Changes Ahead For Commuter Lot?

A new bridge over the Saugatuck River, and a new look for Railroad Place, are not the only changes being considered for the area near the train station.

This Tuesday (June 7, 7:30 p.m., Town Hall), the RTM will consider a proposal to redesign train station parking lot 1. That’s the area adjacent to Luciano Park, directly opposite the old Blu Parrot/Jasmine/Arrow building.

An aerial view of train station parking lot 1 (center).

An aerial view of train station parking lot 1 (center). Luciano Park is the green area on its right. The state-owned lot near Exit 17 is on the left.

The lot is owned jointly by the town of Westport, and state of Connecticut. It’s in poor condition, needing repaving, re-striping and flood mitigation. The redesign addresses those issue — and provides improved lighting, more electric car charging stations, a new pedestrian staircase, partial sidewalks, new crosswalks in the lot, and plenty of trees.

However, because the lot’s 5 exits do not conform to current state and town regulations, they would be reconfigured — and reduced to just 1. All cars entering and exiting the lot would use a single point, next to Luciano Park. Police chief Foti Koskinas estimates that could increase exiting time by 6 minutes. (There would be 2 emergency exits as well.)

It’s estimated that the reconfiguration would reduce the lot’s capacity from 320 to 310.

Earlier this week, the RTM Transit Committee voted on the proposal. They deadlocked, 3-3.

(To access the full bid document, click here. Hat tip: Jennifer Johnson, RTM member, District 9)

 

 

27 responses to “Changes Ahead For Commuter Lot?

  1. Matt Bannon

    First question that comes to mind is who financially is on the hook for this, State or town?? . I’m sure that would have a bearing on many people’s opinion right away

    • Matt Bannon– It is being paid for out of the parking fees generated at RR Parking, and the Town is bonding it to use RR Parking fees generated over the next five years. Obviously, by using those fees, it diverts them from some other transportation or parking-related purposes for which the Town could use them. The price ticket for this is astoundingly high: $1.5 million. They came up with that number without a competitive bid/RFP. The bidding will be undertaken after the $1.5 million price tag is approved, which is logically and practically speaking, “backwards.” But given that the number $1.5 million is out there, it will act as a magnet for higher numbers. (I have been trying to advocate at the RTM for a more intelligent competitive bidding process). My constituents tell me they want (1) MORE parking, (2) CLOSER to the station, (3) LESS congestion and (4) SHORTER commuting times. This plan contravenes each of those objectives, so I voted against it at the Transit Committee. Plus, I am not going to vote to approve a high price tag BEFORE there is a competitive bid. This plan will eliminate 10 to 17 parking spaces in lot 1, add some parking spaces much farther away that will make pedestrians have to cross a busy road after waiting for the traffic light (adding more commuting delay and decreasing safety), will eliminate 4 exits to the lot (increasing congestion; increasing delays). The Town needs a second engineer’s opinion. We should just fill the potholes and seek another opinion and design. This engineer spent a very minimal amount of time on-site studying our commuting situation before he came up with this “plan.” ~Kristan Hamlin, RTM District #4

  2. Julie Van Norden

    Just what we need, fewer parking spaces and longer exit times.

  3. Perfect, Lets take whats working fine and ruin it. Fewer spaces and more frustration getting home. Hard to believe, The RTM must be taking their notes from Washington

    • Well said Bill!

    • Billy Scalzi– I am on the RTM and I voted against it at the Transit Committee. We need your voice and your support if we are going to get the Plan revised. Write: RTMMailingList@westportct.gov and come Tuesday night to Town Hall and lend your voice as a citizen to the debate. They can simply fill the potholes and build the staircases without eliminating all the exits, at a significantly lower price. We need to take the time to get this right, instead of marching forward before the plan is tweaked and improved.

  4. Reduce the entrance/exit points to one? Create less parking spaces? Dan, April Fool’s is not for quite a while. Cut this story and reissue it 4/1.

  5. Fellow commuters – next Tuesday night is your one and only opportunity to be heard on this issue – it seems that this poorly conceived proposal has managed to work its way through the process under the radar apparently without any effort by the town administration and relevant boards to solicit input from the commuters who are most directly impacted. If you want to avoid the loss of parking spots and the addition of at least 12 minutes a day in your commuting time I urge you to make your voice heard at the meeting on Tuesday or (if you can’t make it ) by emailing your RTM representative

  6. Anyone know why on earth regulations would require *fewer* exits? Can’t imagine what the warped logic is on that.

    • Jerry MacDaid

      I just guessing but I would imagine the town/state has regulations preventing private developers from putting in excessive curb cuts from private parking lots in the interest of minimizing disruption to traffic flows on primary roads. Something like that would seem perfectly reasonable to me.

      • Its not a private lot, its a public one, which would or should require different reasoning. But yes, something akin to that is probably right. Thanks.

    • Jerry MacDaid

      For instance, why not allow Stop & Shop to eliminate the buffer to the Post Road but instead run the parking lot up to the edge with each row being able to enter/exit directly?

  7. “Increased exit time”?! … we are already dealing with significantly increased exit time from the general area caused by all the development close to the bridge in the last few years… they have to be kidding or in dream land!
    Feels like no one is thinking through the impact of all these projects on traffic flow in town.

  8. If there has been no competitive bidding, why not? It is hard to believe this project, or any other project of significant size, would be undertaken without competitive bidding. Is the state taking the lead in this project, or is Westport?

