridge (jewelers), they had to reverse first.”

Relaying comments from another merchant: “He said he watches handicapped people stumble into the rose bushes…This is a big mistake in the design.”

“In two stores, when they do not have customers, they look out the windows and see near misses nearly every minute,” Levy said. “One person said the cars even play chicken with each other.”

Phil Dodson said 90% of the proposal repeated the plans that many residents had objected to in 2022.

He said the bump out on Delavan Ave in Byram had been hit by trucks several times and that one had even hit the street light there.

“Elm Street will never be good until you put a traffic light there. … There is a constant flow of people and they don’t wait for cars,” Dodson continued. “They need a light there, and at Havemeyer and Arch Street.”

“There was just so much opposition at Arch Street, and now to propose to do this from top to bottom, people are going to raise a lot of objections,” he added.

Dan Quigley, a resident of West Elm Street, disagreed.

“It’s beautified the intersection and made traversing the Avenue much easier. Crossing is shorter. It’s flat and the sight lines are improved.”

“I’ve not seen any of the incidents described by other speakers,” Quigley added. “I wish every intersection looked like that on the Ave because it has a wow factor and increases safety.”

Alyssa Keleshian, a major property owner in the area of Greenwich Avenue, said, “I’m not sure Dan (Quigley) and I live in this same town.”

“We do have issues at the Elm Street bump out, and I ask that within this project you consider fixing them,” she said. “I don’t find one person who does not have an issue. There is a lot of confusion. People are falling. You heard the retailers watching what goes down in those corners.”

“The reality is these don’t address the root problem, which is overall parking in the downtown,” Keleshian continued.  “The community concerns would all be addressed if we took a look at some parking structures with an actionable plan.”

Facing north on Greenwich Ave. Sunday, June 9, 2024 Photo: Leslie Yager

BET member Karen Fassuliotis questioned the premise for entire project.

“We’re doing this because Greenwich Ave is being repaved. Because you’re repaving you need to take a look at this? Is that correct?” she asked Mr. Michel.

“Yes, there is a state regulation that says any time you repave a road you have to make sure that road meets ADA compliance,” Mr. Michel replied.

Steph Cowie, who is a member of the First Selectman’s committee for People with Disabilities and uses a motorized scooter, reminded Ms Fassuliotis that the Americans with Disabilities Act was the law.

“It is a federal law. It’s not a town law. It’s not a state law. The law stems back to 1993. We have been very patient. It is now 2024. By the time this is all done it could be 2025. I feel like everyone is saying, if we do this here on Greenwich Avenue, is it going to bleed to the rest of the town? Well, one would hope it would.”

“The last time Greenwich Ave was paved was 40 years ago, before ADA even existed,” she said. “It’s disturbing that we have to have the conversation that this is such a pain-point for so many.”

Clare Kilgallen said ignorance of the law was no excuse.

“The town has been out of compliance for 28 years. We’re darn lucky that people haven’t brought law suits. The glacial pace of this town is no excuse for not complying.”

See also:

Rejected: Tide Turns in RTM against Intersection Project at Arch St & Greenwich Ave Dec 13, 2022

PHOTOS: Town Leaders Gather for Ribbon Cutting at Traffic Calming Bump-Out on Greenwich Ave June 21, 2021

Schematic with proposed changes at Greenwich Ave at Fawcett & Grigg Street.

Schematic with proposed changes at Greenwich Ave at Arch and Havemeyer.

 

Schematic with proposed changes at Greenwich Ave by Michaelangelo and People’s Bank, at the corner of Railroad Ave.

Schematic with proposed changes at Greenwich Avenue and Amogerone Crossway.

Proposed ADA parking stall by CVS between Amogerone and Lewis Street.

Schematic with proposed changes at the intersection with Lewis Street.

178 Greenwich Ave by St Mary’s features an ADA ramp that meets proper sloping

Existing non-compliant ADA parking by St. Mary’s Church

Improvements in the area of Greenwich Ave / Greenwich Common and Bruce Place.

Entry to Bruce Place today.