The recently completed bump-out at the intersection of Greenwich Avenue and Elm Street was celebrated on Monday with a ribbon cutting featuring Greenwich First Selectman Fred Camillo, Deputy Commissioner of DPW Jim Michel and Project Manger Jason Kaufman.
The idea is to enhance the look of Greenwich Avenue, increase pedestrian safety by reducing the distance a pedestrian has to cross to get safely across the street, and improve sight lines and slow down cars.
“We’d love to see this all over town, not just because it looks beautiful, but because it is a public safety enhancement,” Camillo said, adding that while parking spaces were removed to make way for the project, he was working hard to add parking spaces.
While the plan is to install bump-outs at other intersections on Greenwich Avenue, the RTM Budget Overview Committee put the brakes on the additional bump-outs at the other intersections to wait and see how this one works out. The cost of a bump-out is approximately $300,000.
Previously, there was some controversy when police officers were removed from the intersections directing traffic. Some of those who wanted to retain the police referred to a “century’s old tradition.”
Several years ago, under the leadership of former First Selectman Peter Tesei, police were removed from directing traffic at the intersection of Lewis Street. This past January, Mr. Tesei said he regretted that decision.
In March, the RTM debated a Sense of the Meeting Resolution to restore officers to directing traffic, but the SOMR did not pass. The vote was 81 in favor, 127 opposed and 7 abstentions.
Police resources have been diverted to undercover efforts with the Organized Retail Criminal Activity (ORCA) team and the e-bicycle unit, which allows police to respond more nimbly to calls. Previously, police couldn’t leave their posts directing traffic even when they saw an urgent need in real time. Bike police are able to jump in and direct traffic at peak moments.
Captain Mark Zuccerella explained how the bump-outs dovetail with the efforts of bicycle police in monitoring the area.
“If an intersection gets backed up, they get off their bikes, and get in and clear it – like the old days,” he said.
Chief Heavey said the bicycle police are not only able to jump in and deal with assisting pedestrians, but also to clear double parked cars at the top of Greenwich Avenue.
He said during the upcoming sidewalk sales days the Police Dept will assign officers extra officers to the area.
“From our perspective, the town is getting more out of the officers being mobile because they can go the whole length of the Avenue,” Zuccerella said, adding that just last weekend two bicycle police officers saved the life of a person suffering cardiac arrest in the area of Steamboat Road.
Heavey added that down the road the priority would be to add a bump-out at the intersection of Havemeyer and Greenwich Avenue.
“That got cut out of the budget,” Heavey said.
“It was a little bit of a battle at times,” Camillo said just before he passed the giant scissors to DPW project engineer Jason Kaufman.
Camillo said the Fire Dept conducted test runs with their apparatus to make sure turns could be negotiated correctly.
“It was a big team effort,” he added.
“They are helping us with the future of Greenwich Avenue,” he said. “We’re looking at expanding this to other locations on Greenwich Ave and they are helping us through that process.”
“It was a huge team effort I was proud to be part of,” Kaufman said, after cutting the ribbon.
Previously, Mr. Kaufman’s projects included the upgrades to Greenwich Common and the improvements at town hall to make it ADA accessible.
Mr. Michel said the Keleshian family and the Baratta family had donated the new park benches at opposite sides of Greenwich Avenue. He said the paper markers were temporary and would soon be replaced with permanent ones.
Alan Gunzburg of the First Selectman’s Advisory Committee for People with Disabilities said his group had worked closely with the DPW from the start.
“We saw it as it was imagined to begin with. Now that it’s complete, the sight lines are better and the amount of time it takes crossing from one curb cut to the next. It’s like a sprint. And I’ve been watching the traffic – everyone’s slowing down. They can’t push through as fast any more.”
State Rep Meskers (D-150) said he thought the layout and design were “gorgeous.”
“Anything that slows down either the traffic and/or narrows the road bed and improves pedestrian safety is very important – I want to salute them on that.”