Let’s Meet At…

Well, it looks like the “06880” community’s idea of using the Wakeman Park cut-through to alleviate North Avenue/Cross Highway traffic hit a dead end.

The simple fix would have saved residents, commuters and school-bound teenagers and parents countless man- and woman-hours each year.


However, examining that traffic flow problem made me realize the issue is more than just too many drivers trying to fit onto not enough asphalt.  There’s also the fact that Cross Highway and North Avenue don’t intersect neatly.

Rather than a clean 4-way stop, the two major roads angle into each other.  That was fine when they started out, as cow paths probably, and it may not have been an issue when there were only a couple of flivvers an hour.

Cross Highway and North Avenue: It's every man, woman and child for him or herself.

But in 2010, when every Westporter owns a car and every car is driven by Westporters who haven’t exactly memorized the rules of the road, the amount of traffic is compounded by the uncertainty of who goes next.  Those moments of hesitancy — of waiting for the other guy to go, or (more likely) both gals going at the same time, then stopping, then starting again — add up quickly.

Cross Highway and North Avenue are not our only mis-aligned intersections.  Myrtle and Imperial Avenues downtown stare crookedly at each other across the Post Road; despite a traffic light, hesitancy abounds over who goes when.  Traffic backs up unnecessarily.

For non-alignment, nothing beats the CVS and Trader Joe’s entrances and exits.  Just a few yards apart, this is such a mess that I’m sure an entire segment of Westporters simply refuses to shop at Compo and Compo Acres Shopping Centers.

If you manage to leave that area without being killed, and find your way to the end of North Compo, you’ll come to another poorly aligned intersection:  the one with Clinton Avenue, across Main Street.

Interestingly, the worst intersection in the entire town state country galaxy is less than a quarter mile away: Easton Road/Weston Road/Main Street, near the Merritt exit 42 on-off ramps.  At this spaghetti bowl of neck-wrenching twists and turns, only a couple of stop and yield signs offers guidance.

Yet everyone navigates this bottleneck safely, smoothly — and relatively quickly.  There are backups, sure, but none of the frenzied jostling and I’ll-pretend-I-didn’t-see-you maneuvers that are de rigeur elsewhere in town.

Could it be that the sheer complexity of that maze forces people to pay attention, follow rules, even practice common courtesy?

And if so, does that mean we should make North Avenue and Cross Highway more tough to navigate, rather than less, in order to improve traffic flow, blood pressure, and daily Westport life?

13 responses to “Let’s Meet At…

  1. How about North and South Bulkley !!!!!!!!

  2. I think the reason Easton/Weston/Main kinda works is that you can actually SEE the other cars vs. North/Cross where you can’t see westbound traffic on Cross if you are going south on North and vice versa. Perhaps a little tree pruning/fence moving would help. BTW same problem at Easton Rd/North Ave- can’t see northbound North if you are traveling westbound on Easton due to a huge tree with a 6ft wide trunk. Or we could all just slow down and be courteous……nah!

  3. I think you hit the nail on the head Dan. There are currently many experiments going on in Europe where traffic lights and signals in busy areas are removed rather than added. These have generally led to a decrease in accidents as drivers have to actually wake up and be aware of their surrounding. The exit 42 offramp, even though it has a stop sign and a light, is simply so disordered that’s it’s impossible not to pay attention.

    You also left out the awesome intersection of Compo and Cross. Due to the steep hill, the intersection is very spread out, leading to muchu confusion as to who got there first.

  4. Don’t forget the intersection of Hillspoint, Prospect and Spicer. Talk about misalignment.

  5. City Planners - Where are you?

    I so appreciate you bringing attention to these intersection issues.

    The Trader Joe’s/CVS exit is just a disaster waiting to happen. What and how can the town take notice and do something? I notice as I am exiting TJ’s, the CVS drivers are spewing venom as they maneuver around me. I always let them have the right of way because leaving TJ’s has more of an advantage to anticipating the CVS exiters; they do not have the view of the cars coming at them until we are bumper to bumper with them.
    But i wonder – does someone need to die before the town takes action?

    Thank you for your thoughtful blog!

  6. The Dude Abides

    I think Tubulus makes a valid point on the elimination of some stop sign and perhaps the placing traffic lights in others. Anyone who grew up here can attest to the great number of added stop signs: Long Lots @ North, Long Lots @ Hyde Lane, Weston@ Cross Highway and many more. However, on North Avenue where speeding is common, any suggestion of traffic lights (in use for school traffic only) is sneered at by our police department. City Planners – Where are You? I do believe someone has been killed at the intersection on the Post Road and Trader Joe’s/CVC already. Certainly a new look at the traffic flow and control thereof seems in order.

  7. Certainly Napoleon did not design the town but considering the winding roads and no street lights, I think we do pretty well.

  8. A few weeks ago as I was struggling through the Easton Road/Main Street/ Exit 42 interchange with a visiting British-born French resident, she exclaimed: “Why don’t they just put in a Roundabout?” I explained that most US drivers just don’t understand “priorite a droit” or its posted alternative. However, in the NE, two other complex intersections – the Middlesex Circle and the Portsmouth (NH) Circle – both seem to work well.

  9. The “roundabout” in Fairfield off Exit 23 is a disaster as well as some on the Cape. We Americans are Point A to Point B people. Circles make us dizzy.

  10. Remember the “roundabout” at Saugatuck / Riverside / Treadwell by the VFW? Worked well going to buy milk from Stew Leonard’s milk dispensing machine across the street.

  11. It would be nice if everyone remembered to:
    1.) Use their blinker.
    2.) Stay off the phone with children in the car.
    3.) Not cut off another driver in an effort to avoid getting stuck behind a driver making a left.
    4.) Leave the road rage at home.
    5.) Not steal parking spaces when you clearly see another waiting.
    6.) Realize that in the morning people need to get to the train station so if you are driving near the train station’s 4 block radius…get a move on!

  12. The Dude Abides

    #2 “Stay off the phone with children in the car.” HUH? Try obeying the law! No phones. Period.

  13. Don’t forget the intersection of Hillspoint, Prospect and Spicer. Talk about misalignment.