|The council discusses Beach Road Safety|
A year ago, none of us would have imagined it...a Norwalk council meeting where one councilperson after another spoke eloquently about making streets safer for kids, walkers, joggers and cyclists. The council chewed on issues of complete streets, lane widths, traffic calming and road diets. It was a pivotal moment for Norwalk, demonstrating publicly what we've all been feeling, that the town is starting to take seriously the goal of being friendly to walking and biking.
The subject was a motion from Matt Miklave, Bruce Kimmel, Anna Duleep, David Watts, Warren Pena and John Igneri to "Test and Learn" the Beach Road Safety plan this summer. Every public comment addressing Beach Road Safety spoke in favor.
Following the public comment, much of the discussion against the resolution was more about the form of the resolution than Beach Road Safety itself. Did the Democrats who sponsored the resolution give Republicans a chance to contribute? Is the council a proper place to discuss Beach Road Safety?
Ultimately, there was a vote to send the resolution to the public works committee for more review. Here was how the vote broke down.
Wanting to move the Test and Learn forward this summer
- Matt Miklave (D)
- Bruce Kimmel (D)
- Anna Duleep (D)
- David Watts (D)
- Warren Pena (D)
- John Igneri (D)
- Michael Geake (I) ... who unequivocally stated that he supports the Beach Road Safety plan
- Michelle Maggio (R) ... a disappointing vote from one of our allies, but hopefully one that will lead to a more bipartisan resolution with her support
- David McCarthy (R) ... in addition to concerns he expressed about the way the resolution was handled, McCarthy appears to favor a more ambitious project for the road, but one with unclear costs, timing and prospects
- Doug Hempstead (R) ... Hempstead favors a Test and Learn during the school year
- Nick Kydes (R) ... Are you paying attention, East Norwalk voters?
- Fred Bondi (R) ... said to be implacably opposed to the plan
- Jerry Petrini (R)
- Joanne Romano (R)
- Carvin Hilliard (D)
So, first off, we have to give kudos to the council supporters who spoke passionately for Beach Road Safety and gave it their votes. We also have to acknowledge that we have supporters who nonetheless voted to table the "Test and Learn" motion. It's clearly more difficult to be a council Republican for Beach Road Safety, enduring vocal opposition within the caucus from the mayor, Nick Kydes and Fred Bondi.
That said, ultimately Beach Road Safety requires votes and we'll look to the public works committee for leadership. The committee should craft a plan for a broadly acceptable Test and Learn study.
We have a few traps ahead to avoid. The greatest one, I think, is an over-ambitious plan. Yes, it would be great to spend one or two million dollars on bike paths through Taylor Farm and much wider sidewalks, but ultimately a plan like that is doomed. In an era where Norwalk is firing its teachers, expensive proposals simply do not survive the budget process. The engineering process alone would require more money than the Beach Road Safety plan and could drag the project out for years.
The genius of the Beach Road Safety plan is
- it's already been examined by professional consultants...no new, expensive studies required
- it only takes a few buckets of paint...costing next-to-nothing to implement, and
- it simultaneously addresses issues of dangerous crossings, speeding cars, narrow sidewalks and difficult cycling conditions
Let's keep our eye on the ball as our efforts shift to the public works committee. One step at a time, we're getting closer to a safer Beach Road.