GHS Student Parking on Hillside Rd
Just before Greenwich Schools closed for February break, debate began to swirl about whether the Board of Selectmen, who serve as the traffic authority for Greenwich, will settle the issue of Greenwich High School student parking on Hillside Road once and for all. The street parking for students was never put into town code and the Selectmen have been asked to codify it.
At their Jan 11 and Jan 25 meetings, the Selectmen weighed the quality of life of neighbors on Hillside Road with the needs of GHS students and their families.
On Hillside Road there is room for about 72 students to park their cars.
Re-Stripe Hillside Rd
Amid these discussions, the Dept of Public Works re-striped Hillside Road between GHS and Putnam Avenue.
The re-striping, which took place on Jan 15, according to Deputy DPW Commissioner James Michel, had nothing to do with debates about student parking on Hillside Road, but rather as a means to decrease congestion and as a traffic calming measure.
Mr. Michel said center line was modified on Martin Luther King day because the weather was acceptable and there was no school that day. “We had wanted to stripe over end of year break but snow and temperatures made it impossible,” he said.
Mr. Michel said that since the school start time change went into effect, the DPW has been working with the Board of Education on ways to reduce congestion and improve traffic safety around the school.
The decision to re-stripe was made in combination with the Greenwich Police, BOE and Dept of Public Works and Dept Parking Services.
“The modification was made because school start time coincided more with rush hours,” Mr. Michel said. “The result was more delays and congestion along Hillside.”
Before striping, the lanes were 15 or 16 feet wide, which, Mr. Michel pointed out is even wider than a lane on I95.
After the modification, the width is now 10.5 feet per lane, which is typical of Greenwich’s roadways.
Mr. Michel said where possible, narrowing lanes helps slow traffic. “It’s a nationally recognized traffic calming measure,” he said.
“If it’s wider, people feel safer driving at a higher rate of speed,” he said, acknowledging that at pick up and drop off times, no one is driving at a high rate of speed. Still, he said the re-striping was intended to reduce congestion overall, and, in turn, will improve air quality.
Since last April, the DPW has been working with the BOE to tackle traffic concerns at several schools in town, including GHS.
“We’re provided recommendations on pick up and drop off procedures to the BOE,” Mr. Michel said. “We’ve looked at other ways to improve traffic safety. This is just one.”
In September, when new start times were implemented at GHS, town officials noticed an increase in congestion. In response, police and DPW monitored the traffic signal at Hillside Rd at Putnam Ave. Tweaks were made and the intersection continues to be monitored.
“We’re continuing to monitor it, all year, a police officer is out there in the morning and afternoon to direct buses in and out of the loop,” Mr. Michel said. “If they see something’s not working right, or something’s not happening, we check in with them.”
Mr. Michel said the Dept of Public Works will continue to work with other departments as upgrades to Cardinal Stadium are considered, including the possibility of adding an access road to campus from East Putnam Ave.
“That would require a permit from CT Dept of Transportation, because Route 1 is a DOT roadway,” Mr. Michel said. “There’s also challenges with flood plane because a brook flows between the parking lot and Cardinal Stadium. There’s also grading issues – it could be difficult.”
Double Parked Cars on Hillside
Mr. Michel said he was not aware of that cars that double park on Hillside Rd during afternoon pickup, but would discourage parents from doing so. “There is significant space on site for the queuing,” he said.
“Traffic is intended to come through the school, around to the back of the building. There’s a significant queue distance, and if people would utilize that space, it would be an efficient process.”
Neighbors Fed Up with Congestion on Their Residential Street
Still, neighbors want the student parking eliminated. Beginning with the “What If” meeting back on Nov 13, Hillside Rd neighbors started to complain about congestion and said that police are relatively passive enforcing traffic flow rules in front of GHS, including the double parking.
At the Feb 8 Selectmen meeting, Greenwich Schools superintendent Dr. Jill Gildea offered to remind parents about proper pick up procedure and discourage double parking, which she suggested would decrease congestion.
Gildea warned that taking away a right of privilege would result in an outcry from students and their families.
Burke Dempsey, a resident of 21 Hillside Road for 18 years, said he bought his house because he was assured it was part of a residential neighborhood.
“I don’t know how many other residential neighborhoods have four lanes running down it,” Dempsey said, referring to on street parking, double parked cars, and traffic in the northbound and southbound lanes.
In a letter sent Feb 8 to the Selectman, Brian Gillott of 63 Hillside Road wrote that the biggest traffic bottleneck is caused by cars parked on Hillside between the GHS south lot and Putnam Ave.
“The cars parked in that area block early access to the right turn lane, and if cars planning to turn right could exit smoothly without being stuck behind the deep backlog of cars waiting for a green light to turn left, the traffic flow would improve in an incredible manner.” – Brian Gillott , 63 Hillside
Gillott suggested the town might solve the congestion on Hillside by adopting the parking regulations used on Maher Ave by Brunswick.
“Only cars with a residential sticker can park on Maher between 7:00am-10:00am,” Gillott wrote. “Not only does Maher Avenue get the automobile flow of all Brunswick high school students, but the high school is also the drop off point for all of those lower and middle school students who take the shuttle buses to the King Street campus. Maher is a narrow street, yet there is no backup and there is no traffic problem — the prohibition of all non-residential parking during 7:00-10:00am is key to that success.”