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    Sunday, June 23, 2024

    Old Lyme officials celebrate upcoming improvements to Sound View

    Old Lyme — Town officials and those involved in planning improvements to Sound View gathered Monday morning to celebrate the beginning of a project they said was a long time coming.

    The redesign of Hartford Avenue will entail wider, handicapped-accessible sidewalks, bike racks, bump-outs, benches, banner poles, parallel parking, and a shared roadway for cars and bicycles.

    Members of the Sound View Improvements Committee, which shepherded the project, and firms working on the project — joined by supporters — hoisted golden shovels during the ceremonial groundbreaking at the end of Hartford Avenue near the beach.

    "It's great for the area, and it's great for the town,"said Frank Pappalardo, chairman of the Sound View Commission who serves on the improvements committee and worked on the project's grant application several years ago with First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder. "It's quite a while coming, and a lot of very dedicated people worked hard to make this happen."

    Reemsnyder, who is also on the committee, said improvements to Hartford Avenue have been "decades in coming" and she is excited for the start of the project.

    "Everyone has referred to this as a diamond in the rough, but nobody has done anything so this committee really accomplished something that we've been waiting a long, long time to come," she said.

    "It's really the start of something wonderful, because we still have more plans," she added.

    She said town officials also want a Sound View green, restrooms, sidewalks that would connect from Hartford Avenue to Route 156, and revitalized businesses.

    "We want to see this as a wonderful place for families and people to visit," Reemsnyder said.

    The town green and bathrooms were part of the initial scope of the project, but were eliminated last year from the first phase after costs came in higher than expected. The selectmen had said they would continue to look for grants for the other improvements.

    At a town meeting last week, 102 people voted in favor and 74 people voted against approving up to $911,100 for construction on the Hartford Avenue streetscape improvements.

    The cost to the town for construction, which is slated to begin next Monday, would be about $182,220, after 80 percent reimbursement from a federal grant administered through the state Department of Transportation, according to a presentation at the meeting.

    The design phase of the project also included an evaluation of Route 156 as a bikeway, according to the presentation.

    The redesign of Hartford Avenue calls for a 6-foot-wide sidewalk, parallel parking on the west side of Hartford Avenue, and a loss of 22 on-street parking spaces, according to the presentation.

    Representatives from BSC Group, the project design firm; the state DOTWMC Consulting Engineers, the project inspector; and B&W Paving and Landscaping, the contractor, also attended the ceremony.

    Kurt A. Prochorena, vice president and principal of BSC Group, said he shares everyone's excitement about the project finally beginning. 

    Mary Jo Nosal, a selectwoman on the Sound View Improvements Committee, said the plan is for the work to be completed by next May.

    Nosal said she hopes the project will beautify the neighborhood which has been in need of an upgrade for many years, and bring people who have never visited Sound View — via bikes or by walking on the wider sidewalks — to visit the beach and take advantage of the businesses.

    She also hopes the improvements will help extend the season.

    "We hope it will make it a safer and more enjoyable experience for residents and tourists," she said.

    Supporters of the project in attendance Monday were enthused about the start of construction.

    "This is exciting — a long time coming," said Joann Lishing of the Sound View Commission.

    "The people deserve something to make this revitalized," added Jacqueline Miano, an alternate on the Sound View Commission, as she stood on Hartford Avenue.

    k.drelich@theday.com

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