First Selectman Update: I-95 Noise Mitigation, Pushback on Masking Requirement

On Friday First selectman Fred Camillo shared a debrief on WGCH 1490 AM of his meeting Thursday with Governor Lamont, where they discussed noise mitigation and tree removals in upcoming I-95 highway rehabilitation project.

Push Back Against Universal Masking

Camillo said he and the Governor discussed the push back against universal masking requirements, for which there is abundant evidence that it is an effective strategy to mitigate the spread of the highly contagious delta variant of the COVID-19 virus.

In line with Executive Order No. 13D, Camillo ordered a requirement for universal masking. He also announced all Town employees will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 no later than September 27.

He said he has been disappointed at the tone of emails and texts in response to the requirements.

“I don’t mind people sending me a study they found on the internet that says masks are terrible, but if you’re going to send something and use profane language and act in a cowardly fashion because you’re not in front of the person, that’s not going to get a response.”

“It’s more numerous than I thought and I’m very disappointed in that,” he said. “But as I walk around town, people come up to me and it’s the great silent majority is with me on this. They’re not complaining, yelling and sending harassing emails. Every mayor or First Selectman I’ve spoken to says they’re going through it. The Governor is going through it. The president’s going through it. The former president went going through it. It’s part of the job.”

On Wednesday parents react negatively to Governor Lamont’s requirement that children wear masks in school through Sept 30 due to the highly transmissible Delta variant.

At a parent “roundtable” meeting in Cheshire with elected officials, health officials, educators and the Governor, parents shouted at the panelists. The meeting ended abruptly. Parents then chased the governor out of the building and continued shouting at him.

A spokeswoman for the group called Parents Choice who were present at the meeting said her group believed decisions about masking should be up to parents.

Children 11 and under are not eligible to be vaccinated for Covid. Physicians say without masking and further risk of transmission in classrooms, simultaneous infections among children and further risk of breakthrough infections among vaccinated teachers and staff.

Noise Mitigation and Tree Removal for Dept of Transportation I-95 Project

He said he had shared concerns about noise on I-95 and recent tree clearing along the highway by the DOT and Metro-North, which contributes to noise.

“(Tree clearing) really does effect people’s quality of life. It certainly affects home valuations, site lines – you name it, it’s not a great situation.”

Camillo said he had discussed possible mitigation strategies for decreasing noise including sound barriers, quiet pavement, berms, etc.

He said that while the Dept of Transportation had been aware of the mitigation strategies, the Governor’s team was not.

“Certainly not everything filters up sometimes. It was good to have the meeting and they were very receptive,” Camillo said.

“And also staying on top of it going forward so we are at the table when there is a plan to do something like that because that has long lasting effects on everybody,” he said.

The First Selectman noted a new group had formed in Greenwich to oppose increases in noise on I-95.

Neighborhood Citizens against I95 Noise includes residents from Byram, Cos Cob, Riverside, and Old Greenwich. Their mission is to engage Connecticut’s Dept of Transportation to use noise remediation whenever it undertakes significant highway rehabilitation projects.

In particular, the group is concerned about on the upcoming CT DOT Project 0056-0316 which will take between three and four years and cost about $200 million. The highway rehabilitation project will run from Exit 2 in Greenwich to Exit 6 in Stamford.

The project does not presently include any noise mitigation efforts.

Last December, Metro North clear cut a large swath of trees between the train tracks and Riverside School. Neighbors turned out for a protest to no avail.

At a DOT public meeting via Zoom in late January, a group of 80+ expressed concerns about tree removal and noise. Neil Patel, the project manager, told attendees that the project was limited to resurfacing, bridge rehabilitation and safety improvements on I-95 in Greenwich, from Byram to exit 6 in Stamford, and did not include sound barriers or noise mitigating pavement.

In fact, the DOT presenters said the Greenwich project did not even meet the eligibility for noise analysis, therefore one was not conducted for this project.

Asked whether it might be possible for the DOT to accept private money for a sound barrier in the area of Old Greenwich where residents have already experienced tree loss and the noise of trucks has increased, the DOT said they do have a private funding policy.

“We wouldn’t conduct it on your behalf and you would have to wait until after the project is complete and you’d have to meet our department noise policy,” the project manger said.

“Selective tree clearing will be necessary to allow for construction and to increase the safety of the corridor. Sight distance around curves will be increased by cutting trees back. Some trees will need to be removed in order to replace the slope pipes along the immediate vicinity of the highway. Finally, tree limbs overhanging the highway will be cut back,” said DOT consultant, Tony Margiotta of GM2 Associates.

Stay tuned…

Greenwich to Coordinate Voices, Create “Ambitious Wish List” in Response to DOT I-95 Project
Feb 13, 2021

DOT Hearing on 6.6 Miles of I-95 Improvements: Yes to Tree Clearing, No to Sound Barriers, No to Noise and Air Quality Analyses, 3-4 Years to Complete
Jan 24, 2021

DOT Tree Removals Along I95 Northbound Draw Ire from Greenwich Residents
Feb 2019

Bocchino Explains “Sudden and Unexpected Clear Cutting of Trees along I-95”
July 2018

Large swathe of trees removed by DOT close to exit 5. Feb 1, 2019 Photo: Leslie Yager
Clear cutting by Metro North on the north side of the tracks adjacent to Riverside School. Photo: Leslie Yager