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RTM Approves Funds for ‘Main to Train’ Study

By James Lomuscio

Westport’s Representative Town Meeting (RTM) tonight voted unanimously to approve $37,500 for a “Main to Train” multimodal transportation study.

WestportNow.com Image
Westport’s downtown traffic lights don’t “talk” to each other, the RTM was told tonight. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

The approval came despite some public pushback that the study’s focus was too narrow, and that a townwide traffic study was in order.

The funds to come from the Railroad Parking Expense Account represent Phase 2 of a study to identify vehicle, pedestrian and bicycle travel concerns between Main Street and the Saugatuck train station.

The study to be conducted by the Florida-based engineering and consulting firm NV5 Holdings, Inc. will also explore synchronizing traffic lights at the intersections of Main Street and Parker Harding Plaza and East Main Street and Route 33.

Retired Public Works Director Stephen Edwards, who said he is staying on for a couple of months to transition some of his projects to his successor Pete Ratkiewich, made the request for the $37,500.

The amount represents about 20 percent of the approximate $182,000 cost, with the remainder being paid by the Western Connecticut Council of Governments (WestCOG).

“We’re looking for ways to cross the Post Road and how we could incorporate crosswalks and pedestrian friendly lighting,” he said of the corridor study. “Right now these lights don’t talk to each other.”

According to Peter Gold of the RTM Transit Committee, a draft of NV5’s study should be available within 12 to 18 months.

Former RTM member Jennifer Johnson, who had also served as co-director of the Westport Transit District, urged the legislative body to vote against the request and instead have townwide traffic study that involved Westport residents and not an outside consultant.

“Over the past five years, Westport has done $1 million in studies that are related to this study,” Johnson said, pulling out binders from her bag, studies she said that sat on shelves.

“If I was on the RTM, at this point I would not vote for this,” she said. ”I would encourage you not to throw money at this.”

Former RTM member Richard Lowenstein, who serves on the Greens Farms Association Board, said that while he did not oppose the corridor study, “studies are no substitute for action.”

“I’m in favor of a continuing effort to keep track of traffic in Westport, and I urge studies that are continuing,” Lowenstein said.

Edwards said that while the corridor study will not solve all the town’s traffic problems, it is a starting point for the town to mend its breached relationship with the Connecticut Department of Transportation (CDOT).

“This is our latest opportunity to get a dialogue with the DOT, which for years they have been avoiding; they don’t like us,” he said. “This is our attempt to bring them back to the table.

“It will not solve all the town’s problems, but if I can’t get five lights to talk to each other, how am I going to get 15 lights to talk to each other?’ Edwards added. “This project is a DOT sanctioned project.”

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