Jul 28, 2014
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Hoyt Sidewalk Proponents Object to #7 Ranking

A ranking of factors designed to give more objective reasoning to sidewalk projects ranks the Hoyt Street proposal No. 7, and proponents object as the town public works director agrees the rankings are pretty rough.

Hoyt Sidewalk Proponents Object to #7 Ranking Hoyt Sidewalk Proponents Object to #7 Ranking Hoyt Sidewalk Proponents Object to #7 Ranking Hoyt Sidewalk Proponents Object to #7 Ranking Hoyt Sidewalk Proponents Object to #7 Ranking Hoyt Sidewalk Proponents Object to #7 Ranking Hoyt Sidewalk Proponents Object to #7 Ranking Hoyt Sidewalk Proponents Object to #7 Ranking Hoyt Sidewalk Proponents Object to #7 Ranking Hoyt Sidewalk Proponents Object to #7 Ranking

Correction: Jim Fletcher said he sometimes found himself "menacingly" waving his briefcase at cars coming too close to him as a pedestrian on Hoyt Street, not "maniacly" as originally reported in this article.

Proponents of a sidewalk to run up busy Hoyt Street toward the Talmadge Hill Railroad Station urged selectmen to fund the sidewalk, and some criticized a town ranking system for proposed sidewalks that only ranked Hoyt at No. 7.

"I actually got hit by a car," said Ray Hegarty of Barringer Road, one of several speakers at Monday night's meeting of the Board of Selectmen who asked the board to fund sidewalks for the northern end of Hoyt Street.

Hegarty said that on a Friday in January, probably Jan. 11, he was walking home from the train station when it was raining, and he was a bit closer to the road in order to avoid large puddles.

"This car kind of clipped me on the arm and knocked me back into the folliage on the side of the road," he said. "I was pretty shaken up—not hurt too badly, just bruises."

The car didn't stop, he said. Hegarty said he didn't file a report with police because he didn't see any point to it at the time—it was dark and, with the car's headlights, it was impossible to give any kind of description of the vehicle to police.

"It's getting worse," said Jim Fletcher, another neighborhood resident who lives on Barringer Road. In an effort to get cars to slow down or drive a bit farther from the side of the road, he said, "I find myself more often menacingly waving my briefcasae at cars as they go by."

Fletcher said he doubted that any other Darien neighborhoods that want sidewalks are as dangerous as Hoyt Street is.

"It really is quite dangerous," said Sophia Bender, another resident of the neighborhood.

These are the seven projects ranked by the revised system selectmen are considering in order to make sidewalk project decisions in a more objective, less subjective way. This list shows the location of the project, its cost and its numerical score in the ranking system, which considers various factors mentioned below:

  • Leroy Ave at Middlesex Ave.—$120,000—Score: 36
  • Edgerton to West Ave.—$36,000—Score: 33
  • West Avenue near Leroy Avenue—$75,000—Score: 33
  • Tokeneke Road near Old Kings Highway South—$75,000—Score: 36
  • Mansfield Avenue from Overbrook to Mansfield Place—$75,000—Score: 32
  • Mansfield Avenue and McLaren Avenue to Royle School—$37,500—Score: 24
  • Hoyt Street from Woodway Country Club to the New Canaan border—$640,000—Score: 20

The board made no decision on whether to adopt the ranking system or which projects to fund. Also on Monday, selectmen approved the erection of two signs to ask drivers to beware of pedestrians on the roadway, a state road that has no sidewalks, but which some commuters use to walk to the railroad station and where some pedestrians walk, walk dogs and run.

The ranking system, developed by Public Works Director Robert Steeger, with some help from Darien police, considered various factors in prioritizing suggested sidewalk projects. Each of 11 factors were given scores of 0 to 3.

Each factor was put in one of three areas: Safety was the top consideration, then "connectivity" (essentially revolving around how many people might use the sidewalks) and then construction considerations:

  • The three safety factors were "busy road" (how much traffic it handled), "accidents" (no accidents were found in any of the areas for proposed sidewalks in the past two years, so each project received a "0" score for that), and "pedestrian intensity of use."
  • "Connectivity" factors were whether there was a particular destination for pedestrians nearby, such as a school or train station, "connectivity" (whether the sidewalk connected to other sidewalks and how much), and "public demand" (how intensely neighbors had asked for the project).
  • There were four "Construction" factors, including how available the right of way is, amount of obstructions, how the sidewalk might affect the trees along the way and (a negative factor) whether or not there was already a sidewalk on the other side of the street.

"Connectivity" factors were weighted more that of construction factors by multiplying the connectivity scores by two. Safety factors were weighted four times more than the construction factors by multiplying the safety factors by four. Steeger told selectmen that he had increased the weighting of safety factors by multiplying them by four instead of three, as was in the initial draft of the ranking system he presented to selectmen back in January.

(For more explanations of individual factors and how they were given scores, see the documents in the photos attached to this article.)

