State money to help with local streetscape improvements
FAIRFIELD — The town has received state money to make pedestrian improvements on opposite ends of the community.
Fairfield was awarded a $360,000 Community Connectivity Grant to install sidewalks, pedestrian upgrades and ADA-compliant ramps along the Post Road in the Southport section. The State Bond Commission also approved a $650,000 grant for streetscape improvements in the town’s Stratfield section, at the intersection of Fairfield Woods Road and Route 59.
“We have conceptual plans, but we still need to complete full construction plans and specifications” for the projects, Economic and Community Development Director Mark Barnhart said.
For Jamie McCusker, co-president of the Stratfield Village Association, the infusion of cash to kick-start improvements is a great start.
“We’ve been working with the town,” McCusker said, and they want to meet with the commercial property owners that make up the “four corners.” The SVA has come up with a preliminary plan he said is sensitive to keeping things like the parking in front of the small strip shopping center in place.
“That was what we brought to the town, and we met with our legislative delegation,” McCusker said, adding they also met with state Department of Transportation officials. “They came back with a whole list of things that need to be changed to comply with state regulations.”
The plans, he said, will be further refined. McCusker and Dylan O’Connor, his co-president, and SVA board member Joel Green will meet later this month with town officials “to discuss what the next steps are.”
McCusker said they don’t expect the state money will cover all the costs, and the association is looking at what it needs to do to raise the needed funds. Their proposal has received cost estimates between $700,000 and $1.2 million.
“The SVA has always said, with the four corners project, we want it to be a collective project,” McCusker said — a collaboration between the state, the town and private property owners. “The four corners is the center of our community, and it’s looking kind of rundown and shabby.”
O’Connor said the project will “revitalize and renovate this neighborhood centerpiece, creating a more pedestrian-friendly shopping district that will be safe, more attractive and benefit both the community and the businesses located here.”
On the other side of town in the Southport section, the area of the Post Road has also been under discussion for a while. During a 2016 Board of Selectmen meeting, Barnhart brought up a safety audit that was done on the stretch of the Post Road from the Westport line to Pease Avenue.
“It was very eye-opening in terms of the level of pedestrian traffic,” Barnhart told the board, and pointed out the audit was done on a cold day in the winter. The area, he said, is “not really set up to facilitate pedestrians.”
“I am thrilled the town won a competitive grant application of $360,000 for much-needed pedestrian and bicycle improvements on Post Road in Southport,” RTM member Michael Herley, R-10, said. “Taken together with the town’s plan for infrastructure improvements on lower Hulls Highway, starting at the intersection of Post Road, there is no doubt positive change is coming to this area.”
Herley said the projects are big wins for the town and Southport, and said William Hurley, the town’s engineer manager, did the bulk of the work on the grant application
“While at times I’ve been critical of the Tetreau aministration’s priorities when it comes to strategic planning and investing in our roadways, Mike deserves credit for helping us to see these positive developments through,” Herley said. He said he believes it makes good sense for the first selectman and the Town Plan and Zoning Commission to create a special committee to get input from the local neighborhood and nearby businesses on further improvements that are “consistent with the area’s historic charm.”