Raised Intersection with Green Space Proposed at Greenwich Ave and Elm St

A Greenwich Dept of Public Works project to improve the intersection of Greenwich Avenue at Elm Street was presented for “a first read” by engineer Jason Kaufman at the Oct 22 Board of Selectmen meeting.

The preliminary cost is estimated at about $300,000.

DPW is seeking Municipal Improvement approval. If the Selectmen approve the project, it would next go to P&Z. Jim Michel, deputy DPW commissioner said, if those approvals come, there are conditions on the funding through BET.

If those hurdles are met the project would begin in March 2021 and be completed by Memorial Day.

Kaufman said the top goal of the project is to increase pedestrian safety.

Greenwich Police officers no longer direct traffic at Greenwich Avenue intersections during the day.

Other goals are to build ‘a sense of place,’ increase landscaping greenspace and increase general accessibility for people with disabilities, people pushing strollers, people in high heels, etc.

Kaufman said this intersection project would also serve as a model for other intersections on the Ave.

He said about 300 pedestrians use the intersection during the pm peak, and 800 pedestrians use it during a one hour period on a Saturday. About 3,500 vehicles travel through the intersection a day.

Four parking spaces would be removed south of the intersection to make room for green space, increasing the existing 340 sq ft of green space by 1,860 sq ft.

“It’s not ideal to have vehicles backing up directly into a crosswalk, which you see quite frequently on the Avenue right now,” Kaufman said. “But there are 94 spaces between Elm Street and the intersection with Arch Street.”

A Greenwich Police officer directs traffic at the intersection of Elm Street. January 2020

The proposed plan includes curb bump outs.

A feature of the raised intersection is that pedestrians approaching at the sidewalk elevation won’t have to ramp down and back up.

“That is an added safety and accessibility benefit for the general population, and specifically for persons with disabilities,” Kaufman said.

The center of the intersection would have the same decorative paving used on Sound Beach Ave in Old Greenwich and in front of the Senior Center on Greenwich Avenue.

Four existing light poles owned by Eversource would be moved closer to the intersection to improve visibility of pedestrians and drivers.

Kaufman said “buildouts” would reduce by 41% the crossing distance and crossing times for pedestrians.

With the intersection being raised, it becomes one large de facto speed hump.

Vehicle speeds are lowered and visibility between pedestrians and drivers is improved. The intersection will remain a 3-way stop.

The project will be ADA compliant and factor in wheelchair access. There will be pockets for green town benches.

Parks & Rec will assist with the landscaping plan for the increased green space.

Two permanent bike racks, for four bikes each, will be installed in the northern corners of Elm Street.

Catch basins and a manhole will be relocated on the north side of the intersection.

“I love it,” said First Selectman Fred Camillo, who described the project as a win-win.

Selectperson Jill Oberlander asked why the proposal was being considered piecemeal as opposed to looking at Greenwich Ave functions as a whole.

“Perhaps you can show us what the rest of the Avenue will look like and the intended plans for the rest of the Avenue,” she said to Mr. Michel. “Perhaps we can incorporate that into the general schematic.”

“The reason why we’re doing one (intersection) at a time is we have to crawl before we can walk,” Camillo said. “We want to show people how it would look. These things take time and to do it at each intersection at the same time would bring things to a grinding halt.”

The second read and vote by the Selectmen will tentatively take place on November 12.

See also: As Cold Weather Approaches, Greenwich Ave Road Closures for Outdoor Dining Are Reconsidered

Aerial view of intersection at Greenwich Avenue and Elm Street. Photo from DPW presentation