Shelton Fire Department seeks better access to Canal Street

The closed railroad crossing on Wooster Street, as viewed looking toward Canal Street from the Howe Avenue side.
The closed railroad crossing on Wooster Street, as viewed looking toward Canal Street from the Howe Avenue side.

The Shelton Fire Department is hoping to temporarily upgrade the Wooster Street railroad crossing near Canal Street to provide better access to fighting fires.

The railway crossing has been closed and is blocked by a fence and concrete barriers. Underground utility conduits were installed after the closing as part of the effort to accommodate expected development along that section of Canal Street.

The city and the Housatonic Railroad Co., which owns the railway, have been negotiating about how to handle re-opening the crossing in the future. State agencies also will play a role in what is necessary to open the crossing to public vehicular traffic again.

Fire truck access

Since the crossing was closed, fire vehicles have to get on Canal Street near the Shelton Farmers Market Building to be able to reach the northern end of the road, near where the Avalon apartment complex just opened and the Birmingham condo complex opened about five years ago.

A few businesses are located toward the end of Canal Street, near the dam/spillway, as well. This part of Canal Street is a dead-end road.

In a letter to the Board of Aldermen’s Public Health and Safety Committee, Shelton Fire Chief Fran Jones wrote that “a secondary means of egress is extremely important for emergency accessibility to the Avalon development as it continues to become inhabited, and to gain access to other buildings along Canal Street during ongoing road improvements and construction.”

Jones said he recommends building a temporary emergency access gravel road at the Wooster Street railroad crossing, with fencing that could be opened by emergency personnel when necessary. Signage also would be put up to indicate the crossing is not for public use.

Was an issue with January fire

Alderman Jack Finn, who is a volunteer firefighter, said having Wooster Street closed at the railway crossing caused problems during a structure fire at 235 Canal St. in January.

Finn said a Canal Street hydrant wasn’t working so firefighters had to quickly take down the fence blocking the railroad to access a fire hydrant on the other side, toward Howe Avenue.

He also noted the actual railroad tracks have been removed in the area where the crossing is located. The railroad has not been used for the past few years, but was active with a few trains per day carrying freight before that.

A related issue is the difficulty of turning around fire trucks on the dead-end section of Canal Street, which is not wide, particularly toward the dam/spillway where there are fewer driveways that can used to turn a vehicle around.

A one-way road?

Finn said he opposes the long-term plan of turning that section of Wooster Street (between Howe Avenue and Canal Street) into a one-way street, with traffic only able to go from Canal Street to Howe Avenue and not the other way.

He would like the street to remain two way, but if it should become one-way he favors having it in the opposite direction — allowing vehicles to go from Howe Avenue to Canal Street. He said this would allow emergency vehicles to gain access to the dead-end part of Canal Street without having to worry about cars traveling the other way.

The Shelton Economic Development Corp. also is involved in the railroad crossing issue since it helps oversee downtown redevelopment efforts.