Safety Factors in Sidewalk Project Priority Scores

Location

Busy

Road

Accidents

Pedestrian

Intensity

of Use

Weighting

Factor (to

multiply by)

Total

Safety

Score

Leroy at Middlesex 1 0 2 4 12 Edgerton to West Ave. 0 0 2 4 8 West Ave. near Leroy 1 0 2 4 12

Tokeneke near Old King's

Highway South

3 0 1 4 16 Mansfield: Overbrook to Mansfield Pl. 1 0 2 4 12 Mansfield & McLaren to Royle School 1 0 2 4 12 Hoyt Street from Woodway Country Club to New Canaan border 2 0 0 4 8

 

Since there were four constructon factors and only three factors in the other two categories, the multiplying of scores did not quite weight the safety category  four times more than construction, or weight the connectivity category twice that of construction.

Hoyt Street didn't fare well in any of the three categories and only received top scores in "public demand" and on whether there was an existing sidewalk. It was tied for last place in the safety category, scored in last place in the connectivity category and was second-to-last in the construction category. Its overall estimated cost—$640,000—was more than all the other projects combined ($318,500).

Connectivity Factors in Sidewalk Priority Scores

Location

Active

Destination

Connectivity

Public

Demand

Weighting

Factor (to

multiply by)

Total

Connectivity

Score

Leroy at Middlesex
3
2
3
2
16
Edgerton to West Ave.
2
3
1
2
12
West Ave. near Leroy
2
3
1
2
12

Tokeneke near Old King's

Highway South

2
2
1
2
10
Mansfield: Overbrook to Mansfield Pl.
1
3
1
2
10
Mansfield & McLaren to Royle School
2
2
1
2
10
Hoyt Street from Woodway Country Club to New Canaan border
1
0
3
2
8

 

Construction Factors in Sidewalk Priority Scores and Total Scores

Location

Available

Right of

Way

Terrain

Obstructions

(utility poles)

Existing

Trees,

Impact on

Canopy

Is there

Existing

Sidewalk?

Weighting

Factor

(to

multiply by)

Total

Construc-

tion

Score

TOTAL

SCORE

Cost

Estimate

Leroy at Middlesex
3
3
0
2
0 1 8
36 $120,000 Edgerton to West Ave.
3
2
2
3
3 1 13
33 $36,000 West Ave. near Leroy
3
3
0
3
0 1 9
33 $75,000

Tokeneke near Old King's

Highway South

3
1
0
3
3 1 10
36 $75,000 Mansfield: Overbrook to Mansfield Pl.
3
3
1
0
3 1 10
32 $75,000 Mansfield & McLaren to Royle School
0
1
1
0
0 1 2
24 $37,500 Hoyt Street from Woodway Country Club to New Canaan border
0
1
0
0
3 1 4
20 $640,000

 

(In a letter to the editor published by Darien Patch on Monday, neighborhood resident and RTM Member Holly Shulz wrote that selectmen should revise the proposed ranking system with more emphasis on safety and more detailed criteria. At Monday night's meeting, Shulz asked selectmen to fund engineering costs to design sidewalks for Hoyt Street.)

The intensity of pedestrian use of the sidewalks was considered one factor, but to get it Steeger took the population of the nearby area, since past experience has shown that when a sidewalk is available, people in the area will use it. The Hoyt Street proposal scored no points for pedestrian use, unlike the six other projects on the list.

A study has been done of pedestrian traffic along Hoyt Street, but not in the other areas suggested for the addition of sidewalks.

Selectman David Bayne, one of two Democrats on the five-member board, said that potential pedestrian traffic should be considered essential in decisionmaking about where to put in the next sidewalks, even if that meant conducting pedestrian studies similar to what has already been done on Hoyt Street.

Bayne and Selectman John Lundeen, also a Democrat, made various other objections to the ranking system (each of the objections would help the Hoyt Street proposal rise higher in the rankings):

  • Lundeen suggested that the narrowness of the road shoulder be considered a factor in the ranking system.
  • Lundeen also suggested that the "tree canopy" factor be combined with the obstruction factor, since concerns about trees seemed to be a part of concerns about obstructions.
  • Lundeen and Bayne both said that Woodway Country Club on Hoyt Street should be considered a second "destination" in the ranking system, along with Talmadge Hill Railroad Station. First Selectman Jayme Stevenson, a Republican, questioned whether, if there were only a dozen or so people walking to Woodway each day, it was therefore a big enough destination to warrant inclusion. Both Bayne and Lundeen said they thought it was big enough.
  • Bayne said he thought safety should be the biggest factor in the decision, even more than the other considerations combined.

The board made no decision on whether to adopt the ranking system, and Steeger said he would see whether he could get more exact information on traffic volume and other matters before the ranking system came back for another discussion among the selectmen.

"We'll continue to refine this so that, hopefully, it will become a useful tool," Stevenson said.

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