A pre application from the Dept of Public Works to upgrade two more intersections on Greenwich Avenue has been submitted to the Planning & Zoning Commission by deputy commissioner Jim Michel and engineer Jason Kaufman.
Upgrades to the intersection of Greenwich Avenue and Elm Street were completed in June 2021. That resulted in the loss of four parking spots.
For decades Greenwich Police officers were stationed at the intersections to direct traffic. When they were relieved of that duty, in favor of bicycle police and the undercover ORCA unit, some residents were disappointed.
An RTM Sense of the meeting Resolution to restore the police failed in March 2021. The vote was 81 in favor, 127 opposed and 7 abstentions.
First Selectman Fred Camillo said having officers direct traffic was “a terrible waste of great talent.”
This past summer a group of landlords, merchants and members of the Greenwich Property Owners Association had a chance to give feedback on the intersection bumpout at a special Board of Selectmen meeting.
Landlords spoke in favor of outdoor dining, but questioned whether the bump outs were pedestrian friendly at the expense of drivers.
“I understand the bump outs slow you down, but the reality is the Avenue has become more reckless than it’s ever been,” said Alyssa Keleshian, from the Greenwich Property Owners Association.
Tom Torelli of Allied Property Management said, “When I look at those plans online, there is no data. I don’t know how many parking spaces are on the Avenue now, how many will be removed when we have nodes, and how many spaces are used for outdoor dining.”
“It’s the constant pedestrians crossing,” said then Selectperson Jill Oberlander. “As soon as you think you can move, someone is crossing and no one is stopping to let the cars go by. There has to be a way to pause the pedestrians to let the cars go by every once in a while.”
Camillo, who has championed the bumpouts, noted the Board of Selectmen had voted to free up parking spaces in 12-hour municipal parking lots for both downtown employees and residents. He noted that many downtown residents are no longer commuting to work and had been feeding meters.
Landlords and property owners noted that in addition to the loss of parking for the intersection improvements, the seasonal outdoor dining nodes remove many parking spots on Greenwich Ave.
DPW deputy commissioner Jim Michel said a total of 30 parking spots would be removed with the intersection improvements, including those lost for the outdoor dining nodes. Most intersection improvements would result in loss of parking except the Arch Street/Havemeyer Place bump out, which would add two or three spots.
Two weeks ago, the outdoor dining nodes were removed for the winter, but are due to be returned on April 1, 2022.
The next two Greenwich Ave intersections proposed to be upgraded are Arch St & Havemeyer Place and Grigg St & Fawcett Place.
According to DPW’s narrative there are about 90 crashes per year along the entire length of Greenwich Ave.
Between Jan 1, 2017 and April 1, 2020 there were +/- 15 crashes at Arch St/Havemeyer Pl and +/- 10 crashes at Fawcett Pl/Grigg St.
Angled parking, heavy traffic volumes, and poor sight distances contribute to the high rate of crashes along the corridor.
A wide roadway cross-section, double parking, end-parking, and large sport utility vehicles contribute to poor sight lines for pedestrians crossing Greenwich Ave.
The offset approaches of Arch St and Havemeyer Place create an unsafe situation where vehicles must travel up the wrong direction of Greenwich Ave to get from Arch Street to Havemeyer Place.
The Fawcett Place/Grigg Street location is identified as the 7th ranked location (of 59) in WestCOG’s 2020 Regional Transportation Safety Plan, Top Non-Motorized Crash Locations in the Western Connecticut Region, 2015-2018, Corridors.
This project looks to incorporate streetscape and safety improvements at the subject intersections.
The pre-application has yet to be scheduled for a P&Z meeting.
Note: While the commission does take public comment on pre-applications, the idea of a pre-application is to dedicate about 20 minutes to the item so the applicant gets enough feedback to determine whether to pursue the application.
The re-imagined intersections include bump-outs that reduce the distance pedestrians need to travel across the roadway.
Slightly raised decorative crosswalks may be installed in order to alert drivers that they are entering a pedestrian zone and elevate pedestrians improving site lines and visibility between drivers and pedestrians.
Arch Street will be realigned to be directly across from Havemeyer Place, removing the necessity for vehicles to traffic up the wrong way on Greenwich Ave.
Parking spaces adjacent to intersections will be replaced with bump-outs to eliminate vehicle back-up into crosswalks.
Traffic will also be calmed with the proposed improvements.
Decorative crosswalks also create an eye-catching ground plane for drivers while adding form and color to the intersections.
Additional wayfinding elements will be incorporated; signs and systems will assist people in locating public parking areas and destinations. Landscaping will help to soften the hard edges of the intersections and create a more pedestrian friendly environment.
Specific plants will be chosen for their texture, color, growth habits and drought tolerance.
To maintain visual consistency along the Greenwich Ave corridor, existing light poles will be relocated closer to the corners of each intersection improving visibility.
Benches, bike racks and trash receptacles will be furnished at each of these intersections as well.
The intersection improvements proposal has yet been scheduled for a public hearing before P&Z. Stay tuned.