Byram traffic modifications up for debate

A morning “field trip” appears to have given some clarity to the Board of Selectmen as they consider traffic calming in Byram, but no decisions have been made yet.

Last Thursday morning, First Selectman Peter Tesei and Selectmen David Theis and Drew Marzullo personally walked key Byram Streets to observe traffic and hear details about a series of proposed changes. They were joined on this trip by a contingent of Parking Services Director Allen Corry, Chief Engineer Jim Michel, Town Traffic Operations Coordinator Melissa Evans and several Byram residents and business owners including Byram Neighborhood Association Chairman Michael Bocchino.

At issue is a series of recommendations from the town’s Department of Public Works that would remove the left-turn green arrow at Mill Street’s intersection with South Water Street for traffic and instead place it for traffic turning left from Mill to North Water Street, alter the pedestrian crossing sections at Mill Street and Water Street and Mead Avenue and Delavan Avenue and also remove the no-turn-on-red sign at the intersection of Mead and Delavan Avenues.


The field trip was soon after followed by the regular meeting of the Board of Selectmen, but no action was taken because the selectmen could not legally vote on one recommendation apart from the others unless they were first formally resubmitted as separate items, instead of in one block proposal like they are in now. But that needs state approval first, which will delay a vote from the board until the state gives its ok for Mr. Michel to resubmit.

Mr. Tesei said that going on location was particularly useful in developing his decisions regarding the proposed traffic signal changes. The motion to allow the removal of the no-right-on-red sign has the board’s support, the second part of the proposal involving pedestrian crossing signals was discussed at length. The proposal recommends changing pedestrian phasing from an exclusive plan to a concurrent one, meaning traffic would continue to move in the direction pedestrians walk during their cross signal, rather than stopping altogether until the signal has changed.

Mr. Marzullo voiced concerns for the safety of children at the nearby New Lebanon School, where students are already accustomed to current pedestrian signals. Even if children are educated on how the concurrent pedestrian system would work, no one can prevent reckless drivers from potentially harming the students, if traffic is allowed to proceed during pedestrians’ walk signal, he said.

Mr. Tesei agreed, saying “We can’t legislate what human behavior is going to do but we can try to put in force something that’s going to be understood” by students.

Mr. Michel assured the selectmen that the Department of Public Works planned to provide education to students and residents if the pedestrian phasing was changed and reminded them that a crossing guard will be present during school hours. The board, however, was not ready to approve the modification, saying they would wait to make a decision on the issue until a more in-depth analysis had taken place.

Mr. Michel said he believed the State Traffic Commission is likely to approve the removal of the no-right-on-red sign, paving the way for the selectmen to approve it on its own, but he believed it, on its own, is not likely to increase efficiency in traffic flow.

One area the selectmen could take action on was the removal of two parking spaces at the intersection of Mead and Delavan. One space, which had already been deemed illegal, was being removed anyway and the second space is being removed to accommodate the right on the red traffic turn that is expected to soon be permitted. While business owners have said any loss of spaces hurts them, the town did allow for four parking spaces in the back of the fire station to be turned into public parking, allowing the neighborhood to gain two spaces.

The removal of the left hand green arrow for eastbound traffic proved to be the most contentious of all the proposals. During the field trip, Ms. Evans and Mr. Bocchino both strenuously debated their views, with Ms. Evans saying it would improve traffic flow and Mr. Bocchino expressing the exact opposite belief. Mr. Bocchino and others in the Byram community oppose flipping the signal.

Mr. Tesei explained that he did not feel comfortable reversing the arrow because traffic congestion on Mill Street would become burdensome.

Mr. Theis agreed, saying “Anything that helps direct traffic to our local business men and women, especially in these times, is one of our responsibilities” and that he would have to examine the proposal “a lot more closely” before making a decision.


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