‘Main to Train’ group talks traffic, bike lanes and pedestrian safety
WESTPORT — Still anxious for more public input, the Main to Train Technical Committee Working Group came one step closer Tuesday afternoon to releasing its traffic analysis report of the 2-mile route that includes Riverside Avenue and the Post Road East through downtown.
“The results weren’t that surprising,” said Victor Minerva, director of planning with the national consulting firm NV5, which has an office in Fairfield. “Traffic is bad and it’s projected to get worse.”
How the community and its government agencies respond to the “Westport Main to Train Study,” however, which is being overseen by the Western Connecticut Council of Governments, is among the goals of this project, which is being conducted via state and federal funds.
The ultimate purpose of the study, according to the group’s website is to “identify improvements to vehicular, bicycle, and pedestrian safety and circulation along Post Road (Route 1) and Riverside Avenue (Route 33) in order to create better connections between the commercial center of town and the Saugatuck train station, and promote non-motorized transportation choices.”
Minerva said he has reached out to a number of local shareholders, including the Westport Public Schools, Chamber of Commerce, and the Downtown Plan Implementation Committee, but has only received feedback from the Downtown Merchants Association and Sound Cyclists Bicycle Club.
“We’ll continue to reach out to the rest of the groups,” he said, specifically hoping to hear from the school system.
The DMA expressed concern about the challenge of crossing the Post Road, especially at the pedestrian walkway west of Myrtle Avenue and the other by Church Lane.
“They said that there’s a lack of compliance stopping for pedestrians,” Minerva said.
Sound Cyclists expressed a need for more bike racks, as well as bike lanes on Riverside and the Post Road.
“I don’t know how viable it would be on the Post Road,” Minerva said, but shared that at least one other person had raised the question of extending a bike lane down Riverside Avenue.
“Is that a route that people want to ride on, because we’re not seeing a heavy volume in the bike data we’ve collected so far?” he asked the group, which included several Department of Transportation engineers, as well as several officials from Westport’s police, planning and zoning, and legal departments.
“It could just be it’s too dangerous to ride a bike right now,” said Peter Ratkiewich, director of the Department of Public Works.
Minerva said it was an issue that could be looked at more closely, noting there was currently parking along parts of Riverside, which could impede development of a bike lane.
He said, pending more input from groups, the results would be summarized and posted on the website — www.WestportMainToTrain.com — which will have the report posted there in the next week or so.
With the next public forum scheduled for March 25 at 7:30 p.m. in Town Hall, WestCOG representatives said they are hoping to get the word out to invite in more members of the public to share their input.
Kristin Hadjstylianos, senior planner with WestCOG, said in doing a similar project with the town of Darien, “We found the most effective way to get the word out was to have the town reach out to the RTM (Representative Town Meeting).”
Peter Gold, Westport’s RTM member from District 5 who chairs its Transit Committee, said he nor any other RTM members had such a database of their constituents, suggesting it would be more effective to reach out through the media.
Minerva said at the March 25 meeting he would exhibit a large aerial map of the section under consideration, which extends north up Riverside from Treadwell Avenue, then across bridge on Post Road East just up past Compo Road.
He said members of the public would be invited to attach sticky notes to the map where they have questions or concerns, and that the hope was it would be interactive.
“This is very informal so we can get some back-and-forth going,” he said.