Improvements on tap to make downtown friendlier for bicyclists, pedestrians 

NAUGATUCK — The borough is close to making improvements downtown that are designed to make the area more accommodating for bicyclists and pedestrians.

“We are doing everything we can with our downtown, especially in the future when we get more frequent and reliable train service, to have a more vibrant, walkable, bikeable, pedestrian-friendly downtown,” Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess said.

The Connecticut Department of Transportation awarded Naugatuck a $399,735 grant through the Community Connectivity Grant Program early this year. The program is an infrastructure improvement program that provides construction funding for projects that will improve the safety and accessibility for bicyclists and pedestrians in downtown areas.

Naugatuck officials plan to make improvements to sidewalks, add and replace signage, update pedestrian crosswalks, and bring some crosswalks into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Other ideas include curb bump outs to help pedestrians, and adding new sidewalks and bicycle lanes.

“There are ADA ramps missing throughout town,” Public Works Director James Stewart said. “There are signage missing. The painting doesn’t meet the current signs. There are sidewalks on Church Street that are falling part; on Cedar Street the sidewalks are falling apart.”

The grant pays for the cost of construction, but the borough is responsible for the design work. At its Dec. 3 meeting, the Board of Mayor and Burgesses awarded a $46,250 contract for the design services to BL Companies out of Meriden. The money will come from the five-year capital budget, Stewart said.

Borough Engineer Wayne Zirolli said officials want the work to concentrate on Church Street, Old Firehouse Road, Maple Street, Cedar Street and Water Street.

As part of the project, Zirolli said, officials will also work with the consultants to look at traffic flow downtown and may consider making some roads one way. Any recommendations will be presented at a meeting to get public input, then a preliminary design will be done, he said.

Stewart said the borough will need to pave Church Street, Water Street, Maple Street and Cedar Street around the same time as the project since workers will be painting these roads.

The design work is expected to be done over the winter with a public information meeting in the spring, Stewart said. Construction could start in the summer.

The $399,735 grant the borough received was part of $13.4 million in grants awarded by the DOT through the Community Connectivity Grant Program.

Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments Director of Planning and Assistant Director Mark Nielsen said the number of accidents involving pedestrians and vehicles has increased, and the program’s objective is to enhance visibility of pedestrians so motorists can slow down when they see them.

Nielsen thinks projects like the one Naugatuck is proposing are a win-win.

“Making a downtown that’s more walkable and bicycle friendly just makes it much more inviting to all travelers,” Nielsen said. “It’s going to help downtown businesses and attract more customers. Getting drivers to slow down just makes the environment much safer.”