Officials last week approved funds to complete the first and major piece of long-planned “bump-outs” along the one-way stretch of Elm Street downtown, widening stretches of sidewalks and effectively making permanent some of the additional outdoor dining spaces in the heart of downtown New Canaan.
The Board of Selectmen during its regular meeting on March 22 voted 3-0 in favor of three contracts—$18,043.12 for granite curbing, $14,684.16 for brick and $59,820 for labor.
The “bump-out” will run a total of 270 feet along the north side of Elm Street, from the intersection at South Avenue to the Playhouse, according to Public Works Director Tiger Mann. It will increase the width of the sidewalk by eight feet, he said.
“This is in conjunction with trying to increase pedestrian safety in the area, shorten the travel distances across the street, specifically at the Playhouse and at South Avenue where we’ve got a crossing there,” Mann told the selectmen at the meeting, held in Town Hall and via videoconference.
The town also has seen many people parking in no-parking zones created four summers ago, as per state law, that are within 25 feet of pedestrian crosswalks on Elm.
“We are still getting people parking in there and now they are actually parking over the crosswalk, blocking the pedestrian ramps,” Mann said. “We are getting a lot of abuse in the area and a lot of difficulty trying to manage it, so the feeling is that if we just hard-panned it we necessarily avoid all of those problems and all those issues, and the subsequent part of that is that we reduce the pedestrian crossing distance, which increases safety, reduce speeds probably a little bit—speeds are already quite low on Elm Street. And then we get the additional benefit of allowing additional space for outdoor dining, which has been a success since we did Forest Street in 2007-08.”
First Selectman Kevin Moynihan and Selectmen Kathleen Corbet and Nick Williams voted 3-0 in favor of the contracts.
The selectmen asked Mann whether the labor contract includes material (no they’re supplied by the town), whether the existing granite curbing will remain in place (yes), whether the bump-outs will be flush with the existing sidewalks (yes), whether the new bump-outs will preclude the need for the water-filled plastic barriers now in place (yes), how many parking spots will be lost with the bump-outs (five) and whether restaurants further down Elm toward Main will get bump-outs also (that’s being looked at and would require approvals).
Public Works officials said last spring that the overall bump-out plan would result in no overall loss of parking spaces, since spaces lost due to some crosswalks on Elm would be regained, and that the plan would see additional 15-minute spaces installed.
The Police Commission voted 2-1 in favor of the plan last June. It calls for bump-outs of the sidewalk on either side of the crosswalk in front of the Bank of America building on Elm, and a bump-out of the sidewalk at the southeast corner of South and Elm.