Riverside Avenue car accident triggers resident concerns


Graphic by Henry Watson '25

Riverside Avenue is notoriously busy for its foot traffic due to the numerous restaurants and social venues situated on the avenue. However, there are no government-installed lights to help illuminate the busy area at nighttime, nor are there any traffic lights at the large intersection near The Whelk.

Matthew Balga, 54, was struck by a car while crossing the street at 11:30 p.m on Riverside Avenue on March 4. According to police footage, Balga was wearing dark clothing and was walking outside of the street’s crosswalk. 

Afterward, the Town of Westport convened a meeting of the Traffic and Pedestrian Safety Task Force on March 23 to reevaluate the safety of Riverside Avenue for drivers and pedestrians alike.

Jacob Calandro ’25, a new student driver who has to frequently navigate Riverside Avenue for rowing, is critical of the avenue’s current state. 

“The intersection at the bridge next to Dunkin is horrendous and the traffic guy there just confuses people,” Calandro said. “The way the sidewalks are designed is also extremely inefficient.” 

Balga’s death has only been the most recent in a long history of accidents on Riverside Avenue. Two people were sent to the hospital after a fatal vehicle crash in January, and a toddler was killed and two others injured last November while attempting to merge onto the avenue. 

You’re forced to travel that road because it is in such a major part of town, you’d think it should be in great shape. I haven’t seen much being done to stop these accidents.

— Thomas Nowak ’25

A town report released in February acknowledged issues with Riverside and promised that greater traffic and parking enforcement on Riverside would be implemented. Furthermore, new sidewalks had been installed in 2022 in order to mitigate the chances of vehicles colliding with pedestrians. 

Unfortunately, any sweeping changes to Riverside have been hampered due to complications over Riverside’s jurisdiction. Westport Town Engineer Keith Wilberg told CT Insider that the Connecticut department of transportation needs to work with the town for any major changes to the road due to the two groups wielding control of different parts of the avenue. 

However, this complication in improving Riverside has elicited little sympathy from Westport residents due to the frequent accidents on the Avenue. 

“You’re forced to travel that road because it is in such a major part of town, you’d think it should be in great shape,” Thomas Nowak ’25 said. “I haven’t seen much being done to stop these accidents.”