A proposed Municipal Improvement project for bump outs at the intersection of Delavan Ave, Chestnut Street and New Lebanon Ave (“Veterans Way”) in Byram was unveiled at the Board of Selectmen meeting on Thursday.
The existing crosswalk across Delavan is treacherous, and residents in the neighborhood have urged the town to do something to increase safety.
Heavily traveled by cars, buses and large trucks, Delavan is a critical connection between Port Chester, NY, to I-95 at Exit 2 in Connecticut.
In fact, traffic is anticipated to increase as Port Chester redevelops their Main Street with multi-story apartment buildings.
In the pedestrian mix are children who attend the local grade school, New Lebanon School, where few qualify for bus service.
People also walk to the Byram Shubert Library and Byram’s commercial district with its shops and restaurant.
The Byram Veterans have a building on the corner of New Lebanon Ave and Delavan. The other corner features the eatery Burgers, Shakes & Fries.
There is also a city bus and a public school bus stop at the intersection.
Several crashes have occurred in the area of Delavan Ave in recent years, as well as injuries pedestrians in the crosswalk, and untold near misses.
Dept of Public Works deputy commissioner Jim Michel explained that the proposal was in response to requests from the Byram Neighborhood Association who have had ongoing concerns about traffic and pedestrian safety in their neighborhood.
Mr. Michel said the project had been in the works since 2021, and currently there were funds available from the $300,000 earmarked in the current year’s budget improvements for Byram.
He said two plan options had been presented to the BNA, who chose the one presented at the meeting.
He explained no parking spaces would be eliminated, and that the curb extensions would shorten crossing distances for pedestrians by about 50%.
The plan also adds pedestrian-activated flashing signs – “Rapid Rectangular Flashing Beacons” – to the intersection.
Mr. Michel said residents had requested stop signs, but per regulations, that was not an option since Chestnut and New Lebanon Ave (Veterans Way) generate much smaller volumes of traffic than Delavan.
He acknowledged the significant traffic on Delavan, but said a one-year DPW study found the average speed for drivers was 27mph. He said 27mph was in the 85th percentile, meaning 85% of drivers traveled at or below that speed.
“The speeds on Delavan were not significantly higher than the speed limit,” he said.
During public comment, David Wold of the Byram Veterans said his group was concerned that adding green areas would make it impossible for veterans and guests, many elderly, to be dropped off in front or on the side of the veterans hall.
Mr. Michel said those areas used for drop off were intentionally no parking areas, but DPW would look into creating a loading/unloading area. There was discussion about how cars dropping people off to visit the veterans hall obstructed sight lines, especially from people coming out of Veterans Way and wanting to turn left.
Liz Eckert, VP of the BNA, described how her husband was hit by a car while walking their dog through the crosswalk.
“I can’t stress how dangerous this crosswalk is,” Eckert said. “On Oct 3, 2019, it was a rainy, cold day and I sent my husband out to walk the dog. He was dead center in the middle of the intersection. A new York driver was coming down from I95 and without stopping hit my husband at full speed as he was accelerating into the crosswalk.”
Eckert, her voice breaking as she recounted the incident, said, “He didn’t see Tom until Tom was on his windshield. At this point, he slammed on his brakes and threw my husband, with the leash still attached to him, down Veterans Way, where he slammed into the pavement.”
After the meeting, Eckert explained that her husband dislocated his shoulder, partially tore his his rotator cuff, tore his labrium and to this day, three years later, suffers constant migraines and chronic neck pain due to cervical neck damage.
“My husband is a large man – if this were a child, there is a good chance they may not have survived,” she said.
New Lebanon School principal Alexandra Michaelson testified that there were 17 students who live on Chestnut Street and frequently walked to school.
“Lucy and the BNA have been in touch with me,” she said. “While by no means do I pretend to be a parking or sidewalk or safety expert, I do support anything that enhances the safety, especially the walking paths for the students who come to New Lebanon School every day because so many of them walk. And as they get older, and parents have to work, many of them walk by themselves.”
Joe Kantorski of the BNA emphasized the existing dangers of Delavan Ave, and offered to accompany anyone walking across the intersection.
Kantorski objected to the term “bump outs.”
“This is traffic calming,” he said, adding that the BNA had plans in the works for a “Drive 25 – Stay Alive” campaign.
Certainly the bump outs proposed for Greenwich Avenue were controversial, and this past December the RTM voted against the Municipal Improvements that would add bump outs at two Greenwich Ave intersections.
Luc von Brachel, a former officer of the BNA, noted that the East Coast Greenway, a 3,000-mile pedestrian and bicycle route from Maine to Florida, was going to be altered to avoid Delavan Ave when it passes through Greenwich, because it is so heavily trafficked and dangerous.
“Having that an easy place to cross is important, especially for students,” von Brachel said.
Ms von Brachel said she had studied Greenwich traffic and crash data extensively.
“This is a terrible intersection. It’s the worst intersection along Mill Street and Delavan,” she said. “The traffic counts are higher than any other road that I can find in Greenwich, except Route 1, but even sections of Route 1 have less traffic. This is crucial to our neighborhood.”
Camillo noted that after the roadway is narrowed to shorten crosswalks, there would only be enough room for one through lane in each direction.
Mr. Michel said there would not be enough room for a bike lane.
Selectwoman Lauren Rabin said she was aware of 18-wheeler trucks passing through Delavan Ave despite signs that say no through trucks.
Ms von Brachel said she believed that many of the large trucks travel to Interstate Lumber on South Water Street.
Mr. Michel said the new configuration would make it safer for vehicles taking a left from Veterans Way onto Delavan, which is challenging today.
Michelle Carvaja from Mead Ave, off Delavan, said she supported the project. She recalled that after having lived in Byram for just six months there was a crash on her street, which she described as a wake up call. She said even side streets were cut-throughs from Port Chester to Greenwich.
Camillo said he planned to seek an updated from the Port Chester Village Manager, but noted Port Chester was a separate jurisdiction.
The presentation to the Selectmen was a first read. The board is tentatively set to vote on the MI at their next meeting, which is Feb 23. They hope to receive community feedback over the next two weeks.