Photo: Brian A. Pounds / Hearst Connecticut Media
BRIDGEPORT — However you get around town — walking, biking, a wheelchair, the bus, driving — city officials want to know what can be done to improve the experience.
“Complete Streets Bridgeport” is the just-launched initiative aimed at creating a comprehensive guide for better roads and sidewalks in Connecticut’s largest municipality. Creators say they hope it will be the go-to reference for public and private construction and development.
“It definitely is kind of an ‘out there’ term, but it’s really concrete in what it means to Bridgeport residents,” explained Jacob Robison, a staffer with the city’s Office of Planning and Economic Development helping spearhead the $130,000 project. “It’s a fresh way to look at street design which prioritizes all modes of transportation so bikes, pedestrians and cars can all share it.”
“This is actually going to be designs and guidelines for developers, for the public facilities department, for the engineering office, for everyone to have and refer to,” Bridgeport Planning Director Lynn Haig said. “This is the way streets will look in the future, in perpetuity, whenever streets are redone or worked on.”
And while City Hall has so far been engaging with a consultant — NV5 of Fairfield — and various community groups and organizations, it wants members of the public to share their local travel experiences and anecdotes Sept. 3 during an online, 6 p.m. hearing.
“This is the first big opportunity for them to engage,” Haig said.
Robison added, “This isn’t a ‘top down’ approach where we say, ‘We want a bike lane here, a pedestrian route here.’”
Instead, that is what he and Haig want the public to suggest to them.
“They may say, ‘I live near Clinton Avenue and bike down to Route 130 and would like a bike lane,’” suggested Robison. “They might say, ‘I need a better way to walk to the train station and downtown’ (or) ‘it’s dangerous to walk here.’ If they give us issues they experience while traveling the city, we can turn that into recommendations.”
In recent years, area students who walk to school have protested conditions like unsafe intersections, bad lighting and broken sidewalks.
Haig noted motorists should also participate: “People who are behind a wheel might get frustrated because there’s a certain intersection where there’s constant jaywalking. Maybe we need different engineering at that intersection to make it safer for pedestrians and vehicles.”
More details about the Sept. 3 hearing and how to participate can be found at completestreetsbpt.com.
For anyone who cannot make that event, the website also has a map function for visitors to locate specific areas on roads and sidewalks and make complaints or offer suggestions.
Complete Streets was authorized as part of the Bridgeport’s 10-year master plan, approved in 2019. The goal is to draft and finalize the design guide by year’s end, with a second public hearing held sometime in October or November.
Haig said the city’s main routes and byways are currently “a patchwork of things and decisions made over several decades in a vacuum for a specific end goal.”
And, she noted, properly designed streets are not just about the travel experience, but can also have an economic impact, such as providing more foot traffic for local businesses.
“You get streets like Connecticut and Stratford avenues in the East End where they’ve been made one-way,” Haig said. “They used to be two-way, and the East End was thriving. … (The change to one-way) helped kill the economic viability of the East End because the traffic tends to go faster. So Stratford Avenue is not a safe place for pedestrians or bicyclists or scooters. It’s meant to move vehicles.”
Ultimately, Haig said, Complete Streets should help “knit back the community and right all the bad decisions that have been made.”