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

The town hall meeting room was packed this week for the first in a series of meetings hosted by the Dept of Public Works where residents give feedback about traffic concerns in various parts of Greenwich.

Monday night’s focus was on Riverside and Old Greenwich.

Residents spoke with intimate familiarity of the trouble spots, having traveled them or lived along them for years, often decades.

The panel charged with listening included DPW deputy commissioner Jim Michel, commissioner Amy Siebert, P&Z director Pat LaRow, DPW engineer Michael Kiselak, DPW chief engineer Gabriella Circosta Cohee, and Fire Chief Joseph McHugh. In the audience was Greenwich Police chief James Heavey.

P&Z director Patrick LaRow, DPW engneer Michael Kiselak and DPW chief engineer, Gabriella Circosta Cohee. March 18, 2024 Photo: Leslie Yager

Mr. Kiselak said the panel was eager to hear feedback on anything transportation related, including traffic safety, pedestrian safety, and micro mobility.

The meeting was also offered via Zoom and about half the speakers testified remotely.

“We’re going to use this information to prioritize our town department programs and projects and compile everything, and see what we can do easily and what may take more work and require more funding,” Kiselak said. “We’re using this money to create a townwide transportation safety action plan.”

The series of feedback sessions are funded by a $400,000 Federal Grant to Improve Road Safety. It was part of a part of $1.749 million awarded to Connecticut.

Among the audience were many of the same faces who turned out for the DOT session in January to talk about the improvement plans for I95 in Greenwich. But while that session focused on noise, Monday’s was about issues on local roads.

Most of concerns came as no surprise.

A December 2023 update to the 2019 Plan of Conservation and Development written by the Planning & Zoning commission chair and director said that use of public transit had dropped precipitously during the pandemic and had yet to fully recover.

Also that Metro-North today experiences its lowest passenger levels on Mondays and Fridays and only recently began approaching 70% of 2019 levels.

“Traffic volume and travel speeds have risen in Greenwich and across the country. Consequently, municipalities throughout the United States have seen marked increases in mortality rates per vehicle mile traveled.  In 2022, CT experienced its highest pedestrian vehicle fatality rate in 30 years.  The I-95 corridor between Westport and the New York border is now deemed the most congested highway segment in the U.S. Residents are now looking for greater pedestrian safety and there is interest in implementing speed cameras in school zones, as now allowed by CT State law.” – December 2023 update to the 2019 Plan of Conservation and Development

The tone Monday night was civil and speakers kept within their 3 minutes, but there was a sense of urgency in their requests.

There were requests for crosswalks, sidewalks, rapid flashing beacons and police enforcement.

There were references to local streets being racetracks, rivers honking, and commuters and even 18-wheelers cutting through local roads.

And there was a touch of sadness as residents said they no longer allowed their children ride their bikes.

There were even stories of the perils of walking on the sidewalks where they do exist because they are also populated by e-bikes and scooters.

Chris Tella

Perna Lane

Issues on Perna Lane came up several times. That street has an issue that was brought to light in 2022 when Parking Services proposed to eliminate street parking there. Neighbors came out in force against the though to losing on street parking. On Monday they suggested the street, originally a dead end, dirt a one-way street was now used by speeding cars as a cut-through to I-95 an Rte 1.

Perna Ln resident Audra O’Donovan said because the street was a cut-through, families could no longer let their children play in their front yards. She suggested restricting traffic from I-95 and McDonald’s and the shopping center, and making some streets one-way.

“Our neighbors continuously have to replace knocked down mailboxes, have to re-seed our grass because trucks drive on our front lawns, pets have been killed, and our children have even been hit by cars,” she said.

Chris Tella, also from Perna Lane, suggested making it a one way street and creating a bump-out on the west side of its intersection with Sound Beach Ave Ext, “so that people don’t have a perfectly banked high speed turn into Perna Lane as they come down the hill from the Sound Beach Ave Extension.”

Perna Lane resident Nancy Fantin, who is is legally blind, described her challenges in navigating roads and crosswalks using a stick to get to the shopping center and bus stop on foot.

She asked for police enforcement and cameras on Rte 1 and in school zones, in particular for all the drivers running red lights and not stopping for crosswalks.

She suggested creating printed material with rules of the road and inserting them to tax bills and distributing them at schools.

Another concern of hers was overgrown vegetation she said blocked visibility of stop signs for drivers but also made it more of a challenge to navigate as a pedestrian.

She said residents who leave leaf piles in the road and on sidewalks as well as businesses that fail to clear away snow were both a problem, in addition to bikes and scooters on the sidewalks both during the day and at night.

Lastly, she said cars and trucks parked on the sidewalk on Neil Lane forced her to walk in the roadway.

