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When The Traffic Returns In December

To the Editor:

As a longtime resident and business owner in Sandy Hook, I am proud of the way that the residents of this town dealt with the adversity of the past year. Our citizens have pulled together for each other, and made me proud to say I live in Newtown/Sandy Hook.

However, as the one-year anniversary of December 14 approaches, there is a practical matter that concerns me. Last year, due to the traffic and congestion in the town because of media and visitors, and despite the efforts of police brought into town from throughout the state, Sandy Hook Center was effectively shut down for a month. Traffic was at a standstill, and people and signs extended out into the streets. I live less than two miles from my office, yet unless it was very early in the morning, or late at night, it took me over an hour to get there. Despite signs and repeated polite requests, parking spots which are supposed to be for the patrons of Sandy Hook businesses were filled with news vans and out-of-state cars from those who came to see the site of the tragedy. I am afraid that this December, the same thing will happen again.

Last year, schools were closed during most of this period, but not this year. How are school buses expected to get students to and from Newtown High School, where the route runs right through the narrowest streets at the very spot where traffic will be densest? In addition, although the state provided some financial aid for some of the businesses that were impacted, for some it was too little, too late. Some businesses closed or were sold. Others are just hanging on, but may end up closing, should the year anniversary result in a similar situation.

I believe it is imperative that the town make arrangements to funnel media and visitors to a memorial at another spot, where streets are wider, and there is something resembling adequate parking. Fairfield Hills is right off Exit 11, and has both extensive open space, and far more parking that any other spot in town. It has already been shown to be able to handle large crowds, such as concerts and sporting events. The roads are wider, and there are traffic lights to aid in controlling traffic.

It is my understanding that the town does not have any plan, other than to ask people not to come. That is naïve, and if even a small percentage of the crowds from last year return, things will be worse than last year, because of school buses.

I know there is no perfect solution, but sticking our heads in the sand is not the answer. Something has to be done now, while there is time to plan.

Michael Paes

5 Teachers Ridge Road, Sandy Hook                  September 23, 2013

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