By John Schwing

WESTPORT — Transportation infrastructure projects got “special” attention from the Board of Selectwomen this week.

At a special — and short — meeting Wednesday morning, the selectwomen gave unanimous approval to three transportation-related initiatives.

  • The first, and most ambitious, proposal was use of a $450,000 grant from the federal “Safe Streets and Roadways for All” program to hire a contractor to develop an “action plan” prioritizing local infrastructure projects. 
  • The two other initiatives were easements with property owners to permit construction of bus shelters — one on Post Road East and the other on Post Road West.

Public Works Director Peter Ratkiewich took the podium in Town Hall’s auditorium to present all three applications to the board.

Public Works Director Peter Ratkiewich tells Wednesday’s Board of Selectwomen meeting about plans to hire a consultant to prepare federally funded “Safe Streets and Roadways for All” action plan for Westport.

The pact awarded under the Safe Streets and Roadways for All program, nicknamed “SS4A,” went to Tighe & Bond Inc. of Shelton, which was selected among three applicants, according to Ratkiewich.

The firm has “more horsepower” to do the job, he added, and has worked productively on previous town projects.

The general focus of the SS4A program is to promote projects that enhance traffic, bicycling and pedestrian safety.

Westport’s action plan needs to be assembled quickly to meet the July 2024 filing deadline for an implementation grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation, the DPW director said.  

Overall funding of $562,500 for the action plan was approved in July by the Representative Town Meeting — the $450,000 SS4A federal grant comprises 80 percent of the total, with the rest funded by the town.

The contractor will develop a list of local transportation safety priorities, such as mitigating accident “hot spots” and roadside hazards, or adding safety improvements like bicycle lanes or sidewalks along designated corridors, Ratkiewich said.

The SS4A program is “very, very competitive,” he said, and about half of the overall funding is generally allocated to “disadvantaged communities, which we are not.”

Since the competition for SS4A funding is so intense, the town expects to file an application only for the top-ranked priority identified in its action plan, Ratkiewich said. But the plan also can be used to seek funding for other priorities available through other transportation programs, he added.

During the year-long planning process there will be “robust engagement” with the public Ratkiewich said, responding to a question from Selectwoman Candice Savin about whether the public will be able to weigh in on the consultant’s work.

All aboard for bus shelters

The selectwomen also unanimously approved easement agreements with two local property owners to allow installation of bus shelters.

One of the shelters will be installed at 1141 Post Road East in front of the Residence at Westport, an assisted-living center.

The other shelter is planned at 199 Post Road West, in front of the Schulhof Animal Hospital.

Plans for bus shelters along the Post Road corridor have been developed as part of a process that started about three years ago, Ratkiewich said, guided by the town’s Bus Shelter Working Group.

The shelters will be erected using a share of $150,000 in American Rescue Plan Act pandemic relief funding set aside for such projects.

Once the shelters are installed, the town is responsible for ongoing maintenance costs, he said.

There were no comments by the public on any items on Wednesday’s meeting agenda, and few questions from the selectwomen.

The meeting adjourned 17 minutes after it was convened.

John Schwing, the Westport Journal consulting editor, has held senior editorial and writing posts at southwestern Connecticut media outlets for four decades. Learn more about us here.