No way, one way – Residents ask for return of two-way New Lebanon Avenue

A meeting of the Byram Neighborhood Association (BNA) Monday evening to discuss the 90-day trial of New Lebanon Avenue functioning as a one-way street ended in a motion to return the street to two lanes.

The motion will now be presented to the Board of Selectmen at a future meeting. Earlier this year the selectmen approved the 90-day trial, which has been controversial since its inception.

The trial was originally requested after it was determined that a sidewalk was needed on New Lebanon Avenue to keep pedestrians safe. But with the addition of a sidewalk, cars that normally parked on the curb would be forced to park entirely on the street, which would likely have created congestion.

The resulting short-term solution was the institution of the 90-day trial period during which New Lebanon Avenue would function as a one-way street, exiting onto Delavan Avenue, while the no-right-on-red stop sign at the intersection of Mead and Delavan avenues would be removed to allow for better traffic flow.

After a traffic study showed lower average car speeds if the proposed one way direction of New Lebanon Avenue was reversed, the town adjusted the trial stipulations and the trial period began. The no-right-on-red sign, however, was not removed until this week, nearly 60 days into the trial.

Mike Bocchino, chairman of the BNA, said the delay to the sign removal combined with the fact that the majority of the trial has been conducted when school was not in session has made a fair assessment of the trial very difficult.

Nevertheless, many Byram residents had already made up their minds Monday night regarding the effects of a one-way street, and vehemently insisted on the return of New Lebanon Avenue to two lanes.

Several inhabitants of Wessels Place, the road that has arguably been most affected by the trial, voiced their safety concerns at the meeting.

Janice Kalipershad said the trial has turned her street into a shortcut for drivers who want to avoid the traffic light. According to Ms. Kalipershad, it is not the increased volume of cars on her road that upsets her but the speed at which they travel.

“I’m scared to live on my block. I’m fearful for my children, my friends’ children and everybody else,” she said.

Kory Wollins, owner of Delavan Avenue’s Burgers Shakes & Fries restaurant, disagreed with Ms. Kalipershad’s request to return New Lebanon Avenue to two lanes. Mr. Wollins argued that if the no-right-on-red sign had been removed on time, “a tremendous amount of traffic would have been eliminated” on Wessels Place and the function of New Lebanon Avenue as a one-way street would not have had adverse effects.

Byram resident Jack Dobrucky, and several other residents at the meeting, suggested that the direction of traffic on New Lebanon Avenue be reversed to exit onto Delavan Avenue, as was originally requested by the BNA.

According to Jim Michel, the town’s chief engineer, reversing the direction of the street is not an option. Residents have two choices, he said. The first option is to maintain New Lebanon Avenue’s current status as a one-way street. The second option is to return the road to two lanes, with the understanding that parking spots will be reduced from 17 spaces to six spaces, in order to allow for two 11-foot wide lanes.

“That’s the best we can do with the parking issues” if New Lebanon Avenue returns to two-way traffic, Mr. Michel explained.

Kenny Kalipershad, also of 12 Wessels Place, said the danger resulting from the institution of a one-way road makes returning to two lanes and reducing parking the only option for Byram residents. “Safety trumps convenience any time,” he said.

Marco Sucic, another Wessels Place inhabitant, agreed saying the town had put little thought into creating the one-way street trial and that children’s safety should come first.

Although Mr. Michel explained to BNA members that the 90-day trial could be extended to better gauge its effects by incorporating school year traffic and the removal of the no-right-on-red sign, most residents in attendance were outraged at the possibility of a prolonged trial period.

Eventually, the meeting concluded with a motion to return New Lebanon Avenue to a two-way street, with the understanding that parking will be significantly reduced.

Mr. Bocchino will bring the motion to the Board of Selectmen’s attention at its next meeting, which will then place the item on the agenda for discussion. This discussion, which will include public comment at the discretion of First Selectman Peter Tesei, will likely take place in July. The selectmen have meetings scheduled for July 12 and 26 and if Mr. Bocchino brings it to the July 12 meeting it would likely not be heard with public comment until July 26. However, that can change at the discretion of the selectmen as long as proper notice is given.

 

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