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Sidewalk priority rankings presented to Darien selectmen

Published 3:57 pm, Thursday, January 17, 2013
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Director of Public Works Robert Steeger presented to the Board of Selectmen on Monday, Jan. 14, a list of seven projects to be done under the new sidewalk installation policy.

They are:

Leroy Avenue at Middlesex

Tokeneke Road beyond Old Kings Highway North

Mansfield Avenue near Old Brook and Mansfield Place

Hoyt Street

Sidewalk along West Avenue near Leroy

Edgerton Street

McLaren Street to Royle School

First Selectman Jayme Stevenson had provided Public Works with a list of locations, which were a combination of suggestions that have come to her directly or have been backlogged ones with the Police Department. But Steeger said he and his department came up with two more projects -- a sidewalk on Mansfield Avenue between Old Brook and Mansfield Place and from McLaren Street to Royle School.

The process for deciding which projects will be done first involved 11 specific criteria, which were then put under three more categories of safety, connectivity and construction.

"Promoting and enhancing public safety should be given the highest priority," Steeger said when discussing the "weight" that each category was given. Safety received a weight of 3, connectivity 2, and construction 1. Steeger said the 11 criteria under the three categories also received a 3-point scale. One criteria the department considered was whether there already was a sidewalk near the requested project site. After running the projects through the matrix, Public Works derived the sidewalk priority list.

"It would be nice if there were easy things to measure here," Steeger said. "I mean we don't have hard data to back it up. One of the criteria is busy road. We know most of these would be categorized as a busy road."

Another criterion was accidents. Steeger said Public Works researched three years of accident at all of the proposed locations and found none. A third criterion was pedestrian use, which Steeger said was a factor of perceived volumes and didn't have any real count.

The final criterion was public demand, which Steeger said was a matter of conjecture because most of the sidewalk projects didn't originate in the Department of Public Works.

"We know that Hoyt Street has a lot of public demand," Steeger said. "The police have told us that on many occasions the sidewalk at Leroy and Middlesex come up. Those are the two that were given 3 for public demand."

Stevenson said she believes the sidewalk installation policy is a "useful and simple tool."

Selectman David Bayne questioned Hoyt Street's ranking on the list. He said there have been a number of times Hoyt Street neighbors have come and spoke at the board's meetings, including bringing a completed survey with them.

Stevenson said the other projects listed haven't had the benefit of a similar survey.

"My takeaway (from that survey) was that if you build it, people will use it, and I think that goes for any of these projects," Stevenson said.

Bayne said the board hasn't had residents come from any other neighborhoods with the same intensity as Hoyt Street.

The Leroy and Middlesex folks have been in regular contact with the Police Department for a number of years, Stevenson said.

"They just chose the traffic safety commission route," Stevenson said, adding that she feels confident that Steeger and his staff have the professional skill and insight to give the projects a fair analysis.

mdavis@bcnnew.com; 203-972-4407; twitter.com/megdariennews