At Thursday’s Board of Selectmen meeting, Gabriella Circosta-Cohee, a senior civil engineer with the town’s Dept of Public Works returned for a second read on an ordinance to make permanent four new parking spaces to serve as a 15-minute loading zone at the ferry access entrance on Arch Street.
While the ferries only run seasonally from June to September, the loading zone would remain year round.
The spots are already striped and signage indicating 15-minute loading zone signage is in place, but until the Selectmen vote to approve the ordinance there is no enforcement.
Ms Circosta-Cohee previously presented the proposal at the end of February and the Selectmen asked the public for feedback.
“We did receive feedback and it was all negative,” Camillo said.
“Usually I am a fan of the 15-minute spaces, but the questions coming up are that it is a safety issue, and people are worried about opening up (the car) door,” he said.
“Also, we are trying to establish a bike path,” he continued. “I used to do this all the time, going from Old Greenwich to Byram and back, and I’d hug the shoreline. We think this may be one of the spots we could use for a bike lane.”
Camillo said today, beach and camping items are on wheels. “You maybe bring a chair and a cooler. I’ve never seen anything more than that and there are lockers out there for people who go out a lot,” he said.
He said if spaces were needed for offloading, they might be better situated in the parking lot.
Lastly, Camillo said that while overwhelmingly he supports DPW projects, he wasn’t sure the four spaces were needed, and he was not prepared to vote on the ordinance.
Selectwoman Lauren Rabin noted the signage was already in place, and asked if the selectmen were asking to approve it after the fact. She said she’d received feedback that people are parking in the 15-minute spots for hours, and questioning how enforcement would work.
“We have a lot to address as it relates to traffic and the way people drive,” Rabin said. “To add an element for enforcement, I see a concern there.”
Selectwoman Janet Stone McGuigan said she’d seen a large SUV parked there in a way that was partly in the active lane of traffic.
“Just as a general principal, I agree we want traffic calming measures, but I’m not sure parked cars would be the safest way to do that,” she said.
The Selectmen allowed public comment, and Kevin O’Connor, who has lived in the neighborhood almost 60 years, testified strongly against the parking spots.
“Opening up your door into moving traffic,” he said, adding, “If you put trucks in there, you’re going to block the view to the harbor. All these years we’ve gotten into the parking lot across the street and you get on the boat and go. There’s no reason to put anything there. It’s dangerous. It doesn’t help.”
Also, O’Connor said he had seen a car parked in one of the loading spaces for about 10 days, including left overnight in a snow storm, forcing snow plows to plow around it.
“And he didn’t get a ticket,” O’Connor said.
O’Connor said if more parking spaces were needed, the town should create tiered parking in the Island Beach and commuter lot.
“The tier idea is under consideration,” Camillo said. “It would open up more spaces and create more availability.”
O’Connor suggested that people going camping offload for the ferry behind the DPW building.
Ms Circosta-Cohee said that was problematic because those parking spaces need to be reserved for emergency vehicles.
The loading zone is an offshoot of the nearly completed Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) project in the Arch Street corridor that features the addition of Adaptive Signal Control Technology.
While intent of adjusting the lane widths on Arch Street was to make the area safer for pedestrians, O’Connor talked about the impact on drivers and said the result was “a mess.” He said the bump out at the crosswalk from the parking lot to the ferry narrowed the roadway to a single lane in each direction, and drivers are cut off from access to the left turn lane, resulting in traffic backing up.
Jan DeAngelo said she appreciated the crosswalk with its flashing lights, but questioned the bumpout.
“I also think traffic calming is great and making a lane narrower is wonderful, but you don’t have to bring the whole curb to that area. You can just paint a line to make the lane narrower and then you have more space there for bike riders.”
Camillo said, “Speaking for myself I would not like to go forward with this.”
Deputy Chief Kraig Gray, who oversees the Town’s Dept of Parking Services, noted there was a recent statute change in Connecticut clarifying who is responsible when opening a car door.
“Previous to October, there was no statute regarding opening a car door into traffic,” he said. “Now it is the person in the car who is responsible to open it safely.”
As for the offloading zone being used, he said, “If you build it they will come. It appears to be built. It will have to be un-built if you decide not to move forward.”
“It’s there, and from an enforcement perspective, we are going to have to manage it,” Gray added.
Ms Circosta-Cohee the signage is not enforceable until the ordinance is approved.
She said lanes at the crosswalk “choke point” are 13-1/2 feet in each direction, and typical lane width is 11 feet.
“So there is that extra room for bicycles to access the side area,” she said. “It can’t be striped as a bike lane because in Connecticut, in order to be striped as a bike lane you have to have it striped on both sides, and it needs to be five feet on both sides.”
Camillo suggested the Selectmen take a walk in the area and brainstorm ideas with the DPW commissioner and deputy commissioner.
No vote was taken.
Feb 28, 2022