Weaving Through Westport’s Worst Intersection

In a town filled with traffic lights and stop signs, you’d think one of the busiest and most confusing intersections in town would be tightly regulated.

You’d be wrong.

The Weston Road/Easton Road/Main Street clusterf*** has long defied explanation. Despite traffic funneling from downtown, Cross Highway, the Coleytown area, Weston and the Merritt Parkway — and headed out in all those directions — the confusing, chaotic and dangerous area remains a transportation Wild West.

Quite a welcome to Westport, for those coming off the Merritt. Quite a potential death trap, for all of us.

Over the years, a variety of recommendations have been floated. They range from traffic lights everywhere, to an English/Massachusetts-style roundabout/rotary, to blowing the whole thing up and starting over. (Just kidding on the last one.) (Kind of.)

Recently, Facebook’s Westport Front Porch page has provided a place to discuss the intersection everyone loves to hate.

Jeff Mitchell used Google Earth View to explain his ideas for improvement. Now he’s shared them with “06880.”

First he showed the current situation:

To orient yourself: Weston Road near Cross Highway is at the lower right; Merritt Parkway Exit 42 is just off the top of the photo, in the upper left. Traffic coming from downtown on Main Street is at the lower left.

Next, Jeff offers Solution #1:

It would make the section of Main Street from near the Merritt to the merge by the old Daybreak Florist 1-way, headed toward town.

That would eliminate 2 hazardous merges — in front of Daybreak, and going to the Merritt — but would make life tough for people living on Wassell Lane.

It would also shunt more traffic into the Weston Road/Easton Road intersection. However, Jeff says, replacing the current blinking yellow light with a full stop light — perhaps for rush hour only — could move traffic more quickly to and from the Merritt.

Jeff’s 2nd solution is this:

It would convert all current merges to 3-way stops. This would eliminate all hazardous merges, while keeping Main Street 2-way.

There would be more “formal” stopping and starting — though perhaps no more than currently occurs, with hesitation over who goes when.

Solution #2 would involve construction, including possibly moving a utility pole.

Jeff met last weekend with Avi Kaner. The 2nd selectman had posted several other complex alternatives on Westport Front Porch. They’d been proposed by state engineers in the past. All would take eons to approve and construct — and may include the contentious taking of land by eminent domain.

Of course, these are state roads. It’s their decision what to do, and when.

“06880” readers: What do you think? Click “Comments” to weigh in on Jeff’s plans — or offer your own.

And if you like it just the way it is, we’d love to know why.

45 responses to “Weaving Through Westport’s Worst Intersection

  1. Remove most of the Main Street extension. Leave one lane to connect Wassell Ln out to Main Street.

    That would leave just one all way intersection. A light could be installed there, as well.

  2. Harris’ solution seems the most logical. Therefore, it will probably not be acceptable. On the other hand, it just might be.

  3. I remember teaching my kids to drive and specifically at this intersection. Because it was so confusing, I had them drive through it over and over with me while they had permits. I wanted them to be ready to navigate on their own when they had licenses. Completely confusing and scary!

  4. How about turning it into a traffic circle / roundabout?

    • Eric William Buchroeder SHS '70

      It’s a great idea but probably wouldn’t fly in Westport.

    • I don’t think there’s enough land to do it. I could be wrong, but I think a roundabout with that many exits would have to be fairly large and would likely require land purchases/eminent domain.

  5. Hilary Nordholm

    I drive through this intersection at least 6 times a day to get to Coleytown and back again and it has become the bane of my existence. I refer to it as the Bermuda Triangle of Westport, with some kind of evil vortex epicenter thrown in. Particularly during rush hour, some of the good people of Westport seem to completely forget things like “waiting your turn” and “common courtesy”. I’ve had ample time to observe these behaviors, including the “I am not going to look at you while I gun through the intersection when it’s not my turn” the “angry gesticulation above the steering wheel” and the “impatient hand wave”. Personally I’d love a roundabout, but the etiquette involved is also somewhat difficult to navigate!

  6. This won’t be popular, but I think this might be the safest intersection in town. It induces sufficient terror that drivers actually slow down and pay attention: something they don’t do with anywhere near as much consistency at any other intersection. It’s slow, and a nuisance, but don’t remember seeing anyone try to run the stop signs or fail to look in all directions. Roundabouts require courtesy and etiquette: in somewhat short supply among our local population of Very Important Drivers. Traffic lights seem to create an urge to accelerate when they turn red. Admittedly no “solution” is likely to be perfect, but I’m not sure what’s there is evil or in need of remediation.

    • Does anyone have statistics on it being “dangerous”? As Ian said, it might not be pretty, but that might be a benefit.

      The only confusion I witness is a northbounder at the stop sign not knowing it a Weston Road southbounder is taking a left ( crossing, to remain on Weston Road) of going right onto Main St. (with the crossing left technically not requiring a blinker?) t’s annoying, but I don’t see any accidents or huge tie-ups.

