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Down One Lane Already, Fairfield, Conn., Road Could Lose Two More in New Project

Wed June 05, 2024 - Northeast Edition
CT Insider

As Fairfield, Conn., prepares to lose a traffic lane from the western side of Post Road, an engineering consultant will soon determine whether the town will lose two more on its eastern edge.

Tighe & Bond, a regional firm headquartered in Westfield, Mass., is set to start designing a pair of state roadway projects on Post and Stratfield roads in Fairfield with the aim of slowing motor vehicles and adding sidewalks, bike lanes, crosswalks and traffic signals to protect pedestrians and cyclists.

The company's design process on Post Road will determine whether Fairfield can remove multiple traffic lanes east of the Post Road Circle, a stretch known as Connecticut Route 130 that continues east until reaching Stratford, Conn.'s Ferry Boulevard.

Fairfield officials said the Stratfield Road construction could include a roughly mile-long bike lane from the Church Hill Road intersection south until reaching Collingwood and Capitol avenues, add and repair sidewalks and curb ramps, and install crosswalks with pedestrian signals.

The bike lane's installment will depend on a series of measurements Tighe & Bond plan to take along Stratfield Road to gauge the width of the right of way and bike and traffic lanes, the company told CT Insider.

Additionally, the corner where Stratfield meets Edgewood and Cornell roads could receive pedestrian signal improvements, and its intersection with Church Hill Road could get other traffic safety improvements as well.

Bill Hurley, Fairfield's engineering manager, said a $1.75 million grant from the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development (CDECD) will cover construction costs on Post Road, which stretches from the Kings Highway intersection to Post Road Plaza.

He added that another $2 million grant from the CDECD, separate from the money being dedicated to the Post Road project, will cover the Stratfield Road construction costs.

In addition, the town's Board of Selectmen authorized a $460,000 payment to Tighe & Bond for design and traffic engineering services for the projects on Post and Stratfield roads.

"Both these projects are good for pedestrian improvements, for enhanced safety and streetscape, and bring more [of a] bike-friendly environment to the public," Megha Jain, a Fairfield senior civil engineer, said before the city's Board of Selectman in early May.

Each road building effort would implement recommendations from several years' worth of traffic studies that Fairfield conducted with local input and state and regional planners from 2018 to 2022, CT Insider reported May 31.

The potential traffic safety improvements would come as Fairfield bolsters its traffic planning system under an ordinance passed last year to organize annual budgets for roadway projects and create a "Complete Streets Coordinator" position in charge of the town's compliance with its Complete Streets Policy for traffic safety.

Fairfield's Streets in Need of ‘Road Diet'

Hurley told CT Insider that his town could reduce the number of travel lanes on Post Road from four to three between the Kings Highway intersection and the Bridgeport town line as a result of the project and another involving Grasmere Avenue. He added that the change could clear space for two bikes lanes running along the road and place a left turn-only lane down the middle near intersections.

The Post Road project also could limit the two-way ramp linking it with Kings Highway East to one direction of westbound traffic so as to create room for angled street parking, according to a presentation that the outside engineers sent to Fairfield municipal officials earlier this year.

The reduction in travel lanes in exchange for other traffic improvements is known as a road diet, and the Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT) plans to start creating one in another area of Post Road further west, between Rennell Drive and Beaumont Street, in 2025.

Some members of Fairfield's Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee said road diets can discourage speeding along one of the town's busiest roads, clear more space for bike lanes, and better protect pedestrians crossing the street.

"With that four-lane road, it can feel a bit like a highway, and therefore encourage people to drive like that," explained Anya Mezak, a committee member. "I'm not saying people drive 65 miles an hour, but certainly faster than they should on a straight road. So, with the introduction of reduced lanes, it will give the perception of a narrow road, which helps reduce speeds."

Tighe & Bond will monitor traffic patterns and intersection layouts to gauge the feasibility of the road diet along part of the eastern stretch of Post Road, according to the firm's presentation.

It also will determine if construction can realign the corner of Kings Highway and Post Road with a new entrance to the Circle Hotel to create a more perpendicular intersection with slower speeds and a better field of visibility.

Matt Fulda, executive director of the Connecticut Metropolitan Council of Governments (MetroCOG), said the project would aim to move the Kings Highway and Post Road intersection east, further away from the vehicles heading into the Post Road Circle, to limit conflict between vehicles heading in different directions.

The Post Road project stems in part from a Post Road Circle traffic study that MetroCOG published in 2022 suggesting a roundabout or traffic lights at the circle should be built to lower speeds and limit crashes.

Fairfield officials told CT Insider that the state transportation agency is currently fleshing out those designs as part of a separate project.

Once Tighe & Bond's engineers finish compiling their data on pedestrian, bicycle, and vehicle activity along Post and Stratfield roads to determine which recommendations the project can include, they will present their designs to the town. In addition, the firm plans to report final cost estimates and pinpoint some properties where the state may need easements or a legal right to property access.

Those factors, too, will determine which traffic improvements wind up in the project prior to final approval.

CT Insider reported that the entire design phase could take up to 18 months.

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