Shredding Main Street

Alert “06880” reader Debbie Katz is concerned about “the ridiculously sharp new curbs on Main Street.” She writes:

I rarely go downtown to shop. When I do, I usually park in the lot because I can never get a space on the street itself.

Last Thursday I got lucky. I parked in front of Tavern on Main. Backing up to get closer, my front passenger tire hit the curb. It shredded flat in seconds.

Debbie Katz's tire.

Debbie Katz’s tire.

While I waited for AAA, several people passing by and shop owners came to tell me about their experiences, or how many they had witnessed in the past few months.

The tow truck driver said he was on Main Street multiple times a week for this problem. The guy at Town Fair said he gets at least 5 tires per week that are shredded by the Main Street curbs.

The next day, she wrote to town officials. Director of public works Stephen Edwards quickly replied:

The granite curbs used on Main Street are the same material and construction that is used throughout Connecticut and meets state and federal specifications.  Because it is cut stone it does have a sharper edge than asphalt or concrete.

It is a chosen material because of it hardness and resilience to salt. It can stand up to New England winters with routine snow plowing and application of salt. The curb is not intended to be driven upon and will not damage a tire on routine contact.

New sidewalks and curbing were installed last year.

New sidewalks and curbing were installed last year.

Debbie called that “uncool.” She emailed back: 

Thank you for your quick response.

Of course the curbs are not meant to be driven on but when parallel parking, sometimes contact is made, even with the best and most experienced drivers.

I’m sure you can appreciate that if this is happening constantly in Westport, then perhaps the edges are just a little bit too sharp and you should review. But it doesn’t seem that you think it’s a problem.

Since all of the stores on Main Street are available at the area malls, that’s most likely where I’ll shop going forward; less wear and tear on my car.

I followed up with a phone call to Steve. He reiterated that the curbing is based on federal and state standards; that it’s used throughout the region because of its resilience (as opposed to the old concrete curb), and noted that the vast majority of parkers have not had a problem. “It doesn’t hurt your tires if you just nudge it,” he said. “You have to hit it with a lot of force.”

Killer curb, or another example of poor (in this case parallel) parking? Click “Comments” to drive your point home.

34 responses to “Shredding Main Street

  1. Daniel Katz

    Indeed; if all the shoppers buying stuff they don’t need on Main St. decided to relieve their boredom by shopping at the Danbury Mall, retailers on Main st would damned fast get the town to take care of the problem.

  2. Susan Iseman

    I wonder if there’s a common “tread” here. Could it be a particular brand of tire?

  3. Contact with stone curbing will also chew up the rims of low profile wheels. In my opinion this type of curbing should have a chamfered edge, but since it is a cut, not molded, product, I’m sure it would cost more.

  4. Richard Frisch

    My wife and I watched a poor woman deflate and damage her brand new tire by hitting the curb in front of Tavern on Main, a couple of weeks ago. This doesn’t happen with normal curbs. It does happen with Main Street’s curbs.
    Whether or not these curbs meet some arbitrary standard is immaterial. The Town’s employees and elected officials need to understand that Main Street Westport’s curbs are a hazard and need to be repaired or replaced.

    We have warned people to avoid parking on the street. Maybe we should warn them to avoid Westport.

    Is there a class action law suit in Westport’s future?

    • Jim Goodrich

      Other towns that have installed granite curbs and encountered the same issues fixed the problem by grinding down the sharp edge.

  5. Wendy Cusick

    I was just waiting for this to appear on the blog. When we saw these being installed. One of my family members mentioned “There goes their tires.”
    20 to 25 years ago up in Massachusetts had started installing all these new granite curbs. My family had traveled up there on a trip. Thankfully nothing happened because someone we knew Warned us to stay away from them. The new curbs were being installed on many main roads. On the state road which were one lane up one lane down it was a legal and common practice to go around the motorist to keep traffic moving so many people’s tires got shredded as they went around. So much for keeping traffic moving. Everyone complained to the city and state of Massachusetts however, they kept installing them.
    Now it’s common practice to install them all over New England because they look nice, sharp (literally) and eye appealing and have longevity and durability against the elements of new England weather.

  6. Ray Abramson

    I’m with Debbie, those curbs are dangerous.. There could easily have been a rounded edge on those curbs. “Meets … Standards” is standard bureaucratese for “I don’t want to do anything”!

  7. Morley Boyd

    The very first time it snowed last winter, these curbs were heavily damaged by a snow plow, The result: really jagged edges (and lots of pieces of stone on the pavement), In fact, you can see the sharp edge in the closeup. So now the previously deadly curb is a flat out stone cold killer. Odd that it’s being ignored.

  8. Matt Murray

    I don’t think the damage is better or worse with a particular tire/model. Tires have to meet Federal guidelines for many things including durability. Public works is trying to differ blame elsewhere, since it was expensive to install and they do not wish to bare the burden of claims against the town.
    The solution, though not cheap would be to grind the edges to something “less than sharp.” Perhaps a bullnose or a 45° angle. Recourse might be found with the supplier of the stone curbs.

