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Neighbors demand end to bureaucratic gridlock on Easton Road traffic concerns

Updated 7:41 pm, Thursday, February 28, 2013

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  • A sometimes-boisteroud crowd turned out Wednesday to voice concerns about traffic safety and speeding at the intersection of Easton Road (Route 136) and Bayberry Lane. WESTPORT NEWS, CT 2/27/13 Photo: Jarret Liotta / Westport News contributed

    A sometimes-boisteroud crowd turned out Wednesday to voice concerns about traffic safety and speeding at the intersection of Easton Road (Route 136) and Bayberry Lane. WESTPORT NEWS, CT 2/27/13

    Photo: Jarret Liotta

 

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Concerns about dangers posed by speeding traffic at the Easton Road-Bayberry Lane intersection drove about 50 neighborhood residents to demand action during a Wednesday night forum at Town Hall.

Following a study of the intersection by a Cheshire engineering firm, officials indicated that a traffic roundabout at the site offers what probably is the best chance for action on the long-term problem by the state Department of Transportation, which has jurisdiction over the intersection since Easton Road is also state Route 136.

"We've been doing this for 20 years now," Stephen Edwards, director of the town Department of Public Works, said of efforts to address the issue, "and they've said no three times. We would like to float something up there that would get a yes."

Kwesi Brown, project manager for the engineering firm of Milone & MacBroom, presented four options aimed at making the intersection safer by slowing traffic and allowing easier access onto Easton Road for traffic from Bayberry Lane Extension.

Two options -- with short- and long-term scenarios -- would incorporate stop signs. The two other options -- also offered with short- and long-term variations -- would involve creating a traffic roundabout.

The long-term options, which are costlier, require realigning Bayberry Lane Extension into what is currently private property. The costs would be $1,220,000 for the stop-sign option, and $1,350,000 for the roundabout scenario, according to Brown. The short-term plans' costs would be $922,000 for the stop-sign option and $973,000 for the roundabout.

"It seems like there's just three or four trees that create the whole problem," one resident told officials. "It seems like if those trees were taken down, the problem would be solved. ... When I moved here the trees were not there and it was perfectly safe."

Many agreed with that view, but others did not, including Peter Ratkiewich, town engineer. He said the problem of speeding traffic on Easton Road (Route 136) would still exist.

Some residents wanted to know why the Police Department does not assign officers to monitor the intersection routinely. Some said they've contacted police on numerous occasions, but claimed the response has been minimal.

"The first selectman just left and I can guarantee you that he'll have a discussion with the chief of police tomorrow morning," said Edwards, referring to First Selectman Gordon Joseloff, who stood at the back of the Town Hall meeting room and listened through most of the meeting.

At one point during the sometimes-boisterous meeting, the lawyer for the owners whose property would be most affected by any traffic changes at the intersection, spontaneously stood up and addressed the crowd.

Peter Ambrose, a lawyer for Fred and Michelle Salkind of 300 Bayberry Lane, said his clients prefer the short-term roundabout options, which would leave the intersection intact. "It allows for improvements to be done within the town right-of-way," he said.

"The concern that we have is that any long-term improvements ... will have a significant adverse impact upon this wetland area," he said. "There's absolutely no way there can be a taking of this property without affecting the wetlands, because the wetlands come right up to the road right-of-way."

Michelle Salkind, who said they had just moved from New York City, commented, "We had no idea about this problem until we got notice of this meeting. She drew applause from the room when she said they'd be willing to have trees trimmed or perhaps cut in order to improve drivers' sight lines at the intersection.

"This is a bigger issue," said Ratkiewich. "The bottom line is we need to have a permanent solution here."

Woody Bliss, a former first selectman of Weston, also weighed in. He said he was involved in three separate attempts to have the intersection improved, all of which failed. The first proposal was to install a standard traffic light; the second called for a caution light, and the third plan proposed stop signs.

"And we got turned down on all three of them," he said of the DOT.

This is why, officials said, they believe the DOT would be most receptive to the idea of a roundabout.

"I hope you come away tonight with a sense of urgency," one man told officials. "Safety is a primary concern ... Something has to be done."

"Getting something done in a year is kind of like pushing an elephant," Ratkiewich said, indicating that the process would be arduous. "Any one of these alternatives would have to be fully developed and most likely that would be done by DOT themselves ... because they have very strict standards by which these have to be done."