  9. Scott Brodows

    Kristan thanks for being a leader and voice of reason at the RTM on this issue. I’d like to understand the rationale of the RTM reps who support this, because I can’t think of a sane reason to do so. The right solution is for the town to simply fill the potholes and pave the lot – and do it now. That would delight all of us commuters and save $1MM for better use.

    • Scott Brodows– The RTM is being told by the engineer that we cannot achieve these objectives under regulations without getting rid of 4 exits. The Police Chief had previously said we could have two exits (losing only 3 exits) and still achieve our goals, but that would cause us to lose a few parking spots. My own view is that –until this came to the RTM Transit Committee– no one has been an advocate for the commuters and no one coming up with this plan has prioritized our commuters’ concerns about delay, loss of parking and congestion. You need to write to the RTMMailingList@westportct.gov and come Tuesday night to Town Hall and lend your voice as a citizen to the debate. From a cost/benefit perspective, my own view is that the down side of this plan is so great, that it would be better to scrap it, fill the potholes, build a few staircases, and forget the rest of the plan. We can use the money to better advantage elsewhere. $1.5 million is a hideous waste of money. ~ Kristan Hamlin, RTM #4

  10. Matt Bannon

    Thanks for the detailed response but I’m stuck on this point. Are you saying this did not go to bid? We agreed to1. 5 million and now we will go to bid??
    If that is the case agree with the comment this is totally backwards on how the market place works and who ever pays will over pay

    • Matt– We bid out only who would get the engineering task of coming up with an engineering plan. Then after coming up with a plan, the engineer and the police dept (which administers the RR parking fund) estimated that the cost to complete this project would be $1.5 million. After coming up with that price without any bids issued, they are now going out to bid on the project after already announcing the astoundingly high price of $1.5 million, which some believe will act as a magnet to attract higher bids than if a more intelligent process was used of: (1) get the plan and specs approved first; (2) go out to bid without any pre-approved number; (3) come back to BOF and RTM with the results of the competitive bid to get it funded. So we at the RTM are being asked to fund this before a competitive bid has occurred. The Town employees who come to us for funding w/o a bid first try to claim that if they follow a process of not getting the money approved first, contractors won’t bid. Many of us do not believe that. Every contractor wants a municipal contract if (s)he can get one. Homeowners get contractors to bid on their home projects without announcing a pre-approved price first. Municipal contracts are even more attractive to contractors, so many believe they WILL bid without a pre-approved price from the Town. The real issue is that it takes more work and more process for the Town employees to do it the right way of getting the bids done before the funding. Unfortunately, since this is our (the Town residents’) collective money — instead of each individual Town-resident’s individual money — the process followed is less careful about waste and over-expenditures. People treat Town money like monopoly money, sometimes. As an RTMer, I am trying to get people to think of Town money as their own money (it’s our taxes, after all) and to be as careful with it as they are with their own cash. ~ Kristan Hamlin, RTM #4

  11. Here is what I emailed to the RTM:RTMMailingList@westportct.gov

    Dear RTM,

    Like everyone that I have talked to who uses the lots, the proposed plan makes little sense. The traffic conditions around the train station at peak hours need to be addressed and this parking lot plan only makes it worse.

    1. Parking Lot 1 must have more than one entrance/exit. A logical flow must be engineered to handle so many cars at peak hours.

    2. The intersection at the entrance to I-95 needs to be re-thought and crossing walks clearly labeled and WELL LIT for a logical and safe flow from that overflow lot to Lot 1 and then on to the train station. With the current setup it is only a matter of time before a commuter is killed. An obvious improvement would be a lighted crosswalk system.

    Please take a holistic view to the traffic and parking needs of the area and not jus the immediate need of repaving Lot 1.

    Thank you,

    Trey Ellis
    119 Compo Road North

  12. …learned years ago that you never put the 1st number out because that’s where your opponent/contractor/consultant negociates from, not tries to meet.

  13. …so why didn’t the RTM use good old fashioned common sense? This is not their 1st rodeo; and I sincerly admire everyone who volunteers for these committees and gives so many hours to handle governing the town.

    I have no patience and can only operate as a one person band, so I leave this work to others. But the community has an incredible amount of sophisticasted business people, who must be good in their fields if they can affort to live in this town. Isn’t there a process/template/or protocol that is always used in these situations?

    I’m totally critiquing from the outside — but this has to be Business 101 in some MBA program, or a life lesson that gets picked up along the way…

  14. Mark Jacobs

    This is either the stupidest idea ever or the front end of a plot (yes, plot, as in conspiracy) to make Lot 1 so unusable that a garage becomes inevitable. And that is n even worse idea.

  15. Brian Bishop

    I’d attend the RTM meeting at 7:30 — but at that time I’m usually stuck in traffic TRYING TO GET OUT OF THE PARKING LOT!
    Needless to say – the traffic flow is already bad. Any money should be spent improving the access onto / off I95, synching the traffic lights, and making the lot safer to navigate…

  16. Raymond Marra

    Another project dreamed up by beaurocrats with high price tags to do something no one asked for and while at it make life more difficult for those that use the facility.

    The Compo beach renovation comes to mind which was greatly curtailed when common sense prevailed.

    Pave the lot and make new stripes. Fix the ever crumbling pedestrian steps. All great ideas. But leave the exits as they are and work to add spots not remove them.