U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal. / Photo by Thane Grauel
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal. / Photos by Thane Grauel

By Thane Grauel

WESTPORT — U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal came to town Monday morning to tout a $450,000 federal grant to help the town develop a safety action plan for local roads.

Standing outside Police Department headquarters with police, fire, public works officials and First Selectwoman Jennifer Tooker, Blumenthal called Westport’s plan — devised after a series of public hearings for each Representative Town Meeting district — a model for other communities.

“Every town and city in Connecticut should have a team like this one,” Blumenthal said of the local officials on hand.

The grant was announced by the state’s congressional delegation last week — a day after town officials released a detailed survey of local traffic and safety issues.

The town applied for the “Safe Streets and Roads for All” grant from the federal Department of Transportation last September. Westport is the only community in the 4th Congressional District to receive one of the grants.

“It is absolutely the number one topic that Westporters bring up,” Tooker said of local traffic issues. “My year in office, every single day I get feedback on pedestrian and traffic safety issues.”

“We’ve hosted numerous meetings on the topic, we’ve listened to hundreds of ideas and pieces of feedback from our residents, we’ve created a report that documents all the feedback that our residents have given us and an action plan to tackle as many issues we can around traffic and pedestrian safety,” Tooker said.

“This grant is going to help us continue to be strategic, continue to be deliberate, and continue to hold us accountable in tackling this this very important issue here in Westport,” she said.

First Selectwoman Jennifer Tooker with U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal and others outside Police Headquarters. / Photo by Thane Grauel
First Selectwoman Jennifer Tooker with U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal and others outside Police Department headquarters.

She thanked Blumenthal and the rest of the Connecticut congressional delegation for the federal grant.

“The stark fact is, Connecticut’s roads were deadlier than ever this past year,” Blumenthal said. “This year was the deadliest year on record for pedestrians and cyclists. In this past year alone, 254 pedestrians died on Connecticut roads. That is a startling figure.”

He said such deaths have increased about 50 percent since 2010.

“So this safety plan for Westport is a model of what should be done all around the state,” Blumenthal said. “And the $450,000 grant we’re announcing today is a recognition that Westport is taking a lead in listening to its residents.”

“Pedestrians want more enforcement of local laws, but they also want more sidewalks, more means of guaranteeing cyclists and pedestrians that they will be safe on the roads,” he said. “More and more people are cycling, more people are walking, that’s a good thing.”

“They should be guaranteed more safety,” Blumenthal said.

“Westport has demonstrated its leadership and I am looking forward to its strategic plan, because I know it won’t be a report that sits on a desk and gathers dust,” he said.

(On that note, read former RTM member Jennifer Johnson’s letter to the editor.)

Absent from the gathering were any state officials. The state Department of Transportation controls the most troublesome intersections in town, and local officials have said at various meetings that getting the agency’s cooperation in solving problems is difficult.

Thane Grauel, executive editor, grew up in Westport and has been a journalist in Fairfield County and beyond more than three decades. Reach him at editor@westportjournal.com. Learn more about us here.