For several years now the residents of Darien who live along Hoyt Street near the Talmadge Hill Railroad Station have been asking, no, demanding, that sidewalks be built there. They argue, fairly, that it’s not safe to walk that busy highway to get to the station.
This stretch of Hoy Street, part of state Rt 106, is under the control of the CT Dept of Transportation. has surveyed the area, polled the neighbors and lobbied the CDOT to do something to help. Because the train station and Rt 106 straddle the New Canaan town line, the neighbors and the past three Darien First Selectmen have tried to enlist that town’s support, to no avail.
A recent CDOT estimate that sidewalks would cost $1 million was rejected by neighbors as over-priced (not that CDOT has much of a track record at building anything under budget). Radar speed detectors have been placed along the road, cops have handed out tickets, and still there’s speeding, but no sidewalks.
Do you have a sidewalk in front of your house? Chances are pretty slim that you do. I don’t have them, though I live within walking distance of the Noroton Heights station and see dozens of daily commuters walking there, albeit not on a busy state highway.
So why does the Hoyt Street crowd jump the queue to be most deserving of pedestrian-friendly investments? For no reasons other than their persistence and their constant clamor. Good for them sticking up for what they believe. I just don’t think Darien taxpayers should pay for their sidewalks.
I have a solution: let them pay for the sidewalks themselves by creating a “taxing district”.
There are plenty of precedents. Think sewer districts or business improvement zones.
Draw a one mile circle around the train station and assess the property owners who will benefit by having those sidewalks a reasonable charge, payable over time. Those residents will see their property values increase because their homes will be more commuter-friendly. They’ll be able to know their kids won’t get killed walking / biking to the park / school. They’ll enjoy all the sidewalks’ benefits, so let them foot the bill.
Mind you, I do think the Town needs to do more sidewalk planning and construction. But there should be objective criteria about where they are built including housing density, proximity to schools and public services (like train stations), road dangers, etc.
Just because you yell the loudest doesn’t mean you should win.
Editor's note: This article originally was published Friday. The time stamp has been changed for layout purposes on the Home page of Darien Patch.