Accident highlights needs for safety tweaks at Compo during RTM tour
Updated 5:57 pm, Friday, September 23, 2016
WESTPORT — As if on cue, a loud yelp rang out as Jimmy Izzo backed his car into a cyclist at South Beach of Compo, turning the heads of those gathered for a site visit.
The visit made by members of the Representative Town Meeting - of which Izzo is a member — on Sept. 21 was organized to get a hands-on feel for the various safety issues for pedestrians at the beach.
The cyclist peddled away unscathed Wednesday, but a point was made.
“There’s a lot of pedestrian use around here and we want to create a safe environment. Otherwise, people are walking behind cars, as you saw,” Parks and Recreation Director Jen Fava said.
During a Sept. 7 Board of Finance meeting, the sidewalk design garnered some support as a buffer from cars and a safety measure for children, cyclists and walkers enjoying the beach.
Public Works Director Steve Edwards said that the plan for the South Beach looks to mirror aspects of the $97,000 walkway project completed last summer on the East Beach. The East Beach walkway is 8 feet wide, including 1 foot of rail, and runs 540 feet from the Compo bath house to the cannons. That project was handled in-house, but because of the larger scope of South Beach, Edwards said the project is one his department “does not feel we can do internally.” As a result, Fava is seeking a $100,000 appropriation from the RTM to enlist a consultant to provide design and engineering services for the walkway and restrooms at Compo’s South Beach.
“And that’s what the appropriation request is for — to bring in a professional that can do the design, do the what-ifs, answer all the questions that everybody has here now. We don’t have the final design,” Edwards said.
Although Edwards said there is no plan in place yet, he did provide some insight into the town’s thinking of what they possibly would do to Compo’s South Beach.
“The concept going up here would be at bare minimum, would be again be moving the traffic back up 8 feet for a sidewalk and having a sidewalk go up. How far up and where it goes, and everything else who knows,” Edwards said. “The concept is not to impact the South Beach any more than by putting in, which ended up as an 8-foot total with a railing (referring to the work completed at the East Beach), but really it’s a seven-foot-wide sidewalk.”
Members of the group were concerned as to how far the sidewalk would extend, with some asking if it would go through West Beach.
“It will not go through West Beach,” said Parks and Recreation Commission Chairman Charlie Haberstroh.
“Again, we have listened to what people have been saying and the plan is to keep that (West Beach) as is,” Fava said.
However, Edwards said, “Probably for completeness, the consultant probably will show one going through there (West Beach), all the way down.”
“I’m asking the consultant to look at all options,” Edwards said.
The town’s request for proposal notes that they anticipate three unisex restrooms and one storage facility for the bathroom facility.
Catherine Calise, RTM 2, voiced concern over the possible height of a new bathroom construction, which would have to be FEMA-complaint, to replace the porta potties. Calise said that her understanding is that the new structure would have to be brought up to 13 feet. Edwards said the consultant would examine that issue.
“That means that what we’re looking at over there, the first floor…when you’re walking into a structure to a bathroom over there, it will be about 5 feet higher than where you see those porta potties level right now. So that actually is going to bring a structure up 5 feet which will interfere with views,” Calise said.
Edwards said the current elevation of the bathrooms is “greater than 8 feet” and agreed with Calise that the new bathroom structure “will be an elevated structure.”
The RTM will vote on the request for appropriation at their next meeting.