Deli Owner Tries To Solve Pickle

The state Department of Transportation calls the Post Road/Riverside Avenue/Wilton Road intersection one of the most dangerous in Connecticut.

Everyone in Westport agrees. But every day, Breno Donatti gets a first-hand view of exactly how horrible it is.

In just the few weeks since he took over Art’s Delicatessen, the owner of what is now Winfield Street Italian Deli watches pedestrians run for their lives as they cross the street.

He gets plenty of lunch and catering orders from the Wright Street building and the offices on Wilton Road. His employees are terrified to deliver, though. At least twice, they’ve nearly been hit by cars.

The Winfield Street Deli on Post Road West.

The Winfield Street Deli on Post Road West.

It cuts both ways. “People who work across the street don’t feel like risking their lives to get coffee here,” Breno says.

And customers parking in front of Winfield Deli are beeped at constantly, as they back into a space.

This morning, Breno emailed First Selectman Jim Marpe. He asked for a simple “Yield to Pedestrians” sign, or maybe a pedestrian button on the traffic light.

What happened next made him realize that — despite the Post Road hassles — he opened his store in a great town.

Within minutes, Kirsten Carr from the selectman’s office wrote back. She said that although the streets are state property, she would forward his concerns to the town’s traffic control officer.

And just a few minutes after that, 2 police officers — Ashley Del Vecchio and Al D’Amura — strolled in.

They told Breno that they’d already called state officials, to plead for more signs or a renovation of the intersection. And they assured him they’ll do everything in their power to help the state make the area safer for pedestrians.

“They were so courteous, gracious and responsive,” Breno says. “Wonderful people!”

Breno Donatti (right) and Matthew Mandell, executive director of the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce.

Breno Donatti (right) and Matthew Mandell, executive director of the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce.

The intersection won’t improve instantly. But plenty of people are working on it.

Including the concerned — and now pleased — owner of Winfield Deli.

25 responses to “Deli Owner Tries To Solve Pickle

  1. The staff at Age of Reason have been trying to get something done about this for many, many years. Things like people parking there for hours (there is a two-hour limit), double-parking, and parking far enough out to clear the snowbanks (sidewalks are never completely cleared after a snowstorm) don’t help. Nor does the fact that so many people run the red light. Pedestrians, even though they have the right of way, don’t stand a chance. Truth be told, most of the problems are caused by plain driver rudeness.

  2. How about a delivery zip line//pulley set up from the roof of the deli to the Wright Street building? High enough up for the highest trucks to get underneath it.

  3. Place left turn arrows for all 4 directions (not just 2) for a good amount of time, the arrow that is there is too fast. Then have an all way traffic light stop for pedestrians only. I notice they need a left turn arrow at Roseville turning left onto the Post Rd by McDonalds.

  4. You can cross at the light, you know. And it’s not that far from the intersection to the deli (or to Age of Reason). There’s also a two-story public parking garage on Wilton Road, very close to the Post Road.

    What is wrong with people these days, that they have to drive right to their destination? Walking is very good exercise.

  5. Bobbie: Crossing at the light is what we’re talking about. Or rather, trying to cross at the light, which is a game of chicken, mostly because of rude drivers. Have you tried it?

  6. Drone delivery! LOL 😉

  7. Dan,

    I don’t believe you are correct that plenty of people are working to improve it. This intersection has been on my radar screen for over 20 years as something to be fixed. Jim McManus offered to buy the house on the corner for $250,000 and give it to the town so as to be able to widen the intersection. But Marty Hauhuth, under political pressure, wouldn’t accept it. And, most recently, David Waldman offered to buy it for $750,000, give the property to the town, and to move the house to his Save the Children property (restore it) along with other offers of extending the boardwalk along the river, giving the town $250,000 for a pedestrian bridge across the river to Gorham, and to buy and restore the houses on the west side of rte. 33 for affordable housing in exchange for a text amendment to allow him to break up the Save the Children building (to open up views of the river) and to build 4 stories on some parts of the property. The P&Z turned down his proposal. Chip Stevens, Kathy Walsh, and Ann Curry, who is quoted as saying, “the intersection is the state’s problem, not ours” all turned down David’s proposal. As I testified at the P&Z meeting, our town had one last chance to improve the intersection and blew it. Now it is too late as Roger Ferris has constructed his new stone wall making access to the intersection more tight than it was before. I also pointed out at the P&Z hearing, in support of David’s application, that our town is divided by a river with only three crossings. One has a movable, narrow bridge, the other is the Post Road with the worst intersection in the state of Connecticut (rated as such by the State) and the third is the Kings Highway bridge, which is often a mess and is the possible location of a 6 story, affordable housing apartment building immediately adjacent to the bridge. If there ever was an emergency whereby people had to cross the river, say like an emergency to get to Norwalk Hospital, the town would be a mess. How we could have passed up the opportunity to even slightly improve the intersection at Riverside is a mystery to me and rates up there with the lost opportunities of buying Gorham Island for a town park before Robert Silver developed it or not buying the State Police Barracks to relocate our police station before it became Walgreens. Just plain stupid.

    Ken

  8. Awesome! I used to work over there and know the problem first hand. After 30+ years in Westport, it would be wonderful to see the problem fixed and safety enhanced!

  9. The intersection has been a problem for as long as there have been cars. It was a problem 40 years ago when my mother took pictures of my sister and crossing there for some study. It was a problem in 1924 when Constable George W Mills was killed there directing traffic.

    • Interesting bit of family history, Jacques. And sad about George Mills.

      • Well, he was 65 when he died. There is another interesting story about George. He and his father both drove the street cars in Westport at one time or another. During a blizzard in the late 1880s so much snow covered the tracks that the cars couldn’t run. So George and his father Joseph hitched up the horses and wagon to transport the people on the route from the center of town to the train station, and bring the mail back. Only to find the mail wasn’t coming, nor the trains, since the train tracks were buried too.

  10. The current situation, though unfortunate to say the least, would likely be regarded as a picnic by our elders. Before the Merritt Parkway opened in 1938, Route One was THE road between New York and Boston. Traffic counts from the late 1920’s taken on the Post Road in Greenwich show it was logging about 25,000 vehicles a day. By comparison, the Saugatuck Swing Bridge averages something like 13,000 today. In 1932 there were 96 fatalities on the Post Road in Fairfield County. Plus another 2, 533 injuries.

    Feel any better? Didn’t think so.

  11. Has anyone noticed that cars coming down the hill on the Post Road, (headed east toward the bridge) are frequently over the dividing line, driving into oncoming traffic in the the westbound lanes? Particularly when it’s rainy, and the road is wet, the dividing line, seen from those downhill eastbound lanes, is not easily visible. And if there’s a shoulder line at the sidewalk curb, same direction, it is pretty much not much help either, and cars in the right-hand lane wander over into the adjacent left lane, thus I suppose edging those vehicles over the center. I’ve noticed this many times, and am glad to find a place to complain, er, comment. Thanks, Dan!

  12. OurJim Marpe has consistently come through for us!! Thank you, Dan, for this great info: article

  13. That little house is just so cute; it could be the first of several that could be moved to a little village that we create for pedestrians to see on either Barons north or south.We need to keep the flavor of the town that was (and still is) that bends over backwards to maintain its history. The second house that comes to mind is the beauty on the post Road near Terrain. We could engage our students for projects and have a village atmosphere like our town farm. Still great for dogs and walking and hiking and other things like education and school trips from other towns that marvel that we have done something extra special while solving a huge problem.

    • I appreciate your passion, Mary.

      But creating a heritage ghetto is not really the same thing as preservation. More like the nuclear option. There’s the matter of context, for one thing. As it happens, the Wilton Road/Route 1 intersection, in terms of streetscape, is one of the best preserved ones around. Cold comfort for all of us who try not to die negotiating it every day. But still.

      If memory serves, there was a study done which permitted the retention of the little house while making the needed changes to allow for a left hand turn lane. The house was just moved a bit on its present setting. Of course, that was before the previously mentioned masonry ambitions to the north.

      As a side note, if the large illustration on that poster affixed to said house showing what the present owners presumably wish to do to it is to be taken at face value, those owners either do not understand what the structure is or do not care.

      • Preservation is absolutely key, Morley. But when you can fix a scourge like that ridiculous intersection AND save a building, it’s a win, win. There are dozens of antique houses in Storage in CT. Some are from Westport, I’m sure. A ghetto in Westport? Hardly. Perhaps a showcase of days gone by but not forgotten. Think Old Bethpage, Think Williamsburg, think Sturbridge only smaller and cuter and more wonderful. And let’s never let it take the place of preservation, ever. Lives are at stake. I remember a fatality of a pedestrian there in the 70s.

        • The places you mention are all fake, Mary. And a ghetto, as defined, is simply a concentration of people from a certain race or ethic group. I simply appropriated the term to make a point about the fundamental dishonesty of architectural reservations. The truth is, preservation is about more than surface. It’s about setting, authenticity and the ability of future generations to interpret collections of historic resources, as they evolved and in their original context.

          As to the matter of the possible left turn lane, let’s be honest, a small modification to this overwhelmed intersection, while welcomed, isn’t going to make much of a difference, is it? Drivers won’t suddenly become more aware of pedestrians and the volume and speed of traffic will still be what it was before. Some problems aren’t fully solvable.

  14. I had been going to Art’s Deli since 1966 and always loved it. Of course, there was not much traffic then. Until the quick demise of Art’s, which I am sorry Richard, Art’s son, did not have a special memorial for and allow us to grieve, I continued to go. The sandwiches were, as Richard said, “eyeballed”. At least a half-pound of home cooked roast beef or home cooked turkey. Now, I doubt that I will make the trip because parking is just about non-existent and if you do get parking, you take your life in your hands when you get out of the car because of vehicles going northbound and turning right from 33 onto the Post Rd., Other vehicles trying to beat the light to make a left turn are just as dangerous. Anyone who dares cross the street as a pedestrian should have excellent insurance and a serious living will.

  15. Too bad he did not take over the former “Oscars” property. It is difficult to cross route 1 anywhere in Westport. My wife is legally blind and crossing with her white and red cane. They almost run her over in the cross walk with the light in her favor. The trainer from the State warned her not to risk her life. The First Selectman Jim Marge has formed a committee to help deal with these problems for the disabled.
    Maybe shotgun like Joe Biden suggests may help.

  16. Has anyone ever considered installing “Walk” lights? Traffic is stopped in all directions for about 30 seconds to allow pedestrians to walk safely across the street. They have them all over New York City. There’s also one in Norwalk on West Avenue near the hospital. It seems like a very simple solution. In fact, maybe they could be installed in other dangerous intersections as well.

    • Unfortunately a walk light in all directions would rapidly cause the most unbelievable traffic backups at this already broken intersection. We’ve already had a partial taste of this with the new stupid/smart lights at the intersection of Myrtle and the Post Road. The crazy backups on Myrtle are causing drivers to speed into residential neighborhoods as an alternative.

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