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RIDGEFIELD — The town just got the green light from the state Department of Transportation to go ahead with a years-long project to improve the walkability of the Branchville part of town. The work is set to begin in a few months.
The $2.3 million streetscape project involves creating a sidewalk that will begin at the Wilton-Ridgefield line, heading north on Route 7. It will continue north to Tusk & Cup Fine Coffee, to the intersection with Route 102. There will be a walking bridge over a brook. The sidewalk will continue north across the street.
"The width of Route 102 where it meets Route 7 will be narrowed so you won't have to run out of breath trying to get across there," Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi said. "There'll be walking signs, crosswalks and the sidewalk will continue up to the Norwalk River. A sidewalk will continue all the way up Florida Road as well, with a crosswalk over to the Ancona Plaza."
The project also includes installing decorative lighting as well as the realignment of Route 102 with Route 7 with new traffic signalization and crosswalks at that intersection.
"This is about the future of Branchville and getting the infrastructure in place to actually begin a transit-oriented development that will have multi-family housing, a train station, bus service on Route 7," Marconi said. "It's an improvement, an investment in Branchville."
A grant for the project was obtained through the Transit Alternative Program, where the town had to match 20 percent — about $400,000, which was already approved by voters.
J Iapaluccio contractors in Brookfield are expected to do the work.
Marconi said with the project, he's trying to create a more "pedestrian-friendly community" in that area of town.
"Branchville has been the forgotten child for many, many years," Marconi said. "This finally is going to begin after many, many years of applications and studies. We're finally putting a shovel in the ground to make some improvements."
The second portion of the project involves the design of a new bridge at Depot Road.
"We're 90 percent complete in the designing phase for a new bridge, which is at the Route 7 and 102 intersection," Marconi said.
After that bridge is replaced, a new bridge will be constructed on Portland Avenue.
"A new bridge will go in there as well as a new intersection with a left turn lane and a thru lane, as well as a widening of the track crossing at Portland Avenue," he said.
He said the plan is to begin that work this year and continue it over the next three to four years — "not necessarily on (Route) 7 but definitely with the bridge work."
"It's all to improve the train station, traffic movement, (and) pedestrian movement," he said.
He added the state has recently received, from U.S. Rep Jim Himes through the Western Connecticut Council of Governments, an announcement that a grant of $200,000 is being earmarked to study the feasibility of connecting Branchville to the Georgetown-Redding sewer plant.
The goal of that grant is also for the purpose of revitalizing the Branchville neighborhood.
Once the contract is signed with the bidder, Marconi said he'll have more information as to the start date of the project.
A Transit Oriented Development study was done years ago and the project is necessary to develop Branchville for the future, Marconi said.
"It's looking at how do we keep cars off the roads, reduce the carbon footprint, provide transportation, the electrification of the Branchville line," he said. "All of it is how we provide housing and a living environment that is clean and enjoyable. That's the long-term vision for Branchville."