Town plans major intersection improvement project
The town will soon begin work on a project that will improve the traffic flow at a key intersection in Darien.
The project will involve adding left turning lanes in two directions at Noroton Avenue and West Avenue.
The project— called the Noroton Avenue/West Avenue Intersection Improvement Project — was discussed at a public informational meeting on Thursday at Town Hall.
Two left hand turning lanes will be added, one in the north bound direction and one in the west bound direction. There will also be a full traffic signal replacement with pedestrian push buttons.
At the meeting, representatives from the transportation and engineering company Fuss & O’Neill in Manchester, as well as Jeremy Ginsberg, director of planning and zoning; and Ed Gentile, director of public works, spoke about the project and its expected outcome.
Aside from about 10 people, First Selectman Jayme Stevenson and Selectman Susan Marks were at the meeting.
According to Ginsberg, bidding and construction for the project will occur in 2020. Construction will begin in the spring of 2020 and probably take nine to11 months.
Gentile said he first looked at the intersection in June of 2014, and in 2016, a funding opportunity through LOTCIP (Local Transportation Capital Improvement Program) came available.
“We put together an application and requested $1.2 million in funds for construction and right-of-way acquisitions.”
The LOTCIP project is a local transportation capital improvement program that’s federally funded. The town’s share to get this project started would cover the design costs, which were $160,000. The special appropriation was approved in March of 2017, which kicked off the project, according to Gentile.
This project “will incorporate changes we believe will be a huge benefit to the public,” Gentile said.“It will allow better movement of vehicles through the intersection by adding left turning lanes in two directions.”
Ginsberg and Gentile will proceed with the easement acquisition phase of the project. They will get appraisals done on the properties that are impacted. “We will meet with those property owners to discuss appropriate compensation,” Gentile said.
Currently, there are seven total properties impacted by a permanent easement, a temporary easement, or both.
Kristen Solloway, vice president and project manager, said this is “an important” intersection in the town.“There are four different entities in the area. You are a couple blocks away from the train station, high school, and middle school. This is a direct route to Stamford. It’s highly congested.”
Marc Mancini, a transportation engineer, said the overall objective of this project is to alleviate some of the traffic and congestion on the northbound and westbound approaches to the intersection.
“Currently, the intersection has one lane approach in each direction with no left turn lanes,” Mancini said. “It’s pretty hard to get around those vehicles in such a tight space.”
In order to accommodate the left turn lanes, the roadway needs to be widened on each of the four corners, “with the most significant roadway widening appearing on the northeast and southwest corners on the intersection there,” Mancini said.
He added that the work will also alleviate any pedestrian safety concerns.
On each of the approaches, there will be new crosswalks and pedestrian ramps, and an update to the traffic signal with modifications being made to implement the left hand turn lanes in, Mancini said.
Final design plans of the project are expected to be completed in fall of 2019.
Business access will be maintained during construction.
“We are just in the process of hiring an appraiser to do the appraisal along the properties,” Gentile said. “After he has completed that, we will instruct him to contact the property owners and have a meeting with them, and show him what we had proposed in regards to compensation. From that point, he will give guidelines on what the property owner should do to avail themselves of more information.”
When the subject of the potential impact of people avoiding tolls on local roads came up, Stevenson said this concern has been a topic of discussion amongst some neighbors, “particularly some neighbors here on the Post Road.”
“It’s important that we get in front of that with the local traffic authority, which is the police commission. There are some things that should they be willing to do so, they can be proactive, looking at what local roadways we might be able to designate as no thru-trucks. That would certainly help somewhat,” Stevenson said. “So, it is an issue that is top of mind. I want you to be assured that we’re going to be watching it very closely.”