  9. Elizabeth Thibault

    The granite curbs are very handsome and are common in New England; they are used in the downtown area of Burlington, VT which is renowned for it’s outdoor marketplace. Maybe a representative of the Downtown Merchants Association (DMA) could weigh in on any participation their group had in the selection of the curb materials? I know that they are an active group and participate frequently in decisions/actions regarding the maintenance of their area. There are thermal treatments that can be done to granite to reduce the edging, but everything comes with a cost. It would have to be found elsewhere in the budget.

  10. Mary Ruggiero

    They certainly do look really sharp. If any more are to be installed, better go fit a bullnose. I don’t park downtown much, but will be very careful when I do. Those flats can’t be fixed!

  11. Steven McCay

    I agree with the town. One does not need to use the curb to parallel park. Use the lot if your unsure of your parallel parking skills; the walk will do you good.

  12. Bart Shuldman

    Mr Edwards. We have an issue in town. Fix it!! Somehow you should think about the taxpayers and how you get your salary.

    Town leaders-time to step in.

  13. Sandra Johnson

    The simple answer is – just don’t park on Main ST!! I lived in Westport for 30 some years and NEVER parked on MS – always parked in the back and at times was able to park in big lot there. Also parked over in Library area and walked — no big deal —

  14. How much will it cost the town to have someone run a angle grinder to the curbs? Does not seem like a huge time or expense to just grind down the edge a little bit.

  15. Jill Turner Odice

    WTG Mr Edwards! Blowing off the concerns of local residents is not the way to make them happy…I could see if it was an isolated case, but to hear that it is happening regularly should be of some concern! He should at least look into a way of correcting the problem, not just blow off the folks who support the downtown merchants…

  16. Jennifer Rankine

    This article from January 2016 on the same subject gave the impression (but without citing a source) that the curbs would be fixed. It’s been happening for a while and should be corrected. Tires are bad enough, but wait until someone trips, falls and splits their head open. http://www.westport-news.com/news/article/New-cutting-edge-Main-Street-curbs-leave-6743578.php

  17. thanks for the warning — but to non-06880 readers, good idea to make the street user friendly…

  18. Thanks for the heads up. Yet another reason to avoid the parking debacle downtown, which is sure to only get worse as everyone tries to avoid Main Street itself.

  19. Peter Tulupman

    I find it incredible that the department of public works will immediately replace a granite curb because people are frankly terrible parallel parkers, while many of our roads are have a similar appearance to Manuel Noriega.

  20. Matt Murray

    I’m remembering somewhere seeing the granite curbs installed at a 45° from the surface of the road and angling up to the brick pavers (bad ascii art work below)
    brick____
    granite \_____ (pavement)

    Current:
    ______
    granite |______ (pavement)

    I hope that rendered well. I think it was at Harbor Point in Stamford. But it allowed for imprecise parallel parking and saving tires (ecological good, too!).
    It would spare grinding, but would require major relaying of the curb stones.

  21. Julie Gray

    I, too, barely glanced the curb and my tire was sliced through. The AAA tow truck driver said this was a common problem in towns where they have installed these new curbs. Some towns have gone over the sharp edges and rounded them to alleviate the problem. Obviously, our town authorities simply view this as a driver error. Westport may now be known to have the worst parallel Parkers in the USA! Even if this is true, which we all know it’s not, should the town not accommodate us poor souls who are simply unable to avoid slicing our tires on the razor blade curbs?

  22. Sam Wilson Tulupman

    Hi

  23. Peter Gold, Chair, RTM Transit Committee

    The RTM Transit Committee will have a meeting in June to discuss this issue and what, if anything, can be done about it. The date will be announced on the Town’s website once it is determined. The public is welcome to attend and speak at the meeting.

  24. Nancy Hunter Wilson

    I’d rather see granite stone used in art rather than wasted on the curb.
    Man, you guys really are rich!

  25. Barry Verbel

    Do you have to cut your leg or your child’s leg to get action?

  26. Lawrence Uydess

    Good news Dan. I have located a hitherto forgotten trove of those springy thingies grandpa used to clip on to the wheel wells of his car. Their scraping noise alerted the driver to imminent damage to their car, tire, rims, or rocker panels. I plan on going in on this with Coop. Maybe selling them on Main Street: Pssst, Hey Buddy…!
    What do you think the right price point would be! for a set of 2?

  27. Carol Alexander

    Ive been shopping and parking on Main Street for 18 years and never had a problem, UNTIL yesterday when I was parked in front of The Tavern on Main. I barely touched the curb and my tire burst. As with other commenters, the AAA guys said he was down here 2-3 times a week. Something must be done! Thank you.

  28. The RTM Transit Committee is having a meeting tonight, June 14, to discuss the issues surrounding the curbs on Main Street. The meeting is at 8 pm in the Green Room on the lowest level of Town Hall. Members of the public are welcome to come and talk about their experiences