      Otherwise, it works just like all the other intersections, like North & Long Lots, North & Cross Hwy, Greens Farms & Post Rd, et al at rush hour

    • Iain – There is a lot to what you said. There was an experiment in Germany where they eliminated all traffic lights and road signs with amazing results…
      http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1028740/Accident-free-zone-The-German-town-scrapped-traffic-lights-road-signs.html

      Of course, this would never happen here, but the human behavior aspect is interesting.

      Have you ever been to a skateboard park and watched the skaters? Skaters all over the place, yet seldom, if ever, do you see skaters run into each other because they are in tune with their surroundings…

    • Addison Armstrong

      I’ve lived near this intersection for 15 years. I’m with Iain. Cautious, considerate drivers have no problem navigating this crossing; and it forces drivers to slow down and pay attention. This seems to be a solution in search of a problem.

  7. Gerald F. Romano, Jr.

    Gerald Romano
    I’m old school
    Traffic works best with are men in Blue (or khaki) for morning and evening traffic

  8. To add to Harris’ suggestion; close off access to Main Street Ext from Main Street (heading to the Merritt, like Cross Highway), but leave 2 way for Wassell lane convenience, add stop sign for movement from the Extension to Main Street south-bound. This puts the responsibility to merge on the less-traveled road and the light provides a safe turning movement as well. Remove all stop signs on main and Weston Roads. Install traffic light with separate left turn arrow movements at Main and Weston.

    • Unfortunately, the Main Street extension needs to be made inconvenient.
      If it remains with both openings, it will require speed bumps or be made into a Y-shape. The Y-shape is the better option, keeping Wassell Lane’s exits, but discouraging it being used as a cut through.

  9. It should go back to a simple 4 way intersection. Make that part of Main Street that Wassell and one other driveway is on, a dead end just past the second driveway. Make it a narrow road because there will be very little traffic on it. Use the other space to make the four way intersection behave like it’s supposed to. This is my hood, growing up next to Daybreak Nursery on Main Street and still living in the area. My family avoids this intersection if at all possible. The scary thing is looking back when you’re at the stop sign coming from Easton Road onto Main Street to the traffic coming from the parkway and Weston Road. There are too many decisions to make there. Everyone knows what I am talking about.

  10. Solution #1. Simple, quick, few $$ spent–which may eliminate this as an option.

    • Christian Mannino

      100% agreed that Solution 1 is the quickest, easiest solution that does the GREATEST GOOD FOR THE GREATEST NUMBER OF WESTPORTERS. The Main Street extension, when it is a one way road, will function as a simple jug handle to allow people on Wassell Lane to turn right out of their street, then left at the bottom of the traffic triangle to get to the Easton Road intersection, and on to the Merritt Parkway (if needed). To get back to Wassell Lane, all that is needed is to make another left turn at the top of the triangle to get back onto the one way Main St. extension. If we have to be stuck with a triangle where it is, and no funds to do construction, there really is no better solution to this problem. If, however, money were available (which we know is not), perhaps making the Main St. extension two way and closing it at the north end to make easier access for Wassell Lane would probably be the better option.

      • Chris Woods: Good point about the volume of traffic south-bound onto Main Street from the Ext but keep in mind there would be a traffic light at the main intersection which would stop south-bound traffic to allow those cars to access Main Street south with greater ease. If timed appropriately I believe that turning movement would handle more traffic flow than currently. Maybe instead of wasting millions on ridiculous studies for the beach and main street that offer pie-in-the-sky ideas, the Town should commission a traffic study to find a solution. No, wait, that would be stupid….makes too much sense.

  11. Hilary’s description is spot-on! People absolutely do blow through the stop signs and fail to wait their turn. I believe that part of the problem is that Easton Rd. is a state road which adds to the bureaucracy. I recently vacationed in Sedona, AZ., and they used roundabouts as a way to alleviate crippling traffic in a touristy town. The results were spectacular. It certainly could not be more of a nuisance than what we have now – aptly named the Bermuda Triangle of Westport!

  12. In Europe and in many states, a roundabout would be the clear choice.

  13. Arline Gertzoff

    It is on the list to be fixed by the state after the construction of houses on Daybreck are finished .That is if one believes DOT.However Iain Bruce is correct most of the time.Originally the state wanted to fix it at the same time as Clinton Avenue and Compo but that was deemed as not feasible.I live there and have been dealing with it as a passenger and driver for 60 plus years.
    It is considered one of the ten worst statewide.Cannot wait to hear DOT plan.?????

  14. Will re-post what I put on the Front Porch thread just to note that this is definitely *not* a safe intersection especially for anyone unfamiliar with it:

    I witnessed / was almost in a pretty serious accident at this intersection last winter – a car heading south on Easton misunderstood the right of way, accelerated into the intersection after the stop sign, and hit a car head on that was coming north on Main. (I was in the southbound lane on Main and managed to swerve out of the way). Both cars were totaled and the driver of the car on Easton was pretty banged up, & there’s an ongoing personal injury lawsuit of some kind that I’ve been contacted about.

