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Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Plan to Reduce Commuter Lot Exits Stirs Controversy

UPDATE A $1.5 million plan to renovate a Saugatuck commuter parking lot that would reduce its five exits to one and prolong the commute home for its users has stirred controversy.

WestportNow.com Image
Five exits from Lot No. 1 would be reduced to one under the proposed plan. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

The Representative Town Meeting (RTM) Transit Committee considered the plan at its Tuesday night meeting, and in the end voted 3 to 3 on the proposal, thus failing to recommend it.

Member Jeff Wieser, District 4, who was absent Tuesday night, said today he would have been the tie breaker by voting to approve the plan affecting Lot No. 1.

Two weeks ago, he voted in favor of the plan at a joint meeting of the RTM’s Finance Committee, of which Wieser is chairman, and the Public Works Committee, which both gave the proposed appropriation unanimous approval.

Tuesday night’s vote, which is only a committee recommendation for full RTM consideration June 7, was deadlocked because some members objected to reducing the lot’s exits from five to one.

Police Chief Foti Koskinas said the time for commuters to exit the lot could increase perhaps by six minutes.

RTM members Jessica Bram, Jennifer Johnson and Kristan Hamlin voted no.

WestportNow.com Image
Town officials say the lot has numerous potholes and poor drainage. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

“We on the Transit Committee are the ones who are most connected with the design and concerned over how this would actually affect commuters,” said Bram.

“We’re fully in agreement that safety is a primary issue, which is the basis upon which the other committees approved it.

“Those of us voting against it were concerned about the reduction to only one exit,” she added.

Bram said Koskinas told the committee that there also would be two manned emergency exits in the lot.

“But that’s different from the day-to-day functional access,” Bram said. “We wanted to see more design modifications that will make it better for commuters.”

Added Wieser: “I commuted for a lot of years and I don’t want to burden the commuter, but I guess I’m taking the word of traffic engineer that safety outweighs any possible hold up, and I don’t believe there will be a hold up.”

The Board of Finance approved the amount at its May 4 meeting.

Wieser said he based his support on information from John Broadbin, deputy director of public works, and Koskinas, who had headed Railroad Parking.

They have said that the potholed lot needed to be repaved, have proper drainage and be up to Connecticut Department of Transportation (CDOT) code.

The renovation is also expected to reduce the lot’s number of parking spaces from 320 to 310.

“Clearly, the lot has to be repaved; it’s a mess,” Wieser said. “And as far as the perceived wait time goes, it’s kind of hard to say.

“Right now you have the same number of cars exiting the lot and bleeding into the same road, Park Street.

“The traffic engineers reported to us that safety required us to have one curb cut instead of five,” he added.

“You will have the same volume leading out onto Park Street, which will make it safer.”

This story has been updated with comments from Bram.

—James Lomuscio

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Posted 06/01/16 at 03:02 PM  Permalink



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This entire concept is truly a shame.  For a town that is highly dependent upon the tax revenues from commuters, it has very little intelligent forethought into reducing the hurdles for a smooth commute.  7- year waiting list to actually get a parking permit, poor parking conditions and an inability to think into the future as to what is best for the town, housing values and etc.  Reducing entrances to parking will make the town a less desirable place to commute from, adding manned emergency exits will increase cost and overtime and no one will win.

How about the RTM spend the time to figure out how to reduce the time it takes to get a permit, how to expand the parking with the limited space that is available and reduce the manned hours monitoring this archaic infrastructure.  How about looking into a multi tier parking facility, a build to suit with a ground lease with a third party operator?

Posted by Daniel R DeFazio on June 02, 2016 at 10:44 AM | #
 

The Railroad Parking administration in conjunction with the public works department and a consulting engineer devised the improvement plan for Lot 1 through a competitive RFP process.  The project involves not just paving, but drainage, lighting, and security measures as wells as sidewalks, staircase, and pedestrian walkways.

As a 25-year commuter, I often park in Lot 1 and have noted the unsafe access and egress conditions.  The site lines and road grade issues in the “Y” configured intersection is a safety hazard.  It’s like a bumper car ride at a local carnival.

For me, I’m for safety first and I delegate the planning and engineering to the experts.

Posted by Joseph Sledge on June 02, 2016 at 09:09 PM | #
 

What about, Imperial Avenue and Compo Road were people aggressively speed?  What about people hit and died while crossing the post road.? This is where the focus on safety should be not a parking lot that sees traffic a few hours at the end of a long commute.  I agree with Mr. DeFazio It is truly a shame.  Once again Westport bureaucracy is hard at work to spend money in the wrong direction.

Posted by Ryan Donoghue on June 03, 2016 at 07:49 AM | #