A new study of a multi-use trail running the 37.5-mile length of the Merritt Parkway from Greenwich to Stratford envisions a 10-foot wide asphalt path that could cost as much as $250 million along the historic thoroughfare's wooded median.
Michael Calabrese, a project manager for the Connecticut Department of Transportation, said that engineers remain concerned about the difficulty and cost of a trail through the 150-foot wooded median on the highway's northbound side.
Because of the presence of wetlands, significant stretches of the path would be comprised of boardwalks, Calabrese said.
"There are a lot of road crossings and boardwalk areas where you are trying to skirt a wetland that are very challenging," Calabrese said.
The Department of Transportation is holding one of a series of upcoming public information meetings this spring on the status of the study of the trail at 7 p.m., this Wednesday, at the Outback Teen Center, 71 Main St., New Canaan.
Additional meetings are being planned for Trumbull, Stratford, Norwalk and Greenwich.
Jill Smyth, executive director of the Merritt Parkway Conservancy, said the group is opposed to the trailway concept as described by the study.
Among the problems with the proposed trail are the use of asphalt and expected loss of hundreds or even thousands of trees to clear the 14-foot wide footprint of the path. Smyth said the path could also produce a range of other quality of life problems associated from use of the path for neighborhoods and property owners adjacent to the parkway.
"Granted the landscape of the parkway has transformed since its origins from a more forested greenway but it is still a valued and aesthetically pleasing route," Smyth said. "The addition of elevated boardwalks, bridges, and tunnels would further diminish the character of the parkway."
Touted since at least the mid-1990's, the concept of a multi-use bike and pedestrian path along the Merritt Parkway got a boost three years ago when the DOT obtained a $1.06 million federal grant to conduct a feasibility study.
Supporters including bicycle-advocacy groups in Connecticut tout a trail along the parkway as an important missing link in the East Coast Greenway, a 2,750 mile network of trails from Florida to Maine.
Robin Stein, interim economic developer for the city of Stamford said that Mayor David Martin is interested in the trail concept but is concerned about changes to the appearance of the parkway.
"The administration supports the concept but realizes there are challenging implementation issues including the overall cost of how to create the path and impact on existing trees," Stein said.