Outpouring of Cos Cob Traffic & Pedestrian Safety Concerns Despite Uncertainty over Funding for Study

On Wednesday night the Dept of Public Works held the second in a series of public input sessions for residents to share their concerns about pedestrian and roadway safety.

This week’s focus was Cos Cob, and like the previous meeting for Old Greenwich and Riverside, residents shared their own stories, many of them harrowing.

At the outset of the meeting, Deputy commissioner of DPW Jim Michel said the town had applied for and been offered a Safe Streets for All federal grant to complete a townwide transportation safety action plan.

He said that while the BET had voted to remove the project from the 2024-2025 budget, DPW requested they reconsider the request.

“At this time the future of the study is unknown,” Mr. Michel said, adding that DPW planned to continue the meetings and collecting data regardless.

The $500,000 project – $400,000 of which would be reimbursed by the grant – was defeated on a party line vote, with the Republican Chair Harry Fisher casting the tie breaking vote.

Deputy DPW Commissioner Jim Michel, DPW Engineer Michael Kiselak, DPW Senior Civil Engineer Gabriella Circosta Cohee and (out of frame) Greenwich Police Captain Eric Scorca, who is commander of detective division and ESU emergency services tactical unit. April 10, 2024 Photo: Leslie Yager

On Thursday morning State Rep Steve Meskers (D-150) said that given pedestrian and safety measures are the number one priority for community, the lack of funding created a greater problem.

“Frankly, I can’t do my job – I can’t get state money, and I can’t lean on our federal delegation to get federal money if there is no planning on Safe Streets,” he said. “This is an ongoing problem. It’s a lack of planning in our town, and a lack of willingness to expend a couple of dollars of our money and a boatload of state or federal money to get our planning done.”

In an email Thursday, Anthony Moor, chair of the RTM Transportation Committee, asked, “Shouldn’t our roads be made to match our residents’ safety needs? Or does the BET Chair believe ‘safe streets for all’ is just for other towns?”

Also, in an email Thursday, Democratic BET member Matt DesChamps said, “The vote to reject the $500,000 budget item for a safety action plan 80% reimbursed by the federal government and a necessary condition for Greenwich to access $5 billion in available grant funding for traffic and pedestrian safety projects is fiscally irresponsible.”

“Residents have spoken clearly in the town survey that these safety improvements are a top concern,” DesChamps added. “BET Republicans rejection of grant money to fund these important projects hamstrings the town and costs taxpayers money.”

In an email on Thursday, BET chair Harry Fisher commented, “The BET has not passed the FY 25 budget. Until it does, amendments to it still can be made.  The BET will meet again on Tuesday the 16th at 12:00 noon.”

Speed Cameras

During Wednesday’s input session, Steve Soler from Cos Cob received applause when he said cameras had been approved by the legislature and installing them would be an “easy lift” for the town.

“Why is the town not looking at stop light speeding cameras?” he asked. “You’re hearing from people saying they’re going to get hit by cars taking their kids to school.”

He said the cameras could be operated by companies that would install them at no cost to the town.

“The minute those cameras go up, everybody’s Waze is going to say ‘speed light camera in place,’ and they’ll slow down,” Soler said.

Sachem/Indian Field/Strickland and Access to Bruce Park

Several residents said it was dangerous for Cos Cob residents to bike or walk to the award-winning Bruce Park, and that Indian Field Rd was treacherous.

Tom Galvin noted there was no sidewalk on Indian Field Road to Bruce Park Drive (by Putnam Indian Field School and the exit 4 maintenance shed).

“People will try to avoid the I95 backups by getting off at exit 3 and cutting through Bruce Park and making a turn onto Indian Field and getting back on at exit 4,” he said. “You can’t even walk along the side of the road because there’s nothing there.”

Katie Cobin also advocated for a sidewalk on Indian Field Road.

“Every day I see people walking on the side of the road – whether it’s individuals going to the train, high schoolers going to school, people going to get ice cream at Gopher’s, Pizza Post,” she said, adding that while requests had been made in the past for sidewalks, and pushback about giving up land, easements, and stone walls, they were needed for safety. She said she planned to go door-to-door to talk to residents on Indian Field Road about the need for a sidewalk.

Sean Meyer from Sachem Road said parts of the Loughlin Park neighborhood were walkable but others were treacherous. He agreed with numerous other residents who urged the town to install sidewalks on Indian Field Rd.

He also noted there was a problem with speeding cars on Sachem Rd between Station Drive and Osceola, where there are numerous young children, as well as elderly people and dog walkers. He said commuters use Sachem Rd as a cut-through to avoid a traffic light and narrow bridge to get to the Cos Cob train station and I95.

“Every day there are cars that fly bus because Sachem Road is wide and very straight, and there is no speed limit sign,” he said. “There’s a weird three-way stop as you go under the railroad bridge, and nothing to keep even the well-meaning driver from accelerating well above the 25mph they should be going, and not always even paying attention and seeing kids.”

Susan Rattray referred to the “Strickland Speedway” and urged the addition of sidewalks.

“There is a sidewalk (on Strickland) going from Mill Pond Court to the Post Road. Then the sidewalk evaporates, and it does not pick up again until the River Road/Strickland Rd intersection.”

Myra Klockenbrink suggested making that dangerous section of  Strickland one way road going south.

“So that people can get to the train station as they normally do, and then the other lane becomes a walking, biking travel lane,” she said. “It could be easily marked with stanchions in the middle of the road to keep drivers on their side.”

John Timm from Orchard Street described a list of dangerous aspects of the area near Rinaldi’s. April 10, 2024 Photo: Leslie Yager

Orchard Street

John Timm from Orchard Street said traffic take his street to get to Stanwich Rd and points north, including traffic exiting I95 including landscapers, construction vehicles and delivery services.

