Darien residents pushing for sidewalks on Hoyt Street
If your early morning commute has ever involved jumping into the weeds that have overgrown on the road's shoulder, then you probably live on, or near, Hoyt Street.
Darien residents Holly Schulz and David Kahn regularly commute to New York City from the Tallmadge Hill train station. Despite the fact that both live only minutes from the station, neither feels comfortable walking on Hoyt Street and would rather pay hundreds of dollars for parking passes in lieu of paying with their lives on a stretch of road that lacks any type of sidewalk.
"You always need a light this time of year," Schulz said as Kahn flipped on a small, blinking light that he has clipped to his shoulderbag, "otherwise you're likely to get run over."
Kahn agreed and said the night time is especially bad because people tend to swerve over the lines more.
At the intersection of Tallmadge Hill and Hoyt Street, Kahn stopped to point across the road at an area of grass and hard packed dirt.
"The Department of Transportation has plans to add about 500 more parking spots," Kahn said. "I think it would be cheaper to just build sidewalks and get people walking to the station again."
One of the issues with the Tallmadge station is that the municipal parking lots near the top of the hill require people to pay to park.
"There's a problem sometimes where the pay machines will get backed up and then you miss your train," Kahn said. Schulz, who said she was clipped twice by vehicles while walking on Hoyt Street, eventually sank $800 into a parking pass.
Over the past few months, Schulz and other residents have attended the Board of Selectmen meetings to draw attention to the issue. Schulz said she has personally approached the selectmen three times, and has written numerous e-mails and letters.
"We met with some of the town officials at the corner of Tallmadge Hill and Hoyt Street and we literally had traffic cut them [town officials] off," Schulz said. Those town officials have included First Selectman David Campbell, Democratic Selectmen David Bayne and Callie Sullivan, State Sen. Bob Duff, State Rep. Terrie Wood and Metro- North Community Council member Jim Cameron.
Despite Schulz's efforts, she and Kahn both feel their pleas are going unheard.
"We got a petition that was signed by residents along this road and it was submitted 18 months ago," Kahn said. "We never received any feedback."
One of the arguments voiced by the BOS is that Hoyt Street is a state road, meaning the town cannot install sidewalks. Schulz felt such an argument was simply a cop-out.
"The state road arguments is a bunch of crap," Schulz said. "The state wouldn't balk over Darien installing sidewalks with money from our own budget."
Both Schulz and Kahn felt strongly that sidewalks would only be built if the town provided the money.
"This area is part of the Gold Coast and the state thinks it's a rich area, which it is," Schulz quickly added, "but the state will never give us the funds to build sidewalks with the shape the economy is in."
In past years, the state has paved Hoyt Street, built curbs and installed drainage, Schulz said.
"It's infuriating because they [the state] could easily have built sidewalks at the same time," said Schultz.
Even though there are sections of Hoyt Street where the shoulder is wider and allows for more room between pedestrians and vehicles, Kahn pointed out that it isn't enough. At that moment, a vehicle that had cut a corner a little too sharply nearly clipped Kahn as he spoke.
The corner the vehicle cut around was one that residents refer not so affectionately to as the "death curve."
"Cars have crashed at the end of my driveway because they can't see vehicles that have slowed down to turn into the country club," Schulz said. "I've drawn a line at the end of my driveway that my kids aren't allowed to cross while waiting for the bus."
First A call to New Canaan First Selectman Jeb Walker was not immediately returned as of press time. The road connects Darien to New Canaan.
First Selectman David Campbell said he is not willing to do anything until the state approves the project.
Republican Selectman Jayme Stevenson, who has also walked the road, said if the project is approved, New Canaan's participation would be necessary so that Darien doesn't build "a sidewalk to nowhere."
She also mentioned the state requires sidewalks be handicap accessible
To further accentuate the need for sidewalks, Schulz designed a map that showed all of the sidewalks in town. It was at that point that she made an interesting discovery.
"There aren't any sidewalks in the north end of town," Schulz said. "That bothers me."
"The fact that I had to make a map was very telling," Schulz said about the town's desire to build sidewalks.
She also pointed out that she knew of commuters who were driving across town to another train station because of the difficulties of getting to Tallmadge Hill.