Town: Changes Coming to Traffic Islands at Mead Park To Improve Flow

Town officials plan this month to realign a traffic island in Mead Park so that motorists don’t cut the wrong way past it, and also to re-stripe the parking for areas that are expected to see heavier use with the newly turfed little league baseball infields. Public Work Director Tiger Mann told members of the Parks & Recreation Commission at their most recent meeting that the town wants to “try and manage the parking in and around the [Mead Park] Lodge” as well as the traffic that flows toward that area from the main entrance on Park Street. 

Specifically, the traffic island at the “T”—where the main parking lot approaches the tennis courts—will be reconfigured, with new hash marks to go down, to prevent drivers from zipping past it on the left. “Right now we have got a lot of people cutting to left of the island, even though we have signage that says ‘keep right,’ they are cutting to the left because it is a little bit wider in that area,” Mann told the Commission at its March 13 meeting, held in Town Hall. “If we if we reorient island—the tree to the western side of the island is in decline, so we are looking to take that out—realign the curb itself, making it straighter so that it will actually narrow down that left-hand lane, so people will be forced to go to the right and around the T,” he said. The town also will either curb or stripe an area below the traffic island to make it narrower and indicate to motorists that they should keep right as instructed, he said.

Here’s What’s Next for the Former ‘Mead Park Brick Barn’ Site

Town officials say they’re adopting a plan laid out by a local landscape architect to reimagine the northern portion of Mead Park where, until last week, a former fuel depot had stood for 100 years. 

The demolition of the “Mead Park Brick Barn,” which came nearly one year after the first selectman broke a tie on the Town Council to have it razed, clears the way for New Canaan to pursue a plan for the area that Keith Simpson Associates put forward several years ago. Plans call for an overhead sign announcing the new formal entrance to ‘Mead Park’ and commencement of the “Gold Star Walk,” an honorary walk in memory of New Canaanites who died in World War II that rings that side of Mead Pond. The footprint of the Brick Barn would remain as a plaza with native stone paving infill and seating that’s edged by ornamental fencing, an on-grade brick border and low plantings, under the Simpson plan, and a pedestrian path would run off of the back toward the Gold Star Walk itself. The small parking area next to the razed building would include six parking spaces, one for disabled drivers, and a bike rack would be added there, under the plan. Asked about the plans, Public Works Director Tiger Mann called the area “an underutilized side of the park.”

“Most people come in for the other side, with the Lodge and baseball fields and playground, so we want to promote usage of this side, we’re trying to make a nice entranceway,” he said.

New Access Road Connecting NCHS To Waveny Proposed, Including Parking Expansion

Saying New Canaan High School students already park in the area, town officials are proposing a new access road that will be flanked by parking, connecting the southernmost NCHS lot with an unpaved lot that will be improved and expanded to offer even more spaces. The new access road would run along the same line laid out by the pedestrian path that led to the former Summer Theatre of New Canaan site in Waveny Park and could be gated at either end for specific hours to control vehicular access to the high school, according to Public Works Director Tiger Mann. 

As it is, the unmilled parking area closest to the water towers yields about 25 parking spaces, or 40 when motorists pull onto the grass and in among trees that flank it, Mann told members of the Parks & Recreation Commission at their most recent meeting. “So the thought was to try and basically make the parking a little bit more uniform and maximize the amount of space that we have and maximize the amount of parking,” he said during the Commission’s March 13 meeting, held at Town Hall. “It’s not going to draw more cars—they are already here in the park—we want them not to park so haphazardly, on the grass and the canopy not under trees, compacting the soil and preventing air and water from getting to the trees and killing the trees.”

The plan would yield about 75 new spaces, he said. In addition, the expanded parking and improved ingress and egress to the the high school would improve emergency vehicle access to the campus, and would help serve new turf athletic fields that town officials envision using as a revenue source by hosting regional sports events, Mann said.

Town To Keep ‘No Turn on Red’ at Farm and South

Saying it makes the busy intersection of Farm Road and South Avenue safer, officials determined recently to preserve the ‘No Turn on Red’ signs there. 

Prompted by a New Canaan High School student who observed that about 40 percent of motorists before and after school turned right anyway at the stop lights at Farm and South, Public Works Director Tiger Mann had asked state transportation officials to study the intersection to see whether it might make sense to remove the signs.  Ultimately, the Connecticut Department of Transportation (South Avenue is a state road, Route 124) recommended keeping the signs, as more than 3,000 total vehicles move through the intersection daily at peak times, and more than 75 pedestrians and cyclists, mostly school-aged, walk across some part of the intersection on weekdays. “It was noted that there were more pedestrians crossing the intersection that did not make use of the pedestrian signals, particularly during the afternoon peak hour,” DOT Transportation Engineer Catherine Watras told the town in an email summary of the state’s findings. “These are the peak hours for vehicles, and the turning movement counts indicate even more pedestrians during the peak times for school aged pedestrians due to the elementary, middle, and high schools in the immediate vicinity with requirements for all students residing within certain distances to walk. The intersection falls within those distances for all age groups. Even though the Town authorities have indicated that a policeman is posted at the intersection during the morning and afternoon peak school pedestrian hours, the staggered times for school start and end times already span 45 minutes, resulting in less coverage for either the high school students that begin the school day earlier or the later younger elementary school students.”

Though a three-year crash history of the intersection shows no crashes involved right turns, that’s with the ‘No Turn on Red’ signs already in place (which they have been since 1978), Wattras said.

Town To Tap State Officials for Traffic Study on Dangerous Stretch of Route 123

Town officials say they’re tapping state officials to conduct a traffic study along Route 123 in the area of Michigan Road following a pair of serious car crashes there recently. It isn’t clear what can be done to make the intersection safer, though Police Deputy Chief John Federico said Tuesday the biggest problems appear to be that motorists on Michigan Road have poor sight lines for southbound traffic on Route 123, and that those traveling on the state road northbound have poor sight lines for those trying to enter the road. “Anything to clear up the line-of-sight in both directions would be a big help,” DiFederico said during a meeting of the Traffic Calming Work Group, held at police headquarters. Public Works Director Tiger Mann said that although there isn’t much vegetation right now blocking views, “there is a very large rock outcropping” that the state may need to look at. The outcropping is located on the east side of Route 123, just south of the Michigan Road intersection, he said.