Letters to the editor: Y at Mahackeno
Traffic proposal fails
to address issues
I joined the recent Board of Selectmen's tour of the proposed expansions to the Sunny Lane on/off ramps of northbound Exit 41 on the Merritt Parkway that are designed to accommodate the moving of the Westport Weston Family Y to its Camp Mahackeno site. Doubling of the available lanes for the intersection in all directions with a traffic-sensitive light is proposed, which will cut into the existing commuter parking lot at the intersection. No significant changes are planned for the Wilton Road approaches to this intersection.
In sum these improvements appear to do little to address the overall problems with traffic that are likely to arise at this site. It is akin to widening an artery in its middle while failing to widen anything beyond it, even as you expect more to flow through it. More traffic will be flowing on and off the Merritt Parkway to and from this site, further choking these roads at peak traffic times when these key arteries are already dangerously backed up during rush hours.
The apparent intent for this new Y location is to encourage regional use also. This will increase traffic flowing to and from this location from the north, east and west also, in addition to traffic rerouted from Westport to its south. As the site's popularity grows, the problems triggered by these changes will only increase. We are not creating just a local traffic problem; we are exacerbating a critical regional traffic problem, while doing less to leverage public transportation and decreasing access to carpooling.
Good intentions can have bad consequences. I appreciate the enthusiasm of people behind the Y relocation effort, but the boosterism behind this proposal will impact our families, our environment and our property values for decades to come. In an era in which we are supposed to be moving towards getting off our duffs and using our legs, it is ironic that the proposed Y traffic solution will keep more people stuck in their car seats longer instead of having a facility in a location that would increase foot traffic to and from local stores and other town facilities. I urge all Westporters to learn more about this proposed expansion and its impact on our lives and our properties.
Y Barons is still
Next Tuesday evening the Board of Selectman, acting as the town's Traffic Authority, sadly could approve a major rebuild of exit 41 on the Merritt Parkway solely to allow the Y to move to Mahackeno. The traffic, the State Traffic Commission says will surely come, will adversely impact the entire Northwestern section of Westport and everyone who uses the surrounding roads. Couple this with the destruction of open space, the razing of 5 houses to blacktop acres for parking and the Y's abandonment of downtown and we are looking at the antithesis to smart growth.
If you feel as I do, that none of this should occur then come to the meeting or write the selectmen and tell them not to do it. Tell them there is another way. Tell them we don't have to submit to dumb growth, but that a smarter, greater and more productive answer exists.
The Y can be built on Barons South. The town hired engineer from Weston and Sampson told an RTM Committee this was the case. Now that the Y has chosen not to build their highly touted 50 meter Olympic sized pool, in favor a 25 meter, it surely can. Yes, the reason so many other sites were disregarded over the years and the manta of only Mahackeno will work is no longer in the plans. Makes you sort of wonder how we came to this situation.
Building the Y on Barons has so many pluses it is hard to enumerate. The first is that a synergy between the Senior Center and the Y would exist, benefiting both young and old alike. Senior housing proposed to be built on the property could still fit and those lucky seniors would have access to both facilities. The Mahackeno property, used in trade for Barons, would be saved from destruction and could be visited as an environmental and recreation area by residents for most of the year. The houses on Sunny Lane, slated to be torn down, could be utilized for workforce housing -- giving some of our teachers, police or firemen the opportunity to live in town, in a house not a condo. And former foes on this issue could join together, help raise funds and see a new Y flourish in the center of our town.
The only obstacle to this solution is the very board that will meet on Tuesday to decide on the traffic issue. The current administration has taken a myopic view of what can be done on Barons and has thwarted the idea of smart utilization of the entire property and the town wide benefits that it would engender.
The leadership of this town need not be the elected officials, but the electorate themselves. Take a moment or an evening, if you can, to make your point. Send in a letter or an e-mail or step to the podium. We don't need to loose a jewel of downtown and destroy a residential neighborhood because of a lack of vision. We can save open space, promote smart growth, build a new Y downtown and all work together on what's best for our town.