Town officials say they’ve hired a traffic engineer to review a plan to bump out sidewalks on Elm Street.
Michael Galante, director of traffic at Norwalk-based Hardesty & Hanover LLC, has been hired “to come out and take a look at Elm Street, review a bump-out plan for us, a sidewalk bump-out plan,” according to Public Works Director Tiger Mann.
“He is going to be doing a little bit of traffic study and a little bit of speed study on Elm Street, the main business section,” Mann told members of the Police Commission during their regular meeting, held March 17 via videoconference. “There was a request to have the speed limit dropped there, and then we’d like him to take a look at that. So he will be out there in the next couple of weeks to look at that and then we are hoping to come back to you in April with some findings.”
The Commission’s next regular meeting is scheduled for April 21.
It wasn’t clear what portions of Elm Street sidewalks would be “bumped out” under the town’s plan, what businesses would benefit, whether the plan would result in loss of parking spaces or whether the town will solicit public input on the changes.
It also wasn’t clear who asked for the speed limit on Elm Street to be lowered, though First Selectman Kevin Moynihan did reference it during a Board of Selectmen meeting the prior month. On Feb. 23, during a separate discussion on the library’s rebuilding plans, Moynihan (an Elm Street resident) said, “The other things is, I don’t what the rule is, Tiger, but I have this ongoing battle with Tiger as to why we can’t lower the speed limit on some roads downtown. Especially Elm Street. What is it, 25 miles an hour? I mean, it drives me crazy, to have people driving 25 miles an hour on Elm Street.”
During its meeting, the Commission voted 3-0 to extend through April 19 the sidewalk and street configurations, including barricades, that have been in effect since last May (and extended periodically since then).
Town officials said they chose that date because that’s when Gov. Ned Lamont’s execute orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic expire. Lamont in February extended executive orders related to the public health emergency until April 20. Sector rules that have been in place since March 19 allow capacity limits up to 100% while requiring six-foot spacing “where possible” and mask wearing in public settings where social distancing is not possible.
Tucker Murphy, a guest at the meeting who works for Moynihan, told the Commission that the white barricades would come down April 19 and the town would revert to its “normal process” where businesses seeking to create outdoor dining space beyond what’s normally allowed could apply to the town for permission. Murphy said the barriers themselves had been designed to ensure 6-foot social distancing between diners and passersby, though in fact they were installed as a way to create safe walkable paths for pedestrians in the roadway as a result of allowing some restaurants to bump out onto what had been sidewalks.
Commission Secretary Jim McLaughlin noted that, with the town reverting to its normal allowance of outdoor dining space for restaurants, some establishments such as Rosie would have fewer tables outside.
Murphy said yes, adding that restaurants are able to return to 100% total indoor and outdoor capacity.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether or how the sidewalk “bump-out” plan that Mann referred to would dovetail with the April 19 reversion.
He said, “If the barricades are coming down on April 19, it might be a timely discussion at that time, moving forward, what we decide we are going to do moving forward.”