New Lebanon now two-way

In its brief life-span, the attempt to turn New Lebanon Avenue into a one-way street did not have a lot of fans in the Byram community and now it’s a thing of the past.

The Board of Selectmen unanimously voted at its July 26 meeting to end the test period of having New Lebanon Avenue be one-way southbound. The traffic flow change was put in place to see if a three-month test period would result in increased parking and better pedestrian safety. However, the plan had met with swift protest from the community, and last month the Byram Neighborhood Association held a public meeting where ending the test period was met with overwhelming support.

Now the selectmen, on the recommendation of the town’s Department of Public Works, have enacted a new plan. This plan restores two-way traffic to New Lebanon Avenue, puts in granite curbing and new sidewalks on the west side and has eight parking spaces. Jim Michel, the town’s senior engineer, outlined the plan for the Board of Selectmen and said of the two alternatives, the other of which was to continue it as a one-way street, restoring the two-way traffic flow made the most sense. All of the parking spaces on New Lebanon will be on one way for people turning off of Delavan Avenue onto it, allowing for a potentially smoother flow of traffic.

By restriping William Street, Mr. Michel said this will make it possible to put in 21 parking spaces there on the northside, creating a total of 29 spaces in the area. The potential downside to this plan, according to Mr. Michel, is that it could potentially lead to more accidents than a one-way street would have. Despite that possibility, he recommended the selectmen adopt the new two-way plan, which ends up providing more available parking than the one-way plan.

This plan is part of other traffic improvements that are set for Byram. Mr. Michel said there will also be a handicapped parking space on Delavan and one at New Lebanon, a restriping of the parking spots so people know exactly where they are and aren’t parking illegally or improperly. and new crosswalk signs for Delavan and Chestnut and William and New Lebanon. Mr. Michel said the crosswalk signs still have to be tested to make sure there can be proper turns made but that the department believes it will better alert people to the crosswalk and make for safer walking conditions. He added that the restriping could also lead to slower driving.

New Lebanon Avenue has a lot of pedestrian and vehicle traffic in Byram because it is so close to a baseball field, New Lebanon School and the Byram Shubert Library. There had been a longstanding desire from neighbors to do something about traffic flow and parking in that part of town and Mr. Michel said this plan originated from that request. However, the neighbors said that this was not the plan they wanted since the one-way was southbound and not northbound as they had requested. They said there had been a lack of communication from the town throughout the process.

“There is a lot of anger and frustration over the gross mismanagement of this entire trial period,” Michael Bocchino, chairman of the Byram Neighborhood Association, said at the meeting. “When we first came we asked that the one-way be going out to Delavan Avenue because we knew Wessels Place was going to be overrun with traffic. We didn’t want the trial period to begin until the no-right-turn-on-red sign came down because it wouldn’t show any kind of one-way would work. And we asked that the trial period be done during school time because 90% of the cars that travel on that roadway are used by parents dropping their kids to school and then picking them up.”

Mr. Bocchino said that not only were none of these requests honored but there was “no communication” when the trial period began, leaving it up to the neighborhood association to go to the school to use their “reverse 911” system and mailing list to inform the community. Mr. Bocchino said this led to “mass confusion” with drivers not knowing where to go and that he had to personally direct traffic because of it.

“The community is completely and utterly frustrated that the town’s Department of Public Works missed the boat on all of these items,” Mr. Bocchino said, also saying the department had not arranged for follow- traffic studies during the trial period and to have proper police enforcement. He asked the selectmen, on behalf of the community, to look into why there was not sufficient communication.

“We the people of Byram deserve a little bit more and so does the town of Greenwich,” Mr. Bocchino said. “If this is something that’s going to take place in the future then we need to discuss it now.”

Melissa Evans, the town’s traffic operations coordinator, said she was in “constant communication” with the police department and that they were notified “as soon as it happened” about the one-way plan, which led to several conversations about enforcement. Mr. Michel replied to Mr. Bocchino’s other charges, saying that the reason the removal of the no-right-turn-on-red sign at the intersection of Mead Avenue and Delavan wasn’t coordinated with the test period was that it took longer than anticipated to get state approval to remove the sign.

“We began the test in May to get the last month of school in,” Mr. Michel said, rebutting Mr. Bocchino’s other claim.

First Selectman Peter Tesei said he felt there had to be improved dialogue with the police department in speaking for the town to make sure there is a coordinated message. He said this would be something the town would work on in future matters to make sure everyone knows what’s happening.

Mr. Bocchino did say that he approved of the new plan “100%” and Mr. Tesei thanked Mr. Michel for all the work he and the department had put into it.

The area is currently undergoing road resurfacing by the town’s Highway Department. Mr. Tesei said it was important to make a decision now because the department would need to know whether to paint the stripes on the road for one-way or two-way traffic. He added it was also a priority to get this resolved before school begins on Aug. 28.

Mr. Michel said that the repaving makes it possible to pick up extra pavement along New Lebanon Avenue, allowing the town to increase the number of parking spaces on it from six to eight.

 

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