After a bit of a hiatus (and a referendum), the Main Street sidewalk discussion is creeping back into New Canaan. Cabezas DeAngelis Engineers and Surveyors completed its preliminary study on how new sidewalks could work on Main Street. Chris DeAngelis, of Cabezas DeAngelis, presented the findings for the first time to the Fire Commission Tuesday night.

The firm recommended that sidewalks on the east side of the road would be the best option. The study looked primarily at installing sidewalks on either the west or east side of Main Street as opposed to both. As far as the Fire Commission was concerned, the only preoccupation dealt with road length and the safe passage of fire trucks during an emergency.

"With everything I've been told tonight, (what) I've heard is that this will be between a somewhat improvement to a significant improvement to what we have now," Fire Chief Ed Karl said at the end of the presentation. "Having the road width wider is going to make it easier for the fire trucks to get through, not only for our trucks going out to calls on the south side of town, but also for Norwalk's trucks if we have something significant downtown, they will be able to get into town more safely."

Regardless of east or west sides, the study states the roads would have a 28-foot wide cross section split into 12-foot lanes with 2-foot shoulders. The sidewalks are expected to be 5 feet 36 inches wide. Of those 36 inches, 30 inches would be a grass strip while 6 inches would make up the wide curb.

When comparing installation on the east or west side, there were less complication on the east side according to DeAngelis. On the west side there are five potential property line conflicts as opposed to four of them on the east side. There were also issues with the retaining walls, which would be easier on the east side.

"Also, it was found that due to the steep embankment condition that exists in several areas along the west side, that there would be many more retaining walls necessary if the sidewalk were placed on the west side," DeAngelis said in the report.

Regarding fire truck passage, the study showed favorable conditions on both the east and the west sides. The firm used a fire truck from the Newtown Fire Department, one with similar dimensions to a New Canaan ladder truck, to navigate the S-curve of the road and still stay within the 12-foot lane when traveling south toward emergencies. However the east side still held an advantage since it would leave the west side uncurbed and allow drivers to pull over towards the grassy area in the event of an emergency, particularly when the trucks are heading south as they normally do.

So what does this all mean? For now all it means is the Fire Department has reacted favorably to the results of the study. As far as costs for installing the sidewalks are concerned, those estimations will be ready for the Town Council at their next meeting May 20 according to Director of Public Works Michael Pastore.

The sidewalk issue has gone through several public meetings and a referendum during the past few months. The divisive subject stemmed from the proposal to install new sidewalks on Main Street using bonded funds. The New Canaan Citizens for Responsible Spending wanted the entire $4 million bond to be used for road paving, not installing new sidewalks. Since a final approval has not been made on sidewalks, the CRS decided to put the whole bond, the source of funding for the initiative, to a referendum, which was defeated by a vote of 1,788 to 1,541 April 27.

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