tulipSave The Island!

A Solution in Search of a Problem

Enabled by a windfall grant of approximately $5 million from the state, the Town of Greenwich Department of Public Works in concert with an out-of-town traffic engineer presented proposed Town Project 12-17 to the public on Thursday, May 18th in the Mazza Room of Town Hall. Key elements of the plan:

Rebuild or replace the bridge that carries Sound Beach Avenue over Cider Mill Brook just south of the existing rotary in front of the Perrot.

This is a no-brainer, let’s get it done.

Replace the existing traffic pattern in front of the Perrot with a massive new rotary featuring 10 ft.-wide sidewalks and 6 ft. medians.

The town argues that a “proper rotary” will slow traffic and reduce accidents. That’s possible; all of us who transit the intersection recognize that the existing arrangement is quirky. But dangerous? And even if it can be improved, does it have to be so big, so complicated and so over-designed? Let’s stick with our small-town green spaces and leave lifeless asphalt plazas to others.

Raise the new rotary two feet.

This apparently brings this patch of Sound Beach Avenue above the 100-year high water mark clearing the way for emergency vehicles to pass at high tide. The town does not have any information on how often flooding actually blocks emergency vehicle use of Sound Beach Avenue; the one photograph they used showed water lapping almost up to the hubcaps of passenger cars in the rotary. The town has also not considered alternative north-south routes for emergency vehicles. During Sandy in 2012, for example, fire engines were routed south (against the one-way signs) on Arch Street, possibly because Sound Beach Avenue was flooded in front of the Perrot. In the town’s plan, fill would come up to the level of the front steps of the library.

Strip Sound Beach Avenue of vegetation from the Perrot almost to Wesskum Wood.

This is a consequence of raising the street at the rotary; the fill to support the new roadway would require removal of all vegetation within a certain distance of the road for the length of the project. Asked at the meeting, Deputy Commissioner Michel asserted that “three or four mature trees” on the east side of Sound Beach Avenue north of Forest Avenue would be removed. On closer inspection, the count is closer to eight to ten. Add to that at least one south of Forest Avenue and an undisclosed number in Binney Park; the toll is upwards of 15 mature trees not to mention smaller trees and old-growth shrubbery and screening vegetation.

Remove permanently the landscaped island at Forest and Sound Beach Avenues and replace it with a straight “T” intersection.

In the collateral damage category, this does not appear to relate to any other elements of the town’s plan. The town argues that eliminating the dual roadways that arch north and south onto Sound Beach Avenue at the foot of Forest Avenue will improve safety. The town asserts that the intersection has been the site of an average of two accidents per year in recent years although they have no information on the nature or severity of such accidents. Nor do they have an estimate of the number of accidents they would expect with the redesigned intersection—but it’s hard to imagine it could be much less than two. What problem are we solving?

Several residents reminded the meeting of traffic calming initiatives that were developed almost a decade ago for this part of Old Greenwich and never funded. The sense of the meeting was that returning to those initiatives would be a far better use of resources than the new proposed project. Deputy Commissioner Michel steadfastly refused to consider multiple requests to hold another public meeting soon (say by the end of June), insisting instead that development work would continue unabated. He promised a follow-up public meeting in September.