Town adopts roadwork ban for holidays
GREENWICH — The town has given an early holiday present to drivers who hate getting stuck in construction-created traffic.
A season-long moratorium on roadwork in town began Monday and will continue until Jan. 2. There will not be any roadway openings, excavations, anything blocking or restricting access to public sidewalks or anything that eliminates publicly available parking spaces.
The freeze is in place for the town’s central business district as well as the main business areas of Old Greenwich, Riverside, Cos Cob, Byram and Glenville. Town Commissioner of Public Works Amy Siebert said the stop order was issued for the convenience of the public and to accommodate the extra traffic that is expected to come through for holiday shopping and other events.
“Our goal is to keep all but emergency work out of our commercial business districts during the busy holiday shopping season to facilitate folks coming into town and enjoying all that is there,” Siebert said.
The DPW does not have power to ticket those who do not honor the moratorium, but the town’s highway inspector does drive around and will report work he sees taking place. Highway Superintendent Joseph Roberto said the seasonal ban has been instituted in the past and most problems have easily been worked out.
“If there is something particularly egregious then we can refer this to town’s building and zoning departments and they can take action,” Roberto said. “There are times when it simply doesn’t make economic sense to stop a project in the middle of its work so we would let them finish up and make sure everything is safe. This is basically done to make sure nothing new starts.”
The moratorium has been a town tradition going back at least 25 years, Roberto said.
“We make sure people are aware of it,” he said.
The ban does not apply to emergency work. But it comes as good news, especially for Old Greenwich merchants who have had to struggle with many projects in the village, including on Sound Beach Avenue, that have caused headaches for drivers, residents and potential customers.
“This is the logical thing to do since we’re getting into the holiday season and it’s a critical time for merchants,” Richard Fulton, head of the Old Greenwich Merchants Association, said on Monday. “A lot of people are going to be visiting town and traveling through Old Greenwich and shopping locally and this will make it a lot easier to do that.”
Fulton said he hopes to see work wrapped up in the area of Arcadia Road and Park Avenue near the post office and King’s Market so people can safely travel through it. Siebert said the drainage work is ongoing because it is considered emergency work but she expects it to be completed this coming weekend followed by final paving in the spring.
“We don’t want to wait until spring to wrap it up as we want to get all the new lines in operation as soon as we can,” Siebert said. “We’re completing the last segment which will then allow the (drainage) system as a whole to function better under wet weather conditions.”
Work on the railroad tracks through Old Greenwich also will continue, as it is a state project.
On Dec. 1 Old Greenwich will hold its annual First Light celebration, during which a large portion of Sound Beach Avenue is closed to vehicle traffic to encourage pedestrians.
“It’s huge that we’re able to move forward with First Light,” Fulton said. “This is our biggest event of the year and everyone is filled with a lot of holiday spirit. Plus it will be a good way to show people that Sound Beach Avenue is open for business,”
Marcia O’Kane, president and CEO of the Greenwich Chamber of Commerce, said she is happy to see the town’s DPW put the moratorium back in place for the holiday season, which is a critical time for businesses and merchants.
“It would be a blessing to local businesses who already have enough challenges, including parking,” O’Kane said on Monday. “We don’t want to have anything that will thwart shopper access to stores. Many stores depend on the holiday season for a large percentage of their yearly revenue, so anything that the town can do to help encourage shoppers would be beneficial.”