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Group Effort Underway to Support Safety in Branford's Indian Neck Entertainment District
A push is on to slow down vehicles and promote safety for all among congested conditions and crowds created by seasonal customers flocking to a popular entertainment district in Branford's Indian Neck; shown here, traffic between two of the popular venues, The Stand and Lenny's Indian Head Inn, begins ramping up early on Thursday evening, July 22. (Photo by Pam Johnson/The Sound)
Among efforts being undertaken by Branford police, a permanent speed read digital display sign has been installed heading south on South Montowese Street. (Photo by Pam Johnson/The Sound)
In addition to welcoming the efforts of Branford Police, some ways in which businesses have lent their support included the addition of a temporary lighting array tower in the Friki Tiki lot, a new ID checker installed and in use at The Stand, and a "Slow, Congested Area" sign (seen here, right) posted by the roadside entrance to the Lenny's Indian Head Inn parking lot. (Photo by Pam Johnson/The Sound)
A push is on to slow down vehicles and promote safety for all among congested conditions and crowds created by seasonal customers flocking to a popular entertainment district in Branford's Indian Neck.
Since June, business owners, police and district representatives have begun working together to address concerns and create a safer environment; without detracting from the much-needed economic recovery caused by the slew of seasonal customers. The effort was initiated as a bipartisan idea of District 5 Representative Town Meeting (RTM) members Carolyn Sires (R) and Tracy Everson (D), who gathered a June 11 meeting at the Indian Neck Firehouse with Branford Police Lt. Philip Ramey and several of the local business owners or their representatives.
The traffic area of concern stretches from South Montowese Street starting at Branford Elks Club, to the intersections of Sybil Avenue (over to Bud's Fish Market) and Linden Avenue (over to the Owenego Inn and Beach Club). Within that area, congestion has been ramping up since pandemic restrictions were fully lifted in May and has continued throughout the summer season, especially on weekends and even in the days before the weekend begins.
In addition bringing to a flood of vehicles, many others are walking in, arriving by bike and even by golf cart to reach the array of dining and entertainment on offer. Sires said some of the most dangerous pedestrian and vehicle issues are at the "triangle" where Sybil Avenue and Linden Avenue converge before to the Sybil Avenue Bridge and South Montowese Street. She said a traffic accident in that area in May was the reason she and Everson began talking about working together to help improve safety in the area.
Four of the district's most popular dining and/or cocktail service venues -- The Stand, Lenny's Indian Head Inn, Guacamole's Mexican Cuisine and Friki Tiki – are located within steps of one another. It's not uncommon for visitors to arrive with plans to cross the street or squeeze past traffic to enjoy more than one venue. Events at the Owenego are also a draw. Other busy area businesses include Indian Neck Pizza, Sea Suds, Indian Neck Liquor Store and Bud's Fish Market.
Police Take Note, Begin Taking Action
In a July 22 written response to a request for comments from Zip06/The Sound, Branford Deputy Chief of Police John Alves provided the following update:
"We recognize that there has been an increase in activity in the area of South Montowese St. and Linden Ave. as COVID restrictions have changed and we're glad to see the businesses doing well. Lt. Philip Ramey, the department's traffic commission liaison, met with Representative Sires, Everson, several business owners and others who are concerned with the increase in pedestrian activity and parking issues in order to find some solutions to the problems voiced.
We did install a permanent speed sign heading south on South Montowese St. and also have been intermittently using our mobile speed trailer in the area to help control speeds. Additionally, we analyzed the lighting in the area and with the assistance of the town's engineering department, we coordinated with CL&P who installed new lighting and increased the wattage on existing street lights.
Officers on our midnight shift have collaborated with restaurant personnel to assist with closings and taken enforcement action when needed. Additionally, our Officers have collaborated with the State of CT Liquor Control commission to check for underage drinking and other liquor control violations at restaurants in the area and several others around town. We plan on continuing to increase our presence in the area and we remind the public to use caution when traveling through due to the increase in activity.
We also thank the restaurant owners/ managers who have implemented their own measures to increase safety in the area."
Sires said the willingness of the area business owners to assist in keeping the district safe, while also assisting customers with staying safe, has been a welcome contribution to the effort.
"Tracy and I go down once every couple of weeks to visit with them, and to see what's new and how it's going," said Sires. "They know this has become a very popular destination point. They want to work with us; and they have being doing that. And Lt. Ramey has been awesome."
In addition to welcoming the efforts of Branford Police, some ways in which businesses have lent their support included the addition of a temporary lighting array tower in the Friki Tiki lot, a new ID checker installed and in use at The Stand, and a "Slow, Congested Area" sign posted by the roadside entrance to the Lenny's Indian Head Inn parking lot.
Sires also noted that, following their initial meeting in June, she and Everson submitted a summary of ideas to the Branford Police Commission's Traffic subcommittee for review and possible action by the full commission; with one item (more and better lighting) already being addressed. Other ideas include: adding a trolley shuttle Thursday through Sunday from the Branford train station (which is located across from another popular Branford venue, Stony Creek Brewery) to the Indian Neck Fire Station; adding multiple crosswalks at the intersection of Linden Avenue, South Montowese Street and Sybil Avenue as part of state DOT's plans for the Sybil Creek Bridge replacement project (which includes a section of sidewalk); install many high resolution signs indicating high pedestrian usage to include flashing yellow lights; install a traffic light at the intersection of Linden Avenue, South Montowese Street and Sybil Avenue; reduce speed limit to 15 or 20 miles per hour; install speed tables or rumple strips.
One message Sires would like to share, especially visitors who come to the area, is that many residential neighborhoods are fanned out throughout the area. She said the district welcomes people arriving for an enjoyable visit, but asks all to please stay safe, don't litter and, above all, slow down.
"We all have to be aware, especially in that triangle – slow down," she said.
She said residents from Sybil Creek Place (to the south of Branford Elks Club) have asked to be included in the next local meeting to continue the effort. The next meeting will be organized/announced by Sires and Everson.
"We can do it, if we all work together to do it," said Sires.