Tag Archives: Jennifer Johnson

Ins And Outs Of Post Road Shopping Centers

On July 8, representatives from Connecticut’s Department of Transportation gave a public presentation on proposed work on the Post Road. Much of it involves the stretch between Fresh Market, and the Roseville/Hillspoint Road intersection.

The $5.3 million project (80% federally funded, 20% state funds) would include special left-turn-only lanes, as well as traffic signals, curbing, curb ramps, sidewalks and crosswalks.

Proposals for the Post Road near Fresh Market.

Alert “06880” reader Jennifer Johnson agrees with many of the ideas. However, she also has concerns. She wrote the DOT about several, including the need for a sidewalk on the south side from Mitchells to the fire station, and care of the cherry trees in front of the Volvo dealer.

However, what really caught my eye was this:

Eliminate multiple single-property curb cuts. There are an excessive number of curb cuts (17) on both sides of the road, from the traffic light at Fresh Market to the light at Roseville/Hillspoint Road.

The number of curb cuts is a source of danger to people regardless of how they travel (foot, car or bicycle). Now is the time to correct problems that have evolved as the Post Road developed.

There are many ways in and out of the shopping centers, and adjacent lots.

I never thought about that — but now that I have, it makes a lot of sense.

Why do we need so many entrances and exits at Fresh Market? Across the street, there are also a number of ways to get into and out of the Dunkin’ Donuts/UPS Store/Westport Hardware/Mumbai Times lot. (No one ever calls it by its official no-meaning name, Village Center.)

There are other spots in town too with multiple entrances and exits, like Stop & Shop, and Aux Delices/Carvel/Stiles.

There are only a couple of ways in and out of the CVS/Trader Joe’s clusterf***. But at the end of her email, Jennifer notes that this intersection appears to have been ignored by DOT.

Finally, she asks that one person be appointed to oversee and coordinate all of DOT’s Westport projects (there are others besides the Fresh Market initiative).

Great idea! I nominate Jennifer Johnson for the job.

(For full details of the project on the Westport town website, click here. Questions about the Post Road project can be sent to  the CT DOT project manager: Brian.Natwick@ct.com)

Proposed work at the Post Road/Roseville/Hillspoint intersection.

Protesters Face PURA At Water Tower Site Visit

You’ve seen the yard signs up and down North Avenue.

On Thursday, members of the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority did too.

They came to Westport last week, on a site visit to the proposed location of 2 concrete water towers. Aquarion hopes to build them — as replacements and improvements on the one current, much smaller facility — directly opposite Staples High School.

Jennifer Johnson joined several other opponents at the regulators’ site visit.

She was not impressed.

PURA members and protesters at the Aquarion North Avenue water tower site visit on Thursday.

“Aquarion didn’t mark out the rough location of the proposed tanks, or mark the trees that are coming down, and/or float a balloon so people could visualize the tanks’ height (squished into a small site),” she says. “Isn’t that the point of a site inspection?

Johnson reports that a few non-Aquarion attendees tried to mark the location of one of the new tanks by standing in the woods at the proposed center, then walking 50 feet in each direction. “It was only partly successful,” she says.

Johnson and her group hoped to convey some of their opposite to the PURA members. They printed out their main objections, part of a fact sheet originally compiled by Save Westport Now:

●  As currently planned, the new tank will not solve the water pressure problems in Westport. Even if the new tanks are built, the majority of fire hydrants in town will still be deficient.

●  The new tanks will allow Aquarion to “push” more water to other parts of Fairfield County, begging the question: Can’t they find another site for the second tank, in a less residential area?

An aerial view shows the North Avenue Aquarion tank site, opposite Staples High School.

●  During the proposed 2-plus-year construction period, trucks and industrial excavators will clog North Avenue and streets around Staples. Combined with traffic from Bedford Middle School and the loss of the sidewalk, it’s a disaster waiting to happen. Yet Aquarion remains delinquent in providing a basic construction plan.

●  The real problem is not just the size of the tanks, but the obsolete and undersized water mains that run beneath our roads.

●  To make matters worse, the new tanks are likely to create bigger problems. The large increase in water capacity can lead to stale water.

●  Aquarion has finally acknowledged the problem with the water mains, and agreed to minor upgrades. It’s a step in the right direction, but it’s not enough. (Aquarion is a for-profit monopoly. Its interest in rewarding shareholders does not necessarily align with residents’ or customers’ interests.)

●  Westport could wind up with 2 extremely ugly tanks, more expensive water—and still have a water pressure problem.

A photo shows the height of the proposed new water tanks.

Opponents ask PURA to require a “full independent review and comprehensive plan for upgrading Westport’s water infrastructure.”

They also want Westport’s Planning & Zoning Commission to have the authority to revoke the permit for this project. That way, they say, “Westport and Aquarion can move forward with a workable plan for rebuilding our water infrastructure for the next century.”

Several town officials, including the fire chief, have testified that the towers are necessary for safety.

PURA will hold a public hearing on Thursday, December 20 (9:30 a.m., 10 Franklin Square, New Britain), to consider Aquarion’s proposed towers.

Another Mid-Day, Perfect Weather Crash Ties Up Post Road

The number of automobile accidents that occur here in broad daylight, with beautiful weather, is truly astonishing.

