Town Council Approves Elm-to-Irwin Sidewalk; Construction Could Start in April

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.

Irwin Park on the morning of Sept. 16, 2016. Looking eastward up the meadow toward the house. Credit: Susan Bergen

Irwin Park on the morning of Sept. 16, 2016. Looking eastward up the meadow toward the house. Credit: Susan Bergen

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.

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9 thoughts on “Town Council Approves Elm-to-Irwin Sidewalk; Construction Could Start in April

  1. This is fantastic. More pedestrian access makes our town safer and easier to walk in which is very healthy for all of us.

  2. Kudos to everyone for getting this project approved! How about approaching the State to fund a bike path along Oenoke Ridge? So many walkers, runners and bikers use this road now, and a bike path would be a great tourist attraction!

  3. In my opinion, we’re getting a little out of hand with sidewalks and pedestrian crosswalks. Have you ever considered drivers? Anytime you introduce crosswalks in an area where the speed limit is 25mph (the cars will be doing 35-40mph, as they are on Weed Street) you are inviting the type of accident that you are hoping to prevent. In fact, the less frequently a pedestrian crosswalk is used, the more dangerous it is because drivers will naturally get complacent. I’m also not in favor of tearing up more natural green space/trees. One of the things that distinguishes the west side of New Canaan is that you immediately enter a leafy residential neighborhood when you turn off of Elm onto Weed. For those who want to walk to Irwin Park, there is plenty of walking room on either side of Weed Street. I know, because I’ve done it for 50 years. Please consider leaving things as they are. Life in NC is okay without more expensive do-gooder projects.

    • I could not disagree more. I have several children who like to bike to Saxe weather permitting. They have to cross Weed Street at ~7-8am Monday-Friday to do so. I encourage people against the sidewalk to attempt to do this during that time. I have stood and watched when they first began to ride their bikes. At times it takes several minutes to get an opening to quickly cross as cars are racing south and north on Weed Street to get to the train station. There is no stop sign in either direction. Watching both ways while simultaneously watching cars at the stop sign on Elm St. is quite the challenge for a middle school cyclist.

        • Discouraging kids from riding bikes to school by saying “bus provided” is silly. However, while a three-way stop sign and crosswalk at the top of Elm is a good idea, for pedestrians and for motorists, a sidewalk is not needed as there is an ample shoulder to walk on in front of Irwin. If there is a stop sign the bikers can cross safely there with the flow of traffic. The anti-biking guy is right about that, we do not need to pave nice green areas.

          • For what it’s worth, I don’t think the town should be involved if some parents want their children to occasionally ride their bikes more than 2 miles to school. What I’m most opposed to is the tentacles of the village extending into more residential neighborhoods. Introducing a three-way stop at Weed and Elm is a major change after 80+/- years. It’s nerve-wracking driving in our downtown these days with all of the crosswalks, many of them new. Even when obeying the speed limit, cars are going at varying levels of generally high speed, while pedestrians are walking 2-3 miles per hour. That’s why we’re taught as children to be careful crossing the road on foot because the car usually wins if there’s a collision (duh). A pedestrian crosswalk isn’t a force field. These days, you’re lucky if a pedestrian even acknowledges that you stopped for them which is a clear sign that they are gaining a false sense of security because of some white paint on the road. In my opinion, we’re giving pedestrians too much power, with potentially harmful consequences, slowing down traffic outside of the village, and completely overlooking the responsibility that comes with driving a car.

  4. The Weed Street sidewalk is up and running and appears to be getting good use. Does anyone know the status of the path to the Nature Center to “connect up the town parks”?

  5. This is a fantastic project, I’m already seeing more people using the sidewalk to walk to town and the park.

    In my opinion walkers are reducing traffic and parking requirements, So while cars may have to go the speed limit for a change to stop, I have a hard time being sympathetic to a driver getting a place a few seconds earlier, vs creating a safer crossing for a walker.

    If we are trying to keep people in town, elderly, kids etc, all benefit from being outside and walking vs. driving an parking. Connecting town resources together, whether it be Irwin to town, or Mead Park to Pine street will encourage people to spend time in town and money which will benefit businesses and townspeople.

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