Tom O’Dea is a hardworking and honorable public servant. On the question of whether the Town should delay repairing the New Canaan’s decrepit roads in order to install new sidewalks on lower Main Street and Old Norwalk Road, however, he is simply mistaken. A few points:
- The sidewalks would be expensive. The new sidewalks on lower Main Street will cost $400,000 to install, while the planned new sidewalks on Old Norwalk Road would cost $200,000. Add to that the $200,000 the Town wants to spend on maintenance of sidewalks on upper Main Street — a Tiffany-caliber maintenance project if there ever was one — and Mr. O’Dea would have the Town divert fully $800,000, or 40% of its $2 million 2011 road repair budget, to sidewalk projects on Main Street and nearby. Given the sorry state of the town’s roads, that’s too much. All of the budget should go for repair and re-paving — and the sooner, the better. “Nice-to-have” projects should wait.
- The sidewalks would delay repairs urgently needed on Main St.— and other streets, as well. Before the sidewalks can be installed, the Town has to conduct a survey of the relevant roadway. That will take until mid-May, says Tiger Mann. Then the sidewalks will have to be designed, laid out, and approved by the fire commissioner, police commissioner, and others. Then the sidewalks will have to be installed. Given all these steps, the re-paving of Main St. alone won’t be done until mid-summer at the earliest. The Department of Public Works says that no additional roads will be re-paved until the re-paving of Main Street is complete. So because these new sidewalks would jump to the front of the list of the Town’s list of projects, much-needed repairs of other roads will be seriously delayed. Some won’t happen until 2012 or later.
- The proposed sidewalks would be a mile from town, where there’s little foot traffic. They would essentially serve to close a South Ave./Farm Rd./Main St. exercise loops. But New Canaan already has plenty of loops for pedestrian exercise. Like at Waveny Park, for instance.
- The sidewalks are no small engineering project. Retaining walls will have to be installed to make way for them. Some of the oldest trees in town will have to be removed.
- The Town’s costly scheme for new sidewalks on lower Main St. is the wrong idea at the wrong time. On 4/27, vote YES at to send the Town’s planned $4 million road-repair bond issue back to the Board of Finance, to change the wording to say that ALL the bond's proceeds must be used for road repair, and NONE for installation of new sidewalks!