About a month after a Fairfield man was killed crossing Post Road East near Shake Shack, state Department of Transportation Commissioner James Redeker announced Monday during a visit to town that his agency plans to advance construction of a new crosswalk near the fast-food restaurant to this summer.
The DOT had planned to install a new crossing at the intersection of Post Road East and Bulkley Avenue in 2014, but Redeker said that addressing pedestrian safety along the busy stretch of roadway near the Fairfield border warrants an expedited schedule.
"What I'm trying to do is to make sure this intersection gets upgraded to appropriate standards, and it's part of an investment strategy," Redeker said. "I can't enforce people's behavior, but I can certainly provide the protection and safety systems to the extent that makes sense with state-of-the-art practices today."
The new pedestrian crosswalk will link a Mercury gas station at the southeast corner of the intersection to an office complex at the northeast corner. It will also include two countdown-signal heads. Installing the crosswalk will cost approximately $50,000, according to DOT spokesman Kevin Nursick.
Shake Shack, which worked with Westport police last year to put together a proposal for the new pedestrian crossing, has offered to contribute at least $18,000 to the project -- a number based on the original estimated cost of the new crosswalk.
A plan for a new pedestrian crossing at the Post-Bulkley intersection has been under review for more than a year, with both town officials and neighboring businesses such as Shake Shack expressing support for the proposal. Calls for the project to quickly move forward have grown since Bruce Tabackman, a 68-year-old lawyer from Fairfield, died March 2 when he was hit while crossing Post Road East, just yards from the restaurant.
A pedestrian crossing with signal heads already connects the southwest and northwest corners of the Post Road East-Bulkley Avenue intersection.
Tabackman's death was the fourth pedestrian fatality on Post Road East in Westport during the last five years.
First Selectman Gordon Joseloff, a vocal proponent of the new crosswalk, called last month for DOT officials to "speed up" traffic improvements in the area where Tabackman was killed.
State Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, D-Westport, a member of the General Assembly's Transportation Committee, expressed support Monday for the DOT's approach to pedestrian-safety initiatives on the Post Road.
"There's a much greater nimbleness on the part of the DOT these days under Commissioner Redeker, which allows us to solve problems on a much more timely basis," he said.
Steinberg and Redeker visited several other local sections of the Post Road on Monday, including an informal inspection of several crosswalks in the downtown area. During that tour, they discussed a number of potential measures that could improve pedestrian safety, such as installation of light-emitting-diode lights in crosswalks and "traffic-calming" road-painting schemes.
"It could be as simple as the material and the texture at the crosswalk for the vehicles and pedestrians," Redeker added. "The combination of low-cost, physical things, with maybe a little bit of technology and some curb cuts and widenings, we think could go a long way."
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