Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Come get bike and pedestrian improvements funded this year

Mr. Smith could endure a marathon hearing. Can you?

Ready to watch sausage get made? The planning commission is holding its big capital budget hearing on Wednesday night (Feb 1, 2012).

The meeting begins at 7pm and it will last awhile. However, it's worth packing a few Red Bulls and showing up. Major initiatives will be considered...and if they don't make it in the capital budget request, they simply won't happen.

First, the Planning & Zoning commission will request funding for a number of important projects:

Redevelopment's plan for a landscaped, pedestrian-friendly streetscape on Wall Street depends on capital budget approval.
Then, Redevelopment Agency has two important requests.
  • Remaking Wall Street into a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly urban center. This needs to be fully funded if we want to support Wall Street's nascent economic development.
  • Sidewalk and streetscape improvements to Monroe Street near South Norwalk station
Later in the evening, the Department of Public Works will make its request. It is possible they will also request funding for pedestrian and bicycle improvements...although I haven't heard anything specific.

Last year, opponents of education cuts showed up in force at this hearing and had a big impact. This year, we need to have the same impact. It's great if you can make a public comment, but just being in the audience and applauding other speakers has a big impact. Also, try to find a way to put your agenda on display. I'm going to carry a bike helmet. If you have a suitably activist t-shirt, that will also do the trick.

Setting a capital budget is all about balancing competing priorities. We want every planning commissioner to know that the priority of the citizens of Norwalk is a safer, vibrant, more beautiful and more livable town.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Calf Pasture Beach Road bike lanes: time to put paint to pavement

This plan for buffered bike lanes on Calf Pasture Beach Road can be installed this spring for the cost of a few buckets of paint.
Last fall, representatives from East Norwalk came together to support a new vision for Calf Pasture Beach Road. Mayor Moccia, Councilman Nick Kydes and State Rep Gail Lavielle joined a crowd of supporters from the Marvin Elementary PTA and other Norwalkers to call for bike lanes on Calf Pasture Beach Road. These bike lanes will not only create a vital recreational resource for Norwalk, they will also bring much needed safety to the dangerous crossing in front of Marvin Elementary. Currently, the schoolchildren who cross the street must contend with cars traveling in four lanes at highway speeds.

Norwalk leaders gave Calf Pasture Beach Road bike lanes their strong support last fall. With election season behind us, does that support still hold?
There is nearly unanimous support for Calf Pasture Beach Road bike lanes. The road is a feeder into two-lane Gregory Boulevard, so the four lanes are overkill. The stacking of cars on the road during Marvin Elementary pickup and drop-off times would still be permitted--although hopefully more of those parents will feel comfortable with their kids walking and biking to school. The city will get a solution to a hazardous road that has been a source of complaints from East Norwalkers for years.

These kids-turned-advocates don't want to wait any longer for a safe trip to school.

The small sidewalk feels safer when there are only bikes going by.
Furthermore, by moving forward with a paint-only solution, the city can improve Calf Pasture Beach Road at a very low cost. This is more a matter of will than money. The question is, does the support of Norwalk's leadership still hold and are they ready to make this happen? Sign the Calf Pasture Beach bike lane petition to let the city know this is important to you.

Coming soon: how the Calf Pasture Beach Road bike lanes can connect to the rest of town.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A new look for Wall Street could be coming soon

This vision of a new and improved Wall Street may happen in 2012.
Wall Street could be in for a big improvement this year. The redevelopment agency has plans to remake the hard-to-walk area by Fat Cat and Meigas into "Landmark Square", with calm traffic and attractive landscaping. The pavement will be replaced with red brick, trees will be planted along the sidewalks and the sidewalk in front of Meigas will be greatly expanded. This last step both creates a plaza and makes the intersection significantly safer. In short, this section of Wall Street will become a much more attractive place for restaurants and retail.

The current configuration has dangerous turning movements and poses challenges for the many pedestrians who cross here.

The traffic authority has tentatively approved the plan. The Department of Public Works is still in consultations, but they will hopefully give it their endorsement. Wall Street can't wait any longer for beautification and economic development.