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Westport, State Consider Adding Another Crosswalk

WESTPORT, Conn. – Despite the existence of a crosswalk at Post Road East and Bulkley Avenue, not all pedestrians who cross the street near Shake Shack are using it. That's why Westport officials are looking to add a new crosswalk at the intersection.

The existing crosswalk stretches across the Post Road from the Stop & Shop to the Bank of America. However, Steve Edwards, director of the Public Works Department, said it's not convenient for pedestrians.

"The current crosswalk is on the west side of the traffic light, so a person looking to cross the Post Road would have walk across Bulkley Avenue, then the Post Road and back across Bulkley to get to Shake Shack," he said. "We would be looking to put another crosswalk parallel to the existing one, but on the easterly side of the intersection."

On Nov. 23, a westbound car hit a 19-year-old Shake Shack employee as she tried to cross the Post Road from the north side to the south. Instead of using the crosswalk, police said the woman crossed mid-block near 1835 Post Road E. She was found at fault in the accident.

Earlier this month, Edwards, First Selectman Gordon Joseloff, Police Chief Dale Call and officials from the state Department of Transportation met to discuss the possibility of adding a new crosswalk to the state roadway, closer to the burger joint.

Although a crosswalk that spans the Post Road directly across from Shake Shack might seem ideal, it's not, said Kevin Nursick, a spokesman for the DOT.

"Mid-block crosswalks are never ideal, especially across four lanes, because they are not located where drivers would expect to have a crossing, like at an intersection," Nursick said. "When you have a mid-block crossing, it's less predictable and much less controlled."

The DOT would not support the installation of a mid-block crosswalk, and Call said the police department wouldn't, either. That's why the town proposed a signaled crosswalk on the east side of the intersection with Bulkley.

Although Nursick said the DOT would support a crosswalk there, he said the state doesn't have the money to install it. So, if the town wants to make the project a reality, he said it would be up to Westport to pay for it.

However, Edwards said the town doesn't have funds allocated for such a project, either, and would seek private donations if the project were to move forward. At this time, though, Edwards said the meeting was just a preliminary discussion and that his department is waiting on cost estimates from the state.

Call said he plans to meet with the owners of Shake Shack to see whether they would be interested in contributing to the proposed crosswalk.

Theresa Mullen, a spokeswoman for Shake Shack, said in an emailed statement that the company is eager to work with the town toward a solution but could not comment about supporting the crosswalk financially.

"The well being of our team and our guests is our top priority," Mullen wrote. "We've been actively working with the Town of Westport and the Connecticut DOT to mitigate traffic concerns near our business on the Post Road. We are eager to support their recommendations."

Not only is funding questionable, Call said it’s unknown whether pedestrians would use the proposed crosswalk, as many don’t seem to use the existing one on the west side of the Post Road/Bulkley Avenue intersection.

"If we build it, will they come? They would still have to walk about 150 feet toward Stop & Shop, so that's a big question" Call said. "If pedestrians don't use it, it doesn't improve safety at all."

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