This one happened late this morning, on the Post Road across from the Westport Inn.

(Photo/Jennifer Johnson)

(Photo/Jennifer Johnson)

Fortunately, no one was hurt.

This time.

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)



Where The Sidewalks End

“06880” reader Jennifer Johnson writes:

On a Friday in late August, Kaeleigh, a Staples High School sophomore did what many Westporters do on a perfect summer day:  She headed out for a jog to Compo Beach.

Before leaving, Kaeleigh and her mom agreed on her route. Kaeleigh would use the crosswalk on Bridge Street in front of the old Saugatuck Elementary School (now senior housing), instead of crossing further east at the busy intersection with South Compo Road.

Kaeleigh’s run was cut frighteningly short. As she crossed Bridge Street, Kaeleigh was hit by a car traveling eastbound. Evidently the driver never saw her. The impact propelled Kaeleigh onto the hood of the car. Her head smashed the windshield. She is still recuperating.

We don’t know why the driver didn’t see Kaeleigh, or why she didn’t see the car. It’s a flat, open stretch of road with long sight lines. Kaeleigh thought it would be fine to use the crosswalk. However, she was mistaken. The decades-old crosswalk she relied upon has been removed.

Bridge Street, where Kayleigh was hit.

Bridge Street, where Kayleigh was hit.

Kaeleigh could be forgiven for her mistake. The fact that the crosswalk was supposedly discontinued is not obvious. On the north side there are curb cut marks in the sidewalk, while on the south side the sidewalk ends at the crosswalk. In any event, if she didn’t cross there she would have had to navigate past cars turning in various directions at the Compo intersection.

We all face similar obstacles when we try to walk or jog around Westport: sidewalks come to an end, shoulders are too narrow for road-sharing, temporary signs block sidewalks, people are forced to walk behind parked cars, etc.  But unlike Kaeleigh most of us don’t have to live with the consequences of being hit by a car….yet.

We have failed to make Westport safe for pedestrians. Despite our stated goals in multiple town plans, and the strong desire across all demographics for improved pedestrian safety and access, we’re not making progress. Road congestion is increasing, new developments are cropping up everywhere, and more people have been injured or killed on our streets. We force people to stand in the road to wait for a bus, lead people down sidewalks that abruptly end, and force families to walk in roads that are designed and maintained solely for cars.  Westport can and must do better.

Kayleigh, with a friend.

Kayleigh, with a friend.

Across the country, and throughout our region (including Norwalk), towns are embracing the goal of making their streets “complete.” That means planning and maintaining streets to allow safe and convenient access for users of all ages and abilities regardless of their mode of transportation, whether walking, bicycling, driving and riding public transportation.

In the case of Bridge Street, there are many options to make it more “complete”: adding better signage, road markings and plantings to help alert drivers; adding road cameras or other tools to help enforce speed limits; creating wider shoulders and/or sidewalks on both sides of the road.

Westport needs a “Complete Street” plan for Bridge Street, and town-wide leadership and funding to make it happen — there, and on all of our 120 miles of public roadways.

How many more Kaeleighs will it take?

Trains Suck, But Transit District Ridership Soars

It’s one bit of good news on the commuter front: Though Westporters suffer daily woes on Metro-North trains, many more folks ride Westport Transit District buses to board them.

Combined with after-school increases, the WTD projects a near 11% rise in riders this year. After a decade of dwindling numbers — both a cause and effect of funding and service cuts — that’s impressive news indeed.

From July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013, the WTD carried 63,000 riders. This year, it’s on track for 70,000. And that includes 3 weeks when Metro-North’s worst woes kept nearly everyone off the rails.

The ridership increases work out to 8.5% for fixed-route commuter buses, and 40% in after-school riders. One of the key after-school routes is to Earthplace, where several dozen students have internships.

A Westport transit bus makes a pickup at Saugatuck station.

A Westport transit bus makes a pickup at Saugatuck station.

Jim Ross — chair of the Westport Citizens Transit Committee — ties much of the increase to the “huge efforts” of unpaid transit directors Jennifer Johnson and Gene Cedarbaum.

“They’ve single-handedly upped the WTD’s game by tirelessly working with state, town and business communities to raise awareness and support,” Ross says.

He also cites a “smart, cost-effective marketing effort” that includes internet and social media efforts, new route and schedule brochures, train station signage, and community outreach programs.

Today, for example, the WTD is handing out brochures — and free coffee — at Westport’s train stations.

The Westport bus shuttle map.

The Westport bus shuttle map.

Early next month, they’ll unveil a “transit info kiosk” at the Senior Center. It will contain brochures and information about all Westport transportation options, from WTD buses to shared-ride services and taxis.

“We haven’t reinvented the wheel,” Ross says. (It’s unclear whether his pun was intentional or not.)

“But this is a bit of proof that if we get information out to people, they realize there’s a need. This isn’t the Friends of the Library. It’s not a charity. It’s public transportation, which is as un-sexy as it gets. But it is a service. Citizens are showing that they want it.

“If town officials really commit to this — if they move from a discussion of ‘Should we have it?’ to ‘This is a town gem’ — we can really move forward.”

As budget season begins, the wheels on Westport’s bus service are clearly on a roll.