Old Greenwich/Sound Beach Ave/Edgewater

Old Greenwich School principal Dr. Jen Bencivengo advocated for the safety of her students who walk, bike, and scoot to school.

She urged the town to install more sidewalks.

“Today I only had 4 students of 400 students take the bus home in the afternoon,” she said. “Only about 25 were picked up by car and the other 375 children walked and biked to school.”

“The traffic on Sound Beach Ave is simply a raceway and puts my students at risk every day,” Bencivengo said, adding that a few years ago a student riding his bike to school was left in a wheelchair for months after being hit by a car.

“We find a lot of people parking on Edgewater which is an illegal parking area, and it is creating dangerous walking and biking hazards for the kids,” she said, adding that because of the way the sidewalks are are arranged, children are forced to cut between cars to get to school.

Club Rd and Riverside Ave

Kelly Thompson urged DPW to take a look at the intersection of Club Road and Riverside Ave where her teenage son was hit by a speeding hit and run driver headed north last summer.

Roy Carbino said improvements were warranted in the area of Neil lane and the intersection of Riverside Commons, Rte 1 and I95 exit 5 interchange.

Neil Lane/Riverside Commons, Exit5

Roy Carbino, whose family has lived at the corner of Neil Lane and Park Place for 80 years, said the intersection off Exit 5 at Neil Ln needed improvement.

“It doesn’t hold the flow of traffic the way traffic is now,” he said. “We have people completely block the intersection between the shopping center and the light to get on the thruway, and cars trying to get out of McDonald’s.”

He said people park their vehicles on the Neil Lane sidewalk to cut through the bushes to get to McDonald’s and suggested McDonald’s should be urged to put up a fence.

Intersection of Neil Lane and East Putnam Ave across from I-95 exit 5. October 2022 Photo: Leslie Yager

Patty Roberts drew applause when she agreed with Mr. Carbino about Exit 5, which she descried as a “blinking light of trouble.”

She urged enforcement through speeding cameras, and the portable monitors that show drivers their rate of speed.

“If you get a ticket a couple times, you’re going to slow down, and that’s what we need,” she said.

Molly Saleeby asked if Greenwich could get help from the state on the Neil Lane intersection.

“I’ve seen so many near misses, both in cars and also people. Visibility is terrible. People pull around others to try to get to the intersection,” Saleeby said. “I do not understand why we can’t put up Do Not Block the Box signs and big yellow X’s in the road.”

Tammi Montier from the Riverside Association said her group’s members were “beyond disgusted” with the dangers of the Exit 5 intersection.

Mr. Tella, also from the Riverside Association, also advocated for a Don’t Block the Box at Neil Lane and Exit 5.

“I think it’s  high time we get aggressive about fixing this problem that’s been annoying the Old Greenwich/Riverside communities for decades,” Tella said.

Sheephill/Silo Hill

Audra Kruk from Silo Hill said several street lights had not been working on Sheephill for about a year.

She asked for enforcement on Sheephill by Silo Hill during school hours where students have to cross the street to get to the bus or to school.

Mr. Michel said street lights were under the jurisdiction of Eversource, not the town, but they would put in a call to the utility company.

Bob DeAngelo

Bike Safety

Bob DeAngelo from the Active Transportation Task Force who is a certified bicycle instructor who runs clinics for children noted the Civic Center wold be a gem but urged DPW to make it safe for children to come and go safely.

“Perhaps wider shoulders, protected bike lanes, multi-purpose trails, signage, speed calming – it would be important to link it to the community,” he said.

He urged the creation of traffic gardens and planning “Complete Streets.”

He said with more cars, faster cars and bigger cars, as well as cell phone distracted driving, the onus is on children to get to school safely.

Mr. Tella from the Riverside Association urged bike riders to obey the traffic laws, particularly at Tod’s Point where he said they do not obey the 15MPH limit.

“I’ve seen too many people get into situations with high-speed bike riding.”

More Sidewalks

Rebecca Crowe from Riverside requested priority be made for sidewalks on Oval Ave and Summit Rd, traversed by commuters to the train station and children walking to school.

Jane Brash, also from Riverside, agreed. She noted while there are sidewalks on Lockwood and Hendrie, they were needed on Oval and Summit.

“Now we have a beautiful new sidewalk on Shore Road in Old Greenwich. Why is it we can’t have sidewalks on those other two streets?” she asked.

Craig Amundson testified at the DPW forum on March 18, 2024 Photo: Leslie Yager

Delivery Trucks at Balducci’s/Riverside Lane

Craig Amundson shared two instances he said posed significant danger starting with the area around Balducci’s. He said while the store did a good job making sure their delivery trucks arrived early to the loading dock, they typically back in from East Putnam Ave.

“Unfortunately, with the addition of some businesses on the other side – COBS Bread and that area – those trucks just stop on Riverside Lane and very often you just can’t see,” he said. “People exiting their parking lot can’t see and it poses some real danger.”

