Center Street residents appreared pleased this week with designation of their street as "one way," from the Post Road to Jelliff Lane in Fairfield's Southport neighborhood.
"We are extremely happy," said Johanna Hall, who's lived on the street with her husband, Nathan, since 2008. "My husband and I, we've been working on this a while. Even before we moved here, our neighbors worked on it before that. We're happy it's finally happening, and we're happy because it's safer for everybody on the street."
Gina Festini, who's lived on Center Street since 1998, said efforts to make part of the street one-way date back to around 2006. "It's really been a long journey. We're elated. Elated is an understatement," Festini said of the new one-way designation.
On Wednesday morning, barricades blocked half of Center Street at its intersection with the Post Road, and the new one-way designation was noted with both a "Do Not Enter" sign facing the Post Road and an electronic sign behind that.
George Kaczegowicz, general foreman of the town Highway Department, said the one-say designation is the first phase of planned improvements to the street. He said the town expects to install curbs and sidewalks on the westerly side of Center Street this fall. "All the neighbors wanted it and promoted the one-way and the sidewalks," he said.
Festini said the narrow street lacked sidewalks and neighbors were concerned about the traffic volume as families moved in with young children. Hall said pedestrians sometimes were forced to use driveways and yards due to the two-way traffic and narrowness of the street.
Festini said the stretch of Center Street from the Post Road to Jelliff Lane now has 11 houses where nearly a dozen young children live. She said six children from the neighborhood were picked up by a school bus to get to classes and another two are expected to use the school bus this coming academic year.
"I think we did it for our kids. I mean, for a lot of reasons, but mostly for the kids," Festini said. She said the effort to designate the street one-way "was sort of borne out of this burst of all of us residents here having kids or kids moving here," along with an increase in motorists and joggers on the street.
"We would literally look out the window and think somebody was going to be killed," she said. "This is so many years of crossing our fingers that nothing would happen ... We spent six and-a-half years doing everything we had to do to make it known this is a really important section of the street and too narrow and too dangerous to be two-way."
Festini and Hall said that, in addition to heavy two-way traffic and pedestrian use, Center Street before the one-way designation was often used by tractor trailers to get to Interstate 95 going south. "They were kind of using our street as an on-ramp to [Interstate] 95, and it was everybody -- 18-wheelers, everybody," Festini said.
Tisola Reed, who's lived on the street for five years, said commuters heading to the Southport Railroad Station, which has an entrance on Center Street, also used the street, as well as motorists heading to the Wakeman Boys and Girls Club. She added that motorists often sped on the street.
"People were flying through and there's no place for all the pedestrians," she said.
"I think the one-way addresses a lot of the issues and it helps the pedestrians as well because you don't have two lanes of traffic."
Dee Gasper, an administrator at Wakeman Boys and Girls Club, said the change would have the greatest impact on the club in the fall when it is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Right now, the club is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. for summer camp. She said the impact also may be noticeable next week because Wakeman's is running only a couple of summer camps this week, while it will be in "full swing" with camps next week.
Gasper said people who need directions to Wakeman's may have a harder time finding it with the one-way designation. "It was simpler to say `Take a turn at Total Look,' " she said, referring to the Total Look of Southport, a business on the Post Road by its intersection with Center Street.
"I think that it is going to create some problems."
But Gasper said she understands why Center Street residents wanted the one-way designation because she'd often seen tractor trailers and dump trucks turning from the Post Road onto Center Street to get to the I-95 on ramp heading to New York, even though it was a tight turn.