Stamford’s Vision Zero Efforts Move Forward

Stamford's Board of Representatives will be voting on an agreement with consultant to put together a Vision Zero Action plan for the city on November 8.

Stamford’s Vision Zero Efforts Move Forward
A look at traffic conditions in Stamford. (Photo by Kelly Prinz)

As roadways in Connecticut have become more dangerous for both those in vehicles and pedestrians, Stamford has been advancing efforts to try and make its roads safer. The city has adopted a Vision Zero Program, which aims to “eliminate fatal and serious traffic crashes in the city by 2032.” 

Next week, the Board of Representatives will vote on an agreement between the city and a consultant, The Street Plans Collaborative, to put together a Vision Zero Action Plan.

“This action plan is the guiding document for the city to come up with various policies, programs, and projects to achieve our goal of zero roadway deaths and serious injuries,” Luke Buttenwieser, a transportation planner for the city, told the Board’s Transportation Committee on October 26. 

The plan aims to “analyze the current state of Stamford’s roadways from a safety perspective with particular focus on vulnerable users,” which include pedestrians and bicyclists, and “develop safety goals, themes, subsequent projects and policies/recommendations for the City to achieve zero roadway fatalities,” according to a memo from the city’s corporation counsel.

The consultant will be required to review other Vision Zero action plans to see what strategies other communities around the country are using, analyze crash data from the past five years to see where problematic areas are, engage with members of the public to get their input on roadway conditions, and outline project and policy recommendations that would make the streets safer.

The committee unanimously recommended advancing the contract, which will cost up to $249,820, to the full board, which will vote on the item at its November 8 meeting. 

“Our goal is 2032 for zero deaths—obviously we’d like to achieve that tomorrow,” Buttenwieser told the committee.

Approving the plan is the latest step for the city, which is already working on some smaller pilot projects and outreach efforts, since Mayor Caroline Simmons signed a Vision Zero executive order in September 2022.

What is Vision Zero?

Vision Zero is a strategy that rethinks how roadways are designed in an effort to eliminate serious injuries and deaths. The strategy “recognizes that people will sometimes make mistakes, so the road system and related policies should be designed to ensure those inevitable mistakes do not result in severe injuries or fatalities,” according to a statement from the city of Stamford.

Nationwide, more than 40 cities and towns have committed to implementing Vision Zero principles in an effort to make their roads safer. 

Hoboken, New Jersey, has been one of the most successful Vision Zero cities in the country, going four years without a traffic death, as of 2022. The city has implemented roadway improvements, such as bike lanes, curb extensions, bus lanes, high-visibility crosswalks, and raised intersections, that officials said have helped eliminate traffic deaths and make it easier for all users to get around. 

Stamford and Vision Zero

In September 2022, Simmons signed an executive order that launched the Vision Zero Initiative, which outlined why the city needed to improve its roadways, created a Vision Zero Task Force, called for a Vision Zero website to communicate with the public, and more.

In February 2023, Simmons highlighted some investments in the city’s roadway infrastructure that aimed to “contribute to our Vision Zero goals of making our cities safer for pedestrians.”

Those investments included a $2.7 million Communities Challenge Grant for infrastructure improvements to the Latham Park area, $1.2 million for citywide traffic signal improvements, $1.5 million for roadway design and reconstruction efforts, and $1 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to fund bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure projects.

The city also has 19 pedestrian safety pilot projects in the works, which include many smaller projects, such as those involving either bump outs to make the distance pedestrians have to cross shorter or left turn calming measures.

Some projects have already been completed, according to a map on the city’s website, including: 

  • Left-turn calming measures at Forest Street and Prospect Street; Broad Street and Summer Street; Atlantic Street and Broad Street; and Atlantic Street and Main Street.
  • Crosswalk bumpouts, which makes the crossings shorter for pedestrian, at Greyrock Place and Forest Street; phase 1 of bumpouts at Holcomb Avenue and Coolidge Avenue; phase 1 of bumpouts at Stillwater Avenue and Virgil Street

Other projects across the city are also underway, such the Greenwich Avenue corridor improvements, which include a roundabout at Greenwich Avenue and Pulaski Street, intersection improvements at Selleck Street/Southfield Avenue and Greenwich Avenue, and a “one-way circulator” on Greenwich Avenue and Davenport Street. These projects aim to “ bring permanent relief to the neighborhood, while vastly improving the overall livability and quality of life along this corridor,” according to the city.

Important Time for Roadway Improvements

While the city has a goal of zero traffic-related deaths by 2032, there have been a few pedestrian deaths in the last 12 months that have put pressure on the city to make immediate improvements. 

In July 2023, Rev. Tommie Jackson was struck by a police cruiser on Wire Mill Road, when he was trying to cross the road to retrieve his mail from across the street. 

“Our city has been struck with a major tragedy,” Stamford’s Public Safety Director Lou DeRubeis said at the August meeting of the Vision Zero Task Ford. “I’d like to extend my personal condolences to the Jackson family—this particular incident really impacted not just our city but our public safety community in Stamford.” 

“I know Mayor Simmons is still very firm on our Vision Zero commitment,” he added. “Road safety, pedestrian safety is a priority.” 

In December 2022, Giovanni Vega Benis and Yuliana Arias, two pedestrians, were struck and killed as they attempted to cross Washington Boulevard. The driver was both under the influence and speeding.

Simmons said in February that the city will “continue to honor their memory and keep them in our hearts as we seek to fulfill our Vision Zero commitment and ensure there are no more serious injuries or fatalities on our streets.”

Buttenwieser told the Vision Zero Task Force in September that the city was reviewing a draft of the Washington Boulevard safety audit, which the state’s Department of Transportation launched after that crash. 

“From my cursory review, I thought it was a very good document,” he told the task force, adding that it “included a lot of things that we’ve been pushing for on Washington Boulevard.” But he noted that some items were still under review, and would take about a month or so to get it in a place to be reviewed by the public. The October meeting of the task force was canceled. 

Next Steps

The Board of Representatives will review and vote on the agreement for the consultant to conduct the Vision Zero Action plan at its meeting on Wednesday, November 8 at 8 p.m. 

Buttenwieser said that they would work on the plan for the next 12-18 months. He said that they chose The Street Plans Collaborative because they put a “really strong emphasis on the different neighborhoods” in Stamford with “different types of safety improvements for different neighborhoods” as well as their emphasis on community engagement and quick hit projects.

Once the plan is completed, Buttenwieser said that it will be the “ guiding action plan for the city.”