He also asked the DPW to pay close attention to children’s safety in and around schools. He said children walk to Cos Cob School down from Balducci’s and Mianus River, but the sidewalk stops at Diamond Hill forcing them to cross the street.

“There’s got to be a way to solve that,” he said adding that in recent years stop signs and yield signs have become mere suggestions.

“Going down Sheephill, I’ve been terrified on a number of occasions knowing that the person behind me has no intention of stopping when I stop at a stop sign,” he added.

Lastly he asked for more enforcement from Greenwich Police.

Jeff Negron testified at the DPW forum on March 18, 2024 Photo: Leslie Yager

Village of Old Greenwich

Jeff Negron a 20 year resident on Highview Ave in Old Greenwich, listed concerns: increased speeding, illegal parking, oblivious parking, honking, issues with crosswalks and congestion at Tod’s Point starting from Shore Road.

And, he said, “Highview and Park Avenues are delightfully straight if you live there, but a drag strip if you don’t.”

“On Sound Beach, between the village and Shore Road, after you get through the frustrating village, then you speed toward Shore,” he added. “And through the parking lot at King’s is a lovely cut through and way to skirt the light. And in the CVS parking lot, which is not CVS’s fault.”

He recalled that a pedestrian lost her life by the Old Greenwich train station in 2019 and the crosswalk there remains dangerous.

Extending Sidewalks Further down Shore Rd toward Tod’s Point

Kristin Beecher said Shore Rd had been identified for decades as one of the most treacherous in town, and except for the portion of Shore Rd where sidewalks were recently added, the stretch from Sound Beach Ave to the beach remained dangerous.

She noted there were numerous schools bus stops along that stretch but pedestrians have no choice but to walk with traffic in the roadway.

Ms Beecher noted the Board of Estimate and Taxation would be voting next week on whether to fund a feasibility study for this project and urged people to contact the BET.

Louis Van Leeuwen testified at the DPW forum on March 18, 2024 Photo: Leslie Yager

Traffic Cameras

Echoing others, Louis Van Leeuwen, a 40-year resident of Riverside, said his main concern was what he described as a total disregard for red lights.

“I see it at all the major intersections. People are just blowing through red lights,” he said adding he would endorse an initiative for adding cameras at red lights. “I encourage Greenwich to initiate and enforce traffic cameras.”

18-Wheelers on Side Streets

Helen DeLago, a 64-year resident of Old Greenwich, said her biggest concern was taking Highview or Park Ave to get home to Shore Road, where she said construction trucks parked on both sides of the street despite signs saying parking limited to only one side.

She said that 18-wheelers should not be allowed on Shore Road, but they enter via Stamford since they don’t fit in the underpasses in Old Greenwich.

She noted that in Rowayton, there is a sign posted at I-95 exit 12 saying 18-wheelers are not allowed on Rowayton Ave.

“Why are they allowed in Old Greenwich? she asked, noting her house shook when the trucks passed by.

Helen DeLago asked for a prohibition against 18-wheelers on Shore Road in Old Greenwich. Mach 18, 2024 Photo: Leslie Yager

Crosswalks by St. Paul’s Day School

Cindy Lindemeyer, president of the St. Paul’s Day School on Riverside Ave, requested two crosswalks at the three-way stop at Indian Head / Riverside Ave where vehicles roll through the stop signs.

She said the area was an active community of walkers, joggers, and bikers.

“Since the end of the pandemic, these individuals have to share the road with an increased traffic volume,” she said.

In addition to the preschool families, Lindemeyer said there were four Greenwich school buses picking up and discharging private school students there.

Francia Alvarez testified at the DPW forum on March 18, 2024 Photo: Leslie Yager

Abigail McCarthy and Francia Alvarez shared a map that covered from the top of Palmer Hill at Stamford, down past North Mianus School and down the hill to the Old Stone Bridge at Valley Road.

She listed three problematic intersections: Sheephill/Palmer Hill, River Road/Palmer Hill and Old Orchard/Palmer Hill.

Ms Alvarez said the flashing lights on Sound Beach Ave were difficult for drivers to see in bright sunlight and pedestrians got stuck half way across the crosswalk near Station House.

She noted that in Havemeyer Park where cars come off Palmer Hill there are no sidewalks despite people walking children to school.

“It’s used as a cut through to avoid stopping at Havemeyer Lane and Palmer Hill – they just cut through Havemeyer Park.”

She suggested posting signage indicating not to cut through.

The next DPW forum is for the Cos Cob area on April 10, 2024. Residents are invited to attend any of the sessions, regardless of what neighborhood they live in.

See also:

Greenwich DPW To Host Public Meetings for Input about Traffic & Pedestrian Safety