Darienites fear for children walking along busy stretch of Route 1
DARIEN — John Corbett has lived in Darien since 2010, on a portion of the Post Road ominously dubbed “the Flats.”
It is on this strip of road, from its intersection with Old Kings Highway South to Spring Grove Cemetery, where there are no stop signs or stoplights to impede vehicles rapidly gathering speed and there is no separation between the sidewalk and the road. The Flats is a stretch of road town officials have identified as a speed zone.
Corbett’s daughter, a freshman in high school, regularly walks the stretch of road from Noroton Avenue to the family’s home near the Post Road’s intersection with Renshaw Road. On a recent Friday, as she walked eastbound on the northbound side of the road, swinging her sweatshirt on her right arm, a speeding car came dangerously close and made contact with the article of clothing.
“It actually hit a car, from the sidewalk, that’s how close and how fast. And it swung up and hit her in the back of the head,” Corbett said of the sweatshirt at a Monday meeting of the Board of Selectmen. “The speed in ‘The Flats’ and the proximity to the sidewalk is terrifying,” Corbett said.
Corbett was one of a group of concerned Post Road residents who attended the meeting, at which improvements to the state-owned Route 1 corridor was a subject.
Earlier in 2017, according to First Selectman Jayme Stevenson, the town got word the state Department of Transportation had plans to repave the Post Road from Stamford to Norwalk.
“I got very excited about that because we had on the shelf the Southwestern Regional Planning Authority’s Route 1 Corridor Study,” Stevenson said.
Included in that report was a proposed “Road Diet” along the busy stretch of road that runs parallel to Interstate 95 and often attracts drivers stuck in traffic on the highway looking for a speedy alternate route, according to officials.
The road diet would have sought to reduce lane widths, number of lanes and add amenities like crosswalks, sidewalks and signage.
Proponents of the diet, including Stevenson, were hopeful the diet might slow down traffic along stretches like the Flats, make the Post Road less attractive to motorists traveling on I-95 and make the route safer for pedestrians and cyclists.
Opponents, including the Police Commission, which is the town’s traffic authority, were wary of the ways in which it would add to congestion after a peer review of the authority’s plan from Mike Galante, of Frederick P. Clarke Associates, suggested the diet might exacerbate already poor traffic conditions.
The commission voted down instituting the plan at its Aug. 23 meeting, and the state DOT has since put the kibosh on executing SWRPA’s plan.
But Stevenson, the Board of Selectmen and the Police Commission are developing a set of improvements separate from the state’s plans that would include improved crosswalks and sidewalks, especially near Hindley Elementary School and the stretch of the road on which Shake Shack and Darien Library sit, and dynamic speed signs near the YMCA.
“Those are the things that we are working toward, in light of the fact that we can’t have a road diet,” Stevenson said.
The Police Commission were to have discussed improvements at its Wednesday, Sept. 13, meeting.
“Somebody is going to get killed,” said Michael Kiernan, also of the Post Road. “We have to do something for the kids.”
With him were his wife, Pamela Kiernan, who has been a vocal proponent of increased pedestrian safety in the area; Autumn Howard, who collected 71 signatures on a petition asking for improved safety measures on the road, and Joe Calve, whose four children walk or bike to school most days of the year.
“I’m so fearful for my children that they’re going to end up smashed. I mean, I’m afraid to walk with them,” Calve said.