Greenwich High Study of traffic problems ‘falls behind schedule’
GREENWICH — A push to resolve parking problems on Hillside Road has been delayed while the Greenwich Public Schools looks for the money needed to pay a consultant for a study on the issue.
“That has fallen behind schedule,” Town Administrator Benjamin Branyan told the Board of Selectmen at its meeting Thursday morning. Hundreds of hours of work has gone into resolving questions about permit parking and complaints from residents about the traffic, said Branyan, who has headed a working group since spring on the issue. But a consultant must be approved for next step to move forward.
“That’s a critical recommendation, and several of the recommendations rely on it,” he said. “We are actively working with the school district to get that back on track.”
The expected cost for the consultant is $73,700 — down from an initial estimate of $125,000, said Thomas Bobkowski, director of safety and security at Greenwich High. The district’s cabinet is working to find the money in the current school year’s budget, he said.
In June, the selectmen accepted a report with 19 recommendations about parking on Hillside Road, heavily used road next to Greenwich High. Student permit parking is currently allowed there, but one of the recommendations is to move visitor parking to the street and the student permit parking to the school property.
The working group, which was formed in June, and its report came about as a result of complaints from Hillside Road residents about heavy traffic volume at the start and end of the school day. Parents double- and triple-parking outside the school creates traffic headaches.
Selectman Sandy Litvack asked when the money to hire the consultant might be approved, but no timeframe was given. “I hope it’s soon,” Branyan said.
As a result of the delay, the selectmen are keeping the item open.
“This is one of those things that, in my experience, unless everybody is feeling pressure it’s just too easy for it to slide and not get done in a timely fashion,” Litvack said. He wants the school district to act “in a prompt manner.”
First Selectman Peter Tesei agreed.
“If we keep it on the agenda until we get the resolution, which is the actual contracting of the traffic study, done, it will keep the spotlight on it,” Tesei said.
If the school district is not able to find money for the consultant in its current 2018-19 budget, it would have to request an allocation from the town’s Board of Estimate and Taxation. That allocation would then need to be approved by the Representative Town Meeting.
Bobkowski said the district is using the same traffic consultant, Fuss and O’Neill, which is in place for its look at Cardinal Stadium. Initially, the two projects were linked, which is the reason for the higher cost, he said. But the district separated them so the traffic study could focus on the committee’s recommendation, leading to the lower cost.
But the price tag still caused concerns.
“That sounds like a heck of a lot of money,” Litvack said. “I have no basis to say that, but it just feels like it’s very high.”
Given the scope of the study and the needed work, such as parking lot monitoring, the cost is in line, Bobskowski said.
While the lack of funding for the consultant has caused delays, Branyan did offer a positive assessment.
“Other progress has been made,” he said. “I think one that one that has had the biggest impact was about the rental activities that had the potential to interfere with both the high school and Parks and Recreation activity.”
That included Trinity Church’s rental of the school for its Sunday services, something that neighbors said has added to the parking congestion even when school is not in session. But the church found a new location for its services.
“That helps traffic congestion,” Branyan said.
Since late in the last school year, Greenwich High haw worked to cut down on double parking on Hillside Road by moving drop-off and pickup to the back of the school building and adding more signs.