Residents near Hoyt Street have repeatedly applied political heat to get sidewalks installed in the road near the Talmadge Hill railroad station. On Monday night town officials offered them light.
Public Works Director Robert Steeger described alternate proposals to add significantly more streetlighting to Hoyt Street near the station. The proposal, described at Monday night's regular Board of Selectmen meeting, would add 150-watt streetlights to Connecticut Light & Power poles on the street, adding to the 70- and 100-watt lights already there.
CL&P was willing to add the lighting at no cost to the town, and the ongoing cost of electricity would be a fraction of the annual $70,000 the town already pays the utility for streetlighting, Steeger said. If the town requested the lighting, it would take six to eight weeks for CL&P to review the matter before officially approving it, he said.
Baye Larsen was one of several neighborhood residents who asked that the road be made safer for pedestrians. She specifically asked for sidewalks, but before they come, she's tried to make her weekday walks to the train station safer by putting flashing lights on her purse and using a flashlight "so that I would better be able to see my way and so cars can see me."
First Selectman Jayme Stevenson said New Canaan officials are also looking into adding streetlights to the road on their side of the town border—unlike the Darien side, there are no lights there now.
While the move wouldn't end safety concerns on the narrow, heavily traveled street, Stevens said it should help. In the meantime, she said, she's trying to work with state officials on getting sidewalks installed.
Holly Schulz, a resident of the neighborhood, spoke out strongly in opposition to the lighting idea.
"I don't think lighting Hoyt Street like a stadium is going to help," she said. Lights won't make a difference to drivers "when the idiots are talking on their cell phones and texting."
Schulz said a large amount of lighting from high poles "will seriously affect the character of the neighborhood." What's needed, she said, is a "holistic design" with lighting—probably lower to the ground—planned in conjunction with sidewalks or walkways next to the street.
"I'm angry at this point [...] because I think this is so backwards," she said, urging the board to get an overall plan in place first, then make changes.
Stevenson replied that the lighting idea is "one small measure to add some more safety" to the area, but she added, "We won't move forward on this piece of the project until we get you more information."
Schulz asked that town officials tell residents what other parts of town are already as highly lit as the proposal would make Hoyt Street, so that residents could get an idea of what the lights would be like. Selectman David Bayne agreed that the Board of Selectmen should hold off on deciding whether to approve the proposal until residents get that information.
"I think you'll find it isn't as stadium-like as you would think," Stevenson said.
Stevenson said she has been discussing the addition of sidewalks to the state road with Joseph Oulette, an official at the state Department of Transportation, to see what kind of walkways or sidewalks the state will allow.
David Kahn, chairman of the Public Works Committee of the Representative Town Meeting, was one of several residents of the neighborhood who told selectmen that Hoyt Street needs to be safer for pedestrians.
"I am convinced that someone's going to get hurt on this street unless a sidewalk or walking path is installed at some point," he said. "My neighbors have steadily encouraged me to keep fighting for this."