NORWALK, Conn. Sometimes, Jason Altmeter feels like he is risking his life just to visit to the dentist. Altmeter, a Newtown resident, works in a Norwalk commercial complex on Main Avenue and patronizes a dentist across the street but walking over there isn't fun. "Crossing this road, you're taking your life in your hands," he said.
His co-workers agreed. "It's like crossing I-95," one said. Another said, "There's no cross walk, and that light is scary as hell because nobody pays attention."
They work at Merritt 7. The six-building complex is touted as "Norwalk's premier Class A office complex" on its website , but a Norwalk blogger thinks the area around it needs improvement. "It's time to connect Merritt 7 with the world around it," David Marcus wrote Friday on Liveable Norwalk . "Every day thousands of people commute to jobs in the office complex, and yet they are trapped. If they want to walk to lunch they have to cross Main Avenue, with its speeding traffic and lack of crosswalks."
The Merritt train station is "literally a stone's throw" from the buildings, Marcus adds, but it's a long walk to work because a chain-link fence and a high wall block entry to Merritt 7.
Mark Benda, a Danbury resident who works at Factset at 601 Merritt 7, agreed about the bad situation for pedestrians. "It's terrible," he said. "There is no crosswalks, and you push that little button, and there is no way to indicate walkers can walk."
Altmeter used to take the train, but he stopped because he had to walk all the way around. "An overpass from this complex over to the train stop over there would be a huge win," he said.
One is on the way, but it's going to take a while, according to state Sen. Bob Duff, who announced in June that Gov. Dannel Malloy's administration had approved $5 million for station improvements. Duff, a Norwalk Democrat who is vice chairman of the legislature's Transportation Committee, said the train station's platform will be raised so commuters will be able to take a level step onto the train and the overpass is being planned, although it's complicated.
Duff said that he, the owners of Merritt 7 and Connecticut Department of Transportation officials met recently at the site to discuss possibilities. "Everybody was very willing to do that. It's just a matter of where do you actually put that, and how best to do it, and then how best to do it for pedestrians on the deck of the Merritt 7 buildings," he said. One issue was where the overpass would enter the complex, a decision that has parking and traffic considerations.
"It's in the design phase," Duff said. "Maybe next summer there will be some activity there, but it's going to be a while. I think there's a lot of preliminary work to do."
He didn't remember any talk about the need for crosswalks on the other side of Merritt 7, where motorists speed down Main Avenue. "It's something to explore," Duff said, adding that the expense and spacing of crosswalks would need to be examined.
"I do think the state can do more from the standpoint of livability and walkability and keeping pedestrians safe," Duff said. "They've done so much to make things wider and straighter for cars and trucks. But we've done that at the expense of pedestrians. But I think policy is shifting over at the DOT, and government in general, to do more for pedestrians, bicyclists, and others, to make things safer. Because people will walk if they feel safe. They're not going to walk if they don't feel safe. They're going to get in their cars and go across the street."
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