‘It’s an issue of safety' — Darien officials, business owners push for more crosswalks on Post Road
It’s an accident waiting to happen, according to Bill Jensen, owner of the Darien Toy Box, when referring to the traffic on Boston Post Road near his store.
He’s hoping more crosswalks get installed into the area.
While there is a crosswalk at the corner of Leroy Avenue and Post Road, and another one at the intersection of Corbin Drive and Post Road, there is no crosswalk on Corbin Drive.
Through the window of his store, Jensen said he sees people throughout the day crossing the street from the Sugar Bowl Luncheonette and CVS by “walking straight across. They don't walk to the end of the street to cross.”
“It is dangerous to cut across,” Jensen said, adding he would like to see four more crosswalks put in. His neighbors on Post Road agree with him, he said.
"A good start would be putting a crosswalk on Corbin,” he added. As @ChiefToyMan on Instagram, Jensen has waged a good-natured campaign for crosswalks.
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Even our toy roads have crosswalks... Darien? #safetyfirst #darienneedscrosswalks #darientoybox #darienct #yourdowntowndarien
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Corrie Belardinelli, general manager of Helen Ainson boutique on Post Road, said she is also in support of getting more crosswalks in this location.
“If they were to put crosswalks here, not only would it be safer, but it would drive traffic to the local downtown Darien businesses," Belardinelli said.
Since Boston Post Road is a state road, the state of Connecticut and ConDOT (Connecticut Department of Transportation) has to approve any markings on it, such as crosswalks, according to First Selectman Jayme Stevenson.
“In the ideal world, they would give us permission to have the town paint crosswalks that we would then maintain,” Stevenson said.
However, obtaining that permission “is very difficult,” she said. “We have not been very successful in getting ConDOT to install additional crosswalks.”
Stevenson added that Darien has done a lot of studies of the Post Road corridor and the need for more crosswalks. In order to put in a need for a crosswalk, there has to be safe areas of refuge on both sides of the street.
“Although people do cross mid-block between Grieb’s Pharmacy and 1020 Post Road, you need to have a safe area of refuge for a crosswalk there,” Stevenson said.
She added that typically, crosswalks occur at natural intersections.
“You can’t throw a crosswalk in the street between the Verizon store and the Toy Box,” Stevenson said. “You need accommodations on the side of the road to receive the pedestrians.”
According to Darien Police Capt. Don Anderson, people are permitted to cross in the middle of the street at any time.
“Unlike New York, Connecticut has no jaywalking statute,” Anderson said. “If you cross anywhere except at an intersection, you can cross the street, but you must yield to cars.”
Within the past few months, police have asked the state DOT to put in a crosswalk that’s adjacent to the new Baywater Corbin complex that has recently been approved to be built.
The Corbin complex will be a mixed-use redevelopment of downtown Darien proposed by Baywater Properties. It has a 7.17-acre site area, spanning from Corbin Drive to the Bank of America building on Post Road.
The goal is to begin construction in the spring or summer of 2019, with the completion of the first phase of the project targeted for the fall of 2020. The project is expected to be completed in 2022.
“There is the potential for getting a crosswalk there since that will be the main driveway for the [complex],” Anderson said. “This will be a pretty substantial driveway.”
While the state does not allow a mid-block crosswalk, adding the driveway to the Corbin complex might not be considered a mid-block crosswalk, he said.
Creating a crosswalk, however, involves many steps and approvals, Anderson said.
“It’s not just a matter of going out there with a gallon of paint and a roller. You have to put in ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act]-compliant signage and handicapped ramps,” he said.
Anderson added, however, that the area has no more reported pedestrian accidents that any other location in town.
“We had one fatality there about 20 years ago,” Anderson said. “A husband and wife came out of the movie theater at night, and the husband was struck and killed between Corbin Drive and Bank of America.”
Baywater Properties Principal David Genovese said he aware of the crosswalk issue in the area.
“One of the fundamental goals of our project is to improve the walkability around downtown Darien,” Genovese said.
He said in order to do that, “we have to increase the real and perceived level of pedestrian safety. Right now, we don't have many crosswalks. We have a lot of curb cuts, which are driveways that lead to buildings along the Post Road.”
He added that there’s back-out parking along the stores from Frederic & Company to Green & Tonic, which “really doesn't create a pedestrian-friendly environment.”
Genovese said the Corbin Project is going to eliminate the back-out parking.
“We will be asking the State of Connecticut Department of Transportation to allow us to install crosswalks at Corbin and the Post Roads, and also mid-block by Green & Tonic,” he said.
He added that those requests will be part of his discussion with DOT.
“Those discussions are starting now,” Genovese said. “We had preliminary conversations about the project, but the specifics will start to be discussed in the next days and weeks.”
“It's all about creating awareness,” Jensen said. "We need safety first. Crosswalks slow traffic down."
He added that the speed limit on the Post Road is 25 miles per hour, but “it looks like people are going much faster than that.”
"The crosswalks would tell people, ‘Hey, slow down or be cautious,’” Jensen said. "There is no excuse not to have a crosswalk."