“It’s a main thoroughfare to northeast Greenwich. Traffic to and from North Street also avoid going through downtown Greenwich and use Orchard Street to travel to the east along E Putnam Ave  to I95 and other points.”

He said the deli at the intersection of Orchard Street/Sinawoy Rd generates parking congestion and parking violation. He noted that on a daily basis people violate the no parking standing or stopping on the east side of Orchard Street, reducing the two lane road to one lane, causing backup in both directions. The illegally parked vehicles block sight lines, block driveways and delay emergency vehicles responding to emergencies.

He recommended installing a pedestrian activated crosswalk light at Berge Street and Orchard Street where he had witnessed numerous occasions where cars fail to yield to pedestrians, including near misses.

Christiane Abbott from Orchard Street said there were numerous accidents at the corner of Indian Rock and Orchard Street was problematic but the new design for Central Middle School did not call for improvements at that intersection.

“There has been a tenfold increase in traffic with the new Country Day School, a change in the hourly pattern of drop-0ff and pick up, and this needs to be revisited by the DPW,” she said. “It is very concerning that out of all the the improvements they are going to be made, this one corner that over 100 kids walk daily will not receive any improvement.”

Also, she noted that with Pomerance Park being very active and people crossing to enter the park, the crosswalk is not marked clearly.

“There are no visible signs, and by the time they reach that point on Orchard Street cars are traveling in excess of 30 mph.”

Valley Road

Sheila Phelan the area of Valley Road / Scofield / River Rd Extension were treacherous and needed attention.

She noted that cars are parked illegally near the St Lawrence Society make it hard to see people waiting to use the crosswalk. She suggested flashing beacons might help.

Alex Quintana advocated for connecting the sidewalk on Valley Rd from Lia Fail Way to Dandy Drive, where he said cars accelerate up to 35 to 45 mph.

“As the ladies noted previously, Valley Road has lots of families with young kids and lots of dangerous traffic,” he said. “People fish there. Families try to walk to the deli and to stores there. And people go on runs along that route, but it is very dangerous.”

Erika Moeller said cars speed past the intersection of Valley Road and Harold Street and asked for an occasional police presence, which she believed would be a deterrent to speeders.

She said adding a speed limit sign would help slow traffic. She added that flashing beacons at the crosswalk by Nassau Place and Valley would help as well.

Jenna Dipaola testified about the danger of walking with small children to Cos Cob School from the area of Valley between Nassau Place and Orchard where there are no sidewalks while parents are required to walk their children to school. April 10, 2024 Photo: Leslie Yager

Jenna Dipaola agreed, adding that the traffic volume had increased tremendously in the past decade, but now there are numerous young school age children living in the area between Orchard and Nassau.

“We are required to walk our children to (Cos Cob) school,” she said. “And the cars on that street – because of the number of multi-family homes that don’t have enough parking – make it impossible to have any safe space to walk on the street.”

Further, she said Valley Rd was a cut through to Stamford via Palmer Hill.

“People turn off of Orchard thinking they’re now on a main road and out of a school zone. There’s no speed limit sign until you get past Nassau Place, by then they’re already speeding and they’re flying while we’re walking our kids to and from school.”

Shiro Nogaki from Orchard Street testified about two recent crashes – one literally through his front door and the other a roll over crash at Indian Rock and Orchard. April 10,2024 Photo: Leslie Yager

Shiro Nogaki from Orchard Street between Indian Rock and Coachlamp recalled recent crashes.

He said that back on May 8, 2022 at 10:00pm his house was struck by a reckless driver heading south on Orchard Street whose car plowed through his front door.

He added that on June 19, 2023, a vehicle flipped at the intersection of Indian Rock and Orchard Street.

“Even though we have no control how people drive, we can put some safeguards around it,” he added. “The kids have to feel safe walking around the neighborhood.”

Jackie McDonald, also from Orchard Street, said it had turned into “the wild, wild west.”

“Every time I cross my street, every time I leave my driveway, I fear somebody is going to hit me,” she said. “In front of Rinaldi’s you can’t even see to walk out…someone is going to get hit because the cars don’t even stop. Cars fly through the stop sign. That needs to be a top priority.”

“These are such important things we need to do for our community. We have so many young families moving in,” McDonald added. “I want everybody to feel safe. Thank you for your time. I’ve waited so long to have this moment.”

New Approach

Jan DeAngelo drew applause when she called for a change in approach.

“I would hope from this day forward, that whenever a street gets touched, that lane widths, speed limits, stop signs and well-marked crossings are reviewed so that safety for all people – whether walking, biking or in cars – is prioritized.”

Peter Berg said there about 20 years earlier the Cos Cob Neighborhood Association hired a urban planner who created the first Safe Routes to School program. It was financed by the neighborhood association and the town implemented about half of his recommendations.

“Very many creative ideas, some of them have since been removed. For example there were bump outs at CVS that made crossing Post Road shorter,” he said. “As a result, that is a long crosswalk.”

He said the town purchased 5 Suburban Ave and turned it into a parking lot with a crosswalk to the library and a pedestrian bridge to Cos Cob School to create a “campus” safe for children to walk on their own from school to the library.

He urged the town to purchase 7 Suburban Ave to expand the small municipal lot to 38 spaces with a pick-up and drop-off area for students.

Peter Alexander was applauded when he pointed out that all the existing traffic problems would worsen with the development in both Port Chester, NY and Stamford, where residential high rises are being build.

Recent queue both directions on Mill Street with view of Byram from Port Chester, NY.

See also:

Residents Urge Town to Add Crosswalks, Sidewalks, Enforcement in Old Greenwich & Riverside