NORWALK, Conn. – The fate of Norwalk's Beach Road is yet to be determined.
About 30 concerned citizens watched as Norwalk's Traffic Authority conducted a meeting which for members was typically short, but with an atypical amount of attention. The controversial item on its agenda: approving wide outside lanes on Calf Pasture Beach Road. Both Commissioner Peter Torrano and Mayor Richard Moccia said they were tabling the measure so they could gather more information. Commissioner Dan O'Connor was not present. There was no public comment. The meeting lasted 10 minutes.
Activists were hoping to speak on a topic near and dear to their hearts: making Calf Pasture Beach Road safer for pedestrians and cyclists. Although many would like to see sidewalk improvements, most think that for practical reasons – the much lower cost – the lanes of the road should be redefined with paint, making a lane dedicated to cyclists and keeping vehicles further from the pedestrians on the sidewalks.
Prior to Moccia's motion to table the item, Torrano read a statement which he specified that he really had written himself, a reference to perceptions that Moccia controls the authority. "There have been studies quoted by those in favor of changing the flow of traffic to and out of the beach and we need to see and understand the studies," he said. "There seems to be much conflicting information regarding the actual safety of the bike lanes and as a result we will be asking for statistics from towns and cities that did install bike lanes to determine if there was a reduction in bike accidents. I am also asking that the police department provide data on how many pedestrians and bike accidents that have occurred on beach road for a period that extends as far as the tracking abilities that the department allows."
Moccia said that Alvord and Councilman David McCarthy would study the issue of unsafe sidewalks. Residents have complained that they have to step into the road because of telephone poles and that a retaining wall makes the sidewalk too narrow. Moccia said it might be possible to use the capital budget to make the sidewalk safer but moving the poles might be more of a challenge, as the Third Taxing District shares them with ATT. The council's Health, Welfare and Safety committee will look into that.
Nevertheless, the Traffic Authority is the sole governing body that can act on the road issue. Torrano promised full disclosure. "This is not going to be buried," Torrano said. "We do intend to look at this, we want to make sure we have all the facts before us. We have an obligation to the citizens of Norwalk, we can't break it down into selected groups. We have to make sure that everybody is heard from."
Correction made, July 28.