[OPINION] Canal Road Guardrails: “Really?!”

An alert — and frustrated — Saugatuck Shores “06880” reader writes:

After months of road work, Canal Road and the culverts are complete.

But the town of Westport finished the job with galvanized steel guardrails that make us all feel like we live on I-95.

All the neighbors on both sides of the canal are upset that the town did not use wooden guardrails. There have never been guardrails before. Now they’re rusting (after just 1 week), and an eyesore to all of us.

New guardrails on Canal Road …

We would have all happily pitched in to pay the extra cost for wooden guardrails.

When I called the highway department, their response was, “we knew everyone would be upset, but you can paint them.”


… and another view.

30 responses to “[OPINION] Canal Road Guardrails: “Really?!”

  1. My family moved from that neighborhood a year ago and have deeply missed our treasured walks along Canal. I can’t believe steel guardrails have been installed along what was such a quaint, pretty road. They are completely out of place and disappointing.

  2. The Fire Dept was down the street on a false alarm this morn. When I pointed out to one our little stretch of I-95, he looked shocked, and immediately came out with, “OH! They should’ve used wood!”

    This isn’t just anger-making. It’s INFURIATING for them not to tell us a thing. And who needs or wants a guardrail anyway? Has any particular incident sparked this sudden concern for people who’ve been driving up and down this road for 100 years without daddy and mommy’s help?

    The ARROGANCE of the gov agencies! They’re supposed to be serving us, the people, the neighborhood residents. They just serve themselves–and don’t care what we think. Who invited them to impose their needless, $$-making agendas on us?

    People love it here because it IS rustic, like nowhere else around. Residents even know all about light pollution–it’s dark here at night–no bright lights from any of the houses–and you can see plenty of stars.

    But all this–the very character of a unique neighborhood– is nothing the bureaucrats could possibly appreciate, obviously. They think we’re all as soulless and feckless as they are.

    They knew they’d make us mad? They haven’t seen the half of it. They’ll soon know mad.


  3. Michael Calise

    Shades of Compo Beach!

  4. This is such a slap in the face to residents. The Westport Department of Public Works has a weird, almost passive aggressive attitude when it comes to conserving the character and nature of our rustic streetscapes. It’s as if everything in the public right-of way now needs to be urbanized, supersized and industrialized. The result often is, among other things, a loss of community distinctiveness. Quality of life and property values are impacted when viewsheds are compromised this way.

  5. I’m a recent resident of canal road, absolutely love it here, now that these industrial highway railings have been put up without consulting residents it has become a total eyesore. The lack of respect for the people who live on either side of the canal is deplorable and we will not stop until a resolution is made.

  6. What a bunch of millionaire whiners. I would to thank all town employees for there dedication to a wonderful town my family called home for 4 generations. Unfortunately it’s the rude disrespectful residents like these that feel that because we’re they live they should be treated different. Me Me Me.

    • Congrats to you and your family for managing to not complain about one thing in 40 years. And also in felling entitled to call your fellow residents names and point fingers because ya know, everyone who happens to express their opinion about something in their neighborhood is a selfish millionaire.

    • Sharon Paulsen

      So … then leave Westport, if you’re so angry.

      The “Millionaires” and the “just scrapping to get by and live here in amazing Westport” are not your problem.

      Your attitude is.

      I have no game in your family history or politics, although I know of you via your family name while I was at Staples in the ‘80’s.

      Your vitriol and negativity is hardly palatable, and quite surprising, given your family history here in Westport.

      Yes, I said it.

      Enough already.

      Signed: a born and raised Townie, and quite proud to be one.

  7. So outraged! After months and months of construction we helplessly watched them erect these monstrosities in a single morning ruining our beautiful landscape. As stated above, why if this was deemed safe all of these years would we now need to surround the road with this armor? The sun reflecting off the hideous metal literally blinds you. We live (and pay to live) in Westport for the charm, character and community feel. Aesthetics are important in keeping the integrity of the town in place and it IS becoming industrialized. We pay major taxes and should have a choice in where our money is going and how it will effect the landscape. Making a decision based solely on the cheapest option (while watching them spend in frivolous areas) is going to ruin the look and feel of this whole town and ultimately effect its value. No question we would have kicked in for wood or a wood composite if it was above budget had we been notified or given a choice!

  8. Bill Boyd... Staples 66

    The Arrogance! The Outrage!
    But as soon as someone drives thru wooden barriers into the water they will SUE.!….screaming……the Stupidity! The Outrage! And when the wood rots and needs replacing they will be whining… How stupid! How short sighted!

    • Sharon Paulsen

      The wood will eventually decay.

      The metal will eventually rust.

      But, what is more pleasing to the eye in the meantime, I ask