To advance plans for a new bridge and traffic light and a variety of street amenities in Branchville, a special town meeting voted to re-approve some $6 million in previously-passed bond resolutions related to the Branchville Transit Oriented Development or “Branchville TOD” project.
The June 19 town meeting, consisting of the five-member Board of Selectmen and about eight other townspeople, approved two resolutions totaling about $6.8 million, with the anticipation that state and federal grants will cover most of the cost and that the town’s share will be about $717,000.
One resolution authorized $2 million in bonding, with $1,591,000 to be covered by state and federal grants under the Transportation Alternative Program, and the town’s share amounting to $409,000.
And the other resolution authorized $4,817,000 in bonding, with $4,509,000 to be covered by state and federal grants from the Federal Local Bridge Program and the town’s share $308,000.
First Selectman Rudy Marconi gave a brief overview of the plans, which include: replacing the Portland Avenue bridge over the Norwalk River, with a new traffic light at Route 7 and Portland Avenue; the probable closing of the bridge over Depot Road, or possibly just making it one-way out of the train station; a pedestrian bridge and the addition of sidewalks and amenities such as street lamps from Route 102 south to the Wilton line.
In response to a question from Teresa Ancona, Marconi said the future of the Depot Road bridge wasn’t entirely worked out, but the bridge would be preserved.
“If Depot Road bridge is closed, we use it for a pedestrian walkway, and [if the bridge remains open], we put in the pedestrian bridge,” he said.
If, as some planners have recommended, the bridge remains as a one-way out access road from the train station, then there would be a new pedestrian bridge taking people across the Norwalk River.
“We would not want it to be removed because it has historic significance,” Marconi said of the Depot Road bridge.
Marconi said that crosswalks would continue to allow people to get across Route 7 between the train station and the commercial development on the other side of the highway.
“It’s a very awkward crossing for pedestrians,” Ancona said.
Marconi said one of the project’s goals is to improve that.
“The idea is to make a walking environment that is feasible,” Marconi said.
Ancona also questioned the addition of a second light stopping traffic on Route 7 in Branchville.
“If you put a traffic light by Portland Avenue, the traffic would be horrible,” she said.
Marconi said the state felt the second light wouldn’t add that much to the existing traffic problems. In the morning, southbound traffic already “backs up one mile to Florida Hill Road,” Marconi said.
He added that another source of concern is people using Florida Hill Road, Florida Road, and Branchville Road as a route around the line of cars that backs up behind the light.
The two resolutions relating to the project were originally passed by a town meeting in November 2017, Marconi said, but the town’s bonding attorneys weren’t comfortable with the records the town has of the vote and wanted new approvals from the selectmen and Board of Finance, which were already passed, and then another town meeting — which passed them again June 19.
Ed Tyrrell moderated the town meeting.