Regular travelers between Newtown and Bethel along Route 302 / Sugar Street may have noticed new signs installed at a notoriously dangerous curve near Dodgingtown center thanks to a local business owner’s passionate call for enhanced safety measures after two family members were victims of vehicle crashes in the area.
Dodgingtown Market & Deli co-owner Sattie Persaud said her family is in fear for their lives after they were involved in collisions at the intersection of Hattertown and Dodgingtown Road near Tambascio’s Restaurant.
“My family is in danger every day on [Route] 302,” Persaud told The Newtown Bee.
Persaud, who attended the August Newtown Police Commission meeting with her sister and deli co-owner, Gita Daka, said her niece was in the hospital for 25 days following a February collision at that curve.
“She’s healing, but can never walk the same, and owes Danbury Hospital $400,000,” said Persaud. “Her lawyer is going after a drunk driver.”
Despite a shattered ankle and multiple surgeries, Persaud’s niece is “in good spirits.”
“She’s picked herself up,” said Persaud. “She was lucky she was able to recover this fast.”
Following this incident, Persaud reached out to First Selectman Dan Rosenthal and State Rep Raghib Allie-Brennan, whose 2nd District overlaps that area of Route 302. Though Persaud said Rosenthal told her there was not much the town could do as the safety issue exists on a state road, Allie-Brennan offered to reach out to the Connecticut Department of Transportation.
“Nothing happened,” said Persaud, noting several bad accidents happened at the curve in the third and fourth weeks of June. In the case of a June 25 collision, motorcycle operator Harvey Lopez, 25, of New Haven, was killed.
At the end of July, Persaud said her sister and another niece were driving home from the deli when a car passing another car near the ice cream shop hit them and another car, in spite of the fact they had nearly pulled off the road attempting to avoid being hit.
“Thank God they only had a few bruises,” said Persaud. “For me, that was the limit. Within six months, my family had been involved in two major accidents on this road.”
Persaud said that the “emotional and financial burden has been insane,” and her nieces are “so scared to drive on this road that they take back roads” to get to the deli. She said her insurance rates increased, replacing the smashed motor vehicles was very expensive, and hospital bills were crushing.
Persaud said concerns about safety along the state road prompted angry customers to come in to the deli looking to bring in local news stations or start a petition. However, Persaud felt the right route was to “talk to the right people.”
That work has been rewarded, as chevron signs have been installed along the curve in concert with road paving happening in the vicinity.
Allie-Brennan said that the notorious corner used to have chevron signs indicating the sharp curve, but they were removed in 2019 after a DOT study. His efforts, in concert with Rep Mitch Bolinsky and the Newtown Police Commission, which is the local traffic authority, helped fast-track the sign re-installations.
“It is a very unnerving corner,” said Allie-Brennan.
The lawmaker confided that the process was “frustrating,” but he gave “props” to Persaud for her persistence. Allie-Brennan said he will continue to work with Bolinsky to see if there is any other relief they can bring to the area.
Police Commission Chairman Joel Faxon said the commission was “shocked” that the DOT had removed the signs and that the commission asked that they be re-installed.
“After we did that, in concert with [Allie-Brennan] and [Bolinsky], we got them to agree to put them back in,” said Faxon.
Faxon said the commission is also asking the DOT to “reconsider the appropriateness” of a passing zone leading into the curve.
“If it could facilitate slower traffic speeds and enhance traffic calming, that would be excellent,” said Faxon.