New Canaan’s legislative body last week voted unanimously to approve the town’s use of state funds to create a long-discussed new sidewalk that will run from the top of Elm Street to the entrance of Irwin Park.
To be anchored by crosswalks at either end, the new sidewalk will run about 5,000 feet along the west side of Weed Street and comes after the Connecticut Office of Policy and Management in June awarded New Canaan a $150,000 grant.
Town Council Vice Chairman Steve Karl said the new sidewalk “is going to do a lot to that area to access Irwin Park and to complete that sidewalk up Elm.”
“It’s amazing when people walk in that area of the condos, the grocery store, that area—it’s amazing how much pedestrian traffic has increased on that part of Elm Street over the years,” Karl said at the Town Council’s regular meeting, held Sept. 21 at Town Hall. “So I applaud the effort, I think it will make it a lot safer, that’s a dangerous intersection as it is, getting across it is tough. We’ve been talking to [Department of Public Works Assistant Director] Tiger [Mann] about it for years, this is going to do a lot to improve it.”
DPW Director Michael Pastore credited Town Planner Steve Kleppin with identifying and applying for the grant, backed by the selectmen and Board of Finance earlier this year.
Pastore said there’s nothing attached to accepting the state grant that’s surprising.
“It doesn’t tie the town into some long-term program or policy,” Pastore said.
Construction could start next spring, he said.
Councilmen asked Pastore how often New Canaan goes to the state for money in this way (there are grants every year though the town typically loses out to larger municipalities such as Greenwich, Norwalk and Stamford), whether there will be pedestrian-activated crossing signs at the crosswalks on Weed (they’re not in the current plan but can be inserted), whether the crosswalks would be red brick or concrete (concrete, and located three feet off the road with a grass verge in between) and how many trees have to come out along Weed Street to make way for the sidewalk (about a half-dozen on the south end of Weed and they’re not great trees).
An engineering plan (see PDF below) for the new sidewalk calls for a crosswalk from the south side of Elm where it comes into Weed, directly across the street to where the new sidewalk would begin. As traffic officials already have discussed, the town would additionally put in stop signs on Weed, creating a three-way stop there.
Asked by Karl how the intersections’ crosswalks would be configured, Pastore said a second set of crosswalks would run from the northeastern corner of Irwin Park, straight across Wahackme Road and then across Weed Street.
“The reason is to get to the eastern bound of the Land Trust property in back of the New Canaan Nature Center,” Pastore said.
He referred to a planned “greenway” that could see a pedestrian-friendly path off of Weed Street and through the woods just beyond Irwin, including a conservation easement and Land Trust property, to the Nature Center.
A loop that starts there and brings pedestrians down Oenoke Ridge Road and into downtown New Canaan on Main Street and then back up Elm to Weed and Irwin would total about 5.5 miles, Pastore said.