Saturday, December 5, 2009
Big News on the Merritt Parkway Trail!
Late October witnessed a landmark moment in the development of the East Coast Greenway. At the Fairfield County/East Coast Greenway Bicycle & Pedestrian Summit, ConnDOT Deputy Commissioner Albert Martin announced that the Department of Transportation would no longer oppose development of a Merritt Parkway Trail!
While there were the expected provisos about funding, department policy on fencing, etc, the switch of ConnDOT from roadblock to partner in development of this long-fought-for trail is the biggest step forward we've seen in years.
The Merritt Parkway, built in the 1930s, was originally designed with a bridle path in the extra-wide (300 feet!) right-of-way. The trail was never built, however. What was initially designed to be a road for pleasant Sunday driving has since devolved from being a PARKway into just another commuter highway, an alternative to Interstate 95 in southeastern Connecticut.
Click here to read a bit more about this announcement. Click here for the website of the Merritt Parkway Trail Alliance, to learn more about the trail project, and the history of the roadway.
The Merritt Parkway then... and now.
* What is the Merritt Parkway trail?
* Why should we support the trail?
* How will the trail be maintained and who will pay for it?
* What are the economic benefits?
* How will the trail cross roads and interchanges?
* What kind of safety barriers will be used between the trail and the roadway?
* How wide will the trail be and will there be room for horses?
* How many trees will be cut?
* Where will people park?
* What hours will the trail be open and will it be lighted?
* How will graffiti be prevented?
* Will people living along the Merritt right-of-way lose their privacy?
* What is the role of Regional Plan Association?
* What is the Merritt Parkway Trail Alliance?
* Whom can I contact for more information about the trail?
Q: What is the Merritt Parkway trail?
A:The Merritt trail is a proposed non-motorized multi-user path along the entire 37.5-mile length of the Merritt Parkway right-of-way from the New York border to the Housatonic River.
Q: Why should we support the trail?
A: The trail will contribute significantly to an improved environment, a healthier community and an enhanced quality of life by encouraging people to get out of their cars and onto their feet. It will help ease the traffic congestion on our roads by providing an opportunity for safe recreation and access to shopping, schools, the work place, waterfront and parks for bicyclists, walkers, and the handicapped. It will preserve open space, improve air quality, provide an up-close opportunity to enjoy and examine the specimen plantings and the 36 varied and unique bridges along the Merritt.
The trail is a critical link in the East Coast Greenway, a planned urban trail that will run from Maine to Florida. It will also give access to planned and existing intersecting trails including the Housatonic River Greenway and the Norwalk River Trail. It will give meaning to the bicycle/pedestrian lane that is a component of the new Housatonic River Bridge.
According to The Surgeon General's Call to Action to Prevent and Decrease Overweight and Obesity, more than 60 percent of Americans are overweight or obese. This leads to over 300,000 deaths a year. So making our communities pedestrian and bicycle friendly is simply smart planning.
Q: How will the trail be maintained and who will pay for it?
A: The demonstration segment that is planned for Stamford will be maintained by the city. As the trail is developed and expanded, the best approach is to establish a dedicated fund to maintain the trail in a consistent manner.
Q: What are the economic benefits?
A:The Impacts of Rail-Trails a 1992 study conducted by the Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program of the National Park Service and Pennsylvania State University found that trails bring significant benefits to communities, such as preservation of open space and increased business for bike shops, restaurants, inns and other local establishments. The study determined that users spent an average of $9.21, $11.02, and $3.97 per person per day during their visits to the Heritage Trail in Iowa, the St. Marks in Florida, and the Lafayette/Moraga in California, respectively. And many studies show that trials not only enhance the quality of life in a community but also raise property values of the adjacent homes.
Q: How will the trail cross roads and interchanges?
A:At-grade-crossings would be appropriate where the trail crosses secondary, lightly-used roads. Tunnels or bridges would be used at busy interchanges and at Routes 7, 8 and 25.
Q: What kind of safety barriers will be used between the trail and the roadway?
A: ConnDOT purchased approximately 300 feet of land for the Parkway but constructed on only one-third to one-half of the northern portion of that land leaving the rest free of development. The trail will be constructed within this remaining southern portion of the right of way. Rock outcroppings and plantings will provide a natural safety buffer along much of the trail. Where necessary, safety fencing will be used. The minimum amount of separation recommended by AASHTO is five feet of horizontal separation, or forty-two inches of vertical separation, provided by a barrier or railing
Q: How wide will the trail be and will there be room for horses?
A:According to AASHTO guidelines, a multi-use trail should be a minimum of 10 feet. Designated lanes could provide protection for walkers but some trails have a soft shoulder for their use. In communities with equestrian use, a separate but adjacent trail is recommended.
Q: How many trees will be cut?/b>
A: This, of course, will depend on the topography, but the trail will be sited to cut as few trees as possible while maintaining good sightlines for all users.
Q: Where will people park?
A: TMany users will actually bike or walk to the trail. Others may use existing commuter lots and local nearby lots. For example, the Italian Center has offered the use of its lot for the proposed demonstration segment between High Ridge Road and Newfield Avenue. In some areas, commuter lots may be expanded or new lots built.
Q: What hours will the trail be open and will it be lighted?
A: Most trails are opened dawn to dust but because the trail is intended for commuting as well as recreational use, winter trail hours might require some form of safety lighting, for example reflectors.
Q: How will graffiti be prevented?
A: Currently, there is no trail or access along the Parkway but somehow graffiti appears on the bridges. Once a trail is in place with regular bicycle and pedestrian traffic, there should be less vandalism.
Q: Will people living along the Merritt right-of-way lose their privacy?
A: Because the existing road uses only a portion of the 300-foot right-of-way, a trail would be surrounded by a wide buffer, allowing continued privacy for the neighborhood residents and presenting minimal conflicts with possible future improvements to the Parkway. A Rails-to-Trails study of 82 suburban trails stated that only 3 percent reported any incidents of trespassing on adjacent property.
Q: What is the role of Regional Plan Association?
A: More information about RPA on the website at www.rpa.org
Q: What is the Merritt Parkway Trail Alliance?
A: More information about this initiative can be found at www.merrittalliance.org
You can support the Merritt Parkway Trail Alliance, a group of organizations, corporations, elected officials, and individuals dedicated to building healthy communities where bicycling and walking are encouraged, by becoming a member. You can also contact your local officials and state legislators to ask for their support to build a Merritt Parkway Trail. State legislators can be reached free of charge.
Senate Democrats, (800) 842-1420.
Senate Republicans, (800) 842-1421.
House Democrats, (800) 842-1902.
House Republicans, (800) 842-1423.
Q: Whom can I contact for more information about the trail?