Westport will look very different — very soon.
Work is imminent on a state Department of Transportation Post Road improvement project.
It includes road widening, the addition of turn lanes and sidewalks — and the removal of up to 100 trees.
From Volvo of Westport to Cumberland Farms — and continuing east to the trees in the median toward New Country Toyota — workers will cut decades-old trees.
The 2 in front of Sakura — the Japanese restaurant whose name means, literally, “cherry blossom” — are also on the chopping block.
But a meeting yesterday may have brought those 2 beautiful trees, at least, a reprieve.
State DOT officials planned to meet yesterday in the Sakura parking lot with workers, to coordinate the upcoming project.
Also there: Westport Town Representative Meeting members Andrew Colabella, Matthew Mandell, Harris Falk, Lou Mall and Don O’Day; Tree Boad members Ed Picard and Dick Stein; Betsy Newman of Earthplace; Sakura owner Nicole Chen, and landowner John Klinga.
And Westport Public Works director Peter Ratkiewich and town engineer Keith Wilberg.
When the DOT crew saw the news cameras, they hesitated. They expected a private site visit, not a public meeting.
The Westport officials agreed to merely listen in to the discussion. Eventually, they talked.
DOT noted that planning for the project began nearly a decade ago. A public information session was held at Town Hall on July 9, 2019 (and previewed on “06880” — though at that point the project start date was the summer of 2021).
Only a dozen or so people attended that meeting.
A follow-up story on “06880” a few days later focused on curb cuts, and entrances and exits of parking lots. It drew 9 comments.
No one mentioned trees.
At Sakura yesterday, a DOT official said that the time to protest the tree cutting was long gone. He noted that no trees not in the right-of-way would be touched. But many are in that zone.
Still, there was hope. The final decision about the fate of Sakura’s 2 weeping cherry trees is now in the hands of Eversource. They may assent to trimming, rather than removal.
Meanwhile, though the Tree Board has no jurisdiction — US 1 is a state road — they strongly support preservation of the Sakura trees. First Selectwoman Jen Tooker has indicated support for the board.
Whatever the fate of 2 of Westport’s most iconic — and beloved trees — one thing is certain: Nearly every other tree on that corridor will be gone.
Get ready for some traffic tie-ups too. Construction is slated to end in April.