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Ridgefield, Conn., To Begin Project to Make Branchville Section Pedestrian Friendly

Thu March 02, 2023 - Northeast Edition #8
CT Insider

Ethan Allen Highway (Route 7) view north from Oak Tree Lane. (Rendering courtesy of the Branchville Transit Oriented Development Plan)
Ethan Allen Highway (Route 7) view north from Oak Tree Lane. (Rendering courtesy of the Branchville Transit Oriented Development Plan)

The town of Ridgefield, Conn., has received the green light from the state Department of Transportation (CTDOT) to go ahead with a years-long project to improve the walkability of its Branchville neighborhood.

CT Insider reported Feb. 26 that the $2.3 million streetscape project is set to begin in a few months.

The area is nestled in the foothills of the Berkshire Mountains in the state's far southwest.

The work involves creating a sidewalk starting at the Wilton-Ridgefield line, and heads north on U.S. Highway 7. It will continue north to Tusk & Cup Fine Coffee, to the intersection with Conn. Highway 102. There will be a walking bridge over a brook, and the sidewalk will continue north across the street.

"The width of [Conn.] 102, where it meets [U.S.] 7 will be narrowed so you won't have to run out of breath trying to get across there," Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi told CT Insider. "There will be walking signs, crosswalks, and the sidewalk will continue up to the Norwalk River. Another sidewalk will continue all the way up Florida Road as well, with a crosswalk over to the Ancona Plaza."

The project also includes installing decorative lighting and the realignment of the Conn. 102 and U.S. 7 interchange with new traffic signalization and crosswalks at the intersection.

"This is about the future of Branchville and getting the infrastructure in place to actually begin a transit-oriented development that will have multi-family housing, a train station, and bus service on U.S. 7," Marconi explained. "It's an improvement, an investment in Branchville."

A grant for the project was obtained through the Transit Alternative Program, where the town had to match 20 percent — about $400,000 — already approved by Ridgefield voters.

J. Iapaluccio Inc., based in Brookfield, Conn., is expected to build the streetscape. The company is an experienced, full-service civil and site contractor.

Marconi told CT Insider that once the contract is signed with the bidder, he will have more information about the overall Branchville revitalization project's start date.

He added the project is necessary to develop Branchville for the future.

"It's looking at how do we keep cars off the roads, reduce the carbon footprint, provide transportation, the electrification of the Branchville line," Marconi explained. "All of it is how we provide housing and a living environment that is clean and enjoyable. That's the long-term vision for Branchville."

Village's Legacy Demands an Upgrade

The village of Branchville is rich in historic resources. Of the approximately 50 buildings that lie within the project's focus area, 80 percent are greater than 50 years old, according to a Transit Oriented Development (TOD) study done a few years ago by the Town of Ridgefield.

The earliest buildings within the focus area lie along West Branchville Road and Portland Avenue on the hill east of the train tracks. These buildings date from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries and display, to name just a few, Federal, Greek Revival, Colonial Revival and Italianate architectural forms.

Marconi said with the revitalization project, he is trying to create a more "pedestrian-friendly community" in that historic area of town.

"Branchville has been the forgotten child for many, many years," he noted. "This finally is going to begin after years of applications and studies. We're finally putting a shovel in the ground to make some improvements."

Bridge Replacement, Wider Track Crossing Ahead

The second part of the Branchville project involves the design of a new bridge at Depot Road. Marconi explained that the design phase is 90 percent complete for the structure at the intersection of U.S. 7 and Conn. 102.

After that bridge is replaced, a new one will be constructed on Portland Avenue, he added. Nearby will be a new intersection with a left turn lane and a thru lane, in addition to a widening of the railroad-track crossing at Portland Avenue.

Marconi said that part of the project should begin later this year and continue over the next three to four years.

"It's all to improve the train station, traffic movement, (and) pedestrian movement," he explained.

According to Marconi, U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, through the Western Connecticut Council of Governments, recently told the state that a grant of $200,000 is being earmarked to study the feasibility of connecting Branchville to the Georgetown-Redding sewer plant.

Like the funds already allocated to the wider project, this grant, too, is for the purpose of revitalizing the Branchville neighborhood of Ridgefield.

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