Elected Officials Announce $400,000 Federal Grant to Improve Road Safety in Greenwich

US Senator Richard Blumenthal and US Representative Jim Himes joined the Greenwich Board of Selectmen on Friday morning to announce a $400,000 federal grant for the town to develop a road safety plan.

The grant was part of $1.749 million Connecticut was recently awarded.

“This is part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law – the biggest investment in the nation’s infrastructure since the Eisenhower administration,” said Congressman Jim Himes.

Selectperson Janet Stone McGuigan, Selectwoman Lauren Rabin, First selectman Fred Camillo, US Congressman Jim Himes, US Senator Richard Blumenthal. Dec 23, 2023 Photo: Leslie Yager

“This is also a down payment on the transformation of Greenwich to a more pedestrian-friendly and bike-friendly place,” Himes noted, adding that he was pleased by the recent RTM vote to explore the possibility of a bike path from Binney Park in Old Greenwich to Boccuzzi Park in Stamford where that city is already setting aside bike lanes. That effort is funded through state money.

Himes noted that Stamford was becoming very conscious of pedestrian safety, in light of recent fatalities there.

Selectperson Janet Stone McGuigan, Selectwoman Lauren Rabin, First selectman Fred Camillo, US Congressman Jim Himes, US Senator Richard Blumenthal. Dec 23, 2023 Photo: Leslie Yager

In Stamford a 74-year-old pedestrian was killed by a hit and run driver in November as she crossed West Main Street crossing the street on her way to work at Shoprite and just this Tuesday a pedestrian died in Stamford Hospital after being hit crossing High Ridge Road.

Greenwich has also had pedestrian deaths, though none recently.

An 84-year old was killed on Hamilton Ave in 2020. A 70-year old was killed on Milbank in 2018. A 63-year-old woman was killed on Weaver Street last March.

Traffic fatalities in Connecticut are at the highest level in decades.

“The good news about this planning grant and the projects that will flow from it is not only will pedestrians be safer, but it will be easier walk to work, to walk down the Avenue, to get on your bike in Cos Cob and go into Stamford. Right now that feels a little scary because we just don’t have the infrastructure,” Himes said.

“Though this is not a huge grant, it is really an important one to kick off what could be the transformation of our town into a more pedestrian friendly, safer, healthier way of being,” Himes added.

First Selectman Fred Camillo thanked DPW staff who wrote the grant proposal. Congressman Himes noted that for their part he and Senator Blumenthal advocated for its approval in Washington, DC.

Senator Blumenthal explained the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law supports the US Department of Transportation’s goal of zero deaths and serious injuries on our nation’s roadways.

While Congressman Himes is a bicyclist, Senator Blumenthal noted he was an avid walker and runner.

“Everybody in Greenwich knows our roads are among the most beautiful in the state,” he said. “To run in the fall in Greenwich is heaven, but a lot of roads can be perilous.”

“Bikers and pedestrians and walkers and runners all deserve safer streets,” Blumenthal added.

“(Roads) shouldn’t be only for cars,” he added, noting last year was the deadliest ever on Connecticut’s roads, with more deaths in 2022 than any other year in the history of Connecticut: 75 in total for cyclists and pedestrians alone.

Blumenthal said the rates of deaths have been increasing because more people are walking and biking.

“But cars are bigger and heavier,” he said. “And unfortunately drivers are more likely to be impaired or distracted. This is a national issue, and this (grant) is part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act.”

Blumenthal said the $400,000 grant represented a beginning, and with families gathering for the holidays and enjoying family walks, it was important to be vigilant.

“Be aware. Be wary. Walk against traffic. Show common sense because you can’t count on the driver to be aware you are on the road,”Blumenthal said.

Vision Zero

“We need to be on a road to zero – the road to zero fatalities and injuries on our roads,” Blumenthal said. “Vision zero is reachable. It’s reasonable.

As part of the safety action plan, townwide transportation-related data will be collected and analyzed by Greenwich DPW to identify and prioritize the areas that need improvements.

These improvements encompass all modes of transportation – including motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists – and the plan will consider a range of low-cost, high-impact strategies and innovative technologies.

According to the DPW, creating a safety action plan will allow the Town of Greenwich to be eligible for future implementation grants.

In the next few months DPW will initiate outreach for public feedback.

DPW deputy commissioner Jim Michel said over the next few months DPW will get the project started and he anticipated it would take 12-18 months for a final report.

Blumenthal said other towns had already begun public surveys and town meetings including West Hartford, Winchester and Newington, for example.

Rose Nichols, a longtime Greenwich resident, pointed out that in the past people rode the train between various parts of town rather than drive.

Mr. Camillo noted that in the past there were fewer cars on the road and families often shared one car.

He said and people had been more inclined to walk or ride bikes. Ms Rabin recalled that she walked two miles to GHS as a teen. She has been an advocate of additional school buses to decrease the number of trips generated by the high school.

Watch this space for news of public sessions for feedback on the safety improvements.

Selectperson Janet Stone McGuigan, Selectwoman Lauren Rabin, First selectman Fred Camillo. Dec 22, 2023