    At minimum it seems like the stop sign at Easton and Main should be moved closer to the intersection, with clear signs showing that Main has the right of way (although obviously that doesn’t fix the intersection of Main and Weston Road)

  15. Dan Lasley (Laz)

    A traffic circle looks like it would work well here. There are well-defined guidelines for when they are appropriate – some civil engineer can find them and see how well they apply.

    Alternately you can experiment with this app:
    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.captaingames.freeway

  16. What is planned for the former nursery property at the heart of this area?

    • The last roundabout in Westport, actually in Saugatuck, was at the fork of Saugatuck Ave and Riverside Ave with Treadwell Ave being one of the prongs in the fork, so to speak. This roundabout worked on a smaller scale than the one under discussion here, with cars winding around the rotary like the gears of a watch, stopping, starting, etc. What happened was it worked until the traffic got too chaotic with more cars. The lights at that intersection seem to make a good flow of traffic. I think a few more lights at the Weston/Easton Rd/Main St.would work here not a rotary.

    • I’d heard it was going to be “apartments” which would make this intersection even more enjoyable – but trying to confirm that fact it actually seems less ominous — looks like 3 or 4 houses built on the same site…

      http://www.westportnow.com/index.php?/v3/comments/daybreak_cluster_housing_debated_at_pz/

  17. Did people get stupider .. or just more population in the town? I’ve lived in Westport since 1974 and yes .. it’s a crazy intersection but I managed for years. So did everyone I know. It seems we have SO MANY stoplights now because people just can’t figure out how to drive. Mr Weiss taught me to drive at Staples High School and he was very stern .. but I’m a better driver because of it. Doesn’t Westport have better things to spend money on?

  18. I lived in Westport on N. Compo for 40 years leaving in the late 1990’s and used this area thousands of times with never a problem. Was I just lucky or have people gotten ruder/crazier? I never saw any problem/accident.

    • I don’t think people have gotten ruder/crazier. I think the volume of traffic may have picked up since then, though. I’m not sure there’s any configuration that can handle the number of cars that go through the intersection at rush hour. At all other times of the day, the intersection — while definitely “quirky” — really doesn’t seem to pose that much of a problem.

  19. Two stop signs and you’re good. One going North, one South, on Main in front of Daybreak, so our new neighbors-to-be can get in and out of the parking lot without adding more terror and/or accidents. Welcome to Westport!

  20. I like solution no 1 and having lived off Clinton for 18 years, I used that intersection at least twice a day. Of course, Dan’s last solution is still a good one, and we could sell tickets! Might help with the Ct budget shortfall!

  21. I’ve lived near this intersection for 30 years and, while I’ve always found it a little awkward, I’m used to it by now and have never had a real problem. I loathe roundabouts and would hate to see one installed here. Maybe a more systematic set of coordinated traffic lights would help.

  22. I’ve lived near this intersection for 30 years and, while I’ve always found it a little awkward, I’m used to it by now and have never had a real problem. I loathe roundabouts and would hate to see one installed here. Maybe a more systematic set of coordinated traffic lights would help.

  23. “Solution” #1 would create a tremendous backup during the evening rush hour. I drive through the intersection every work day on the way to and home from the Saugatuck train station from north of the Merritt. Either leave it be or examine the potential for a rotary.

  24. And what about the bicycle lanes?

  25. Maybe a rotary would work. I will have to say that we moved back to Westport a couple of years ago after being gone for four years, and there are a lot of people who don’t seem to know how to use this intersection now. Where I didn’t notice any problems before, I see many people not realizing that there is not a stop sign at each entry. I don’t know if the signs could be improved, but worth looking into it.

  26. Valerie Smith-Malin

    When I came to town 25 years ago there was an unwritten rule that southbound Weston Rd traffic (which has the right of way) stopped near the Merritt to let one car through from both Northbound Main St. and Northbound Weston Rd. It was essentially an imaginary 3-way stop. I made the mistake of not doing it once, and was promptly scolded by my boyfriend (now husband) who grew-up in Weston. Traffic moved pretty well. I still extend this courtesy and see some others too, but it isn’t as universal. In the absence of major construction and new stop signs/traffic patterns which will cause their own issues, a public education campaign focused on courtesies that keep the traffic moving could work. It would also cost far less. Although Westport obviously has visitors, most people drive the same route pretty much every day and would catch-on. I have now lived near that intersection for 16 years and drive through it many times a day. It works well enough with the exception of drivers who just can’t wait their turn, but that can be said for every stop sign in town. The “imaginary 3-way stop” of prior years would make it move more smoothly.

  27. Leave it alone. Have lived with it for years. 95 percent of the time, things work smoothly enough. Changing things will only present new problems.

  28. Back in the late 1960s, I took Drivers-Ed at Staples, and we were assigned to scour the accident reports in the local newspapers and keep track of the accident locations with pins on a map. No question that “Easton/Weston Road” was the most serious “hot-spot”. We even studied the various accident hot-spots in class. Of course this did not help drivers who did not grow up in town. A few stop signs have been added since those days, but overall, seems like very little has changed.

  29. I like solution one – this is a horrible intersection!!!!! And….. when they build those condos it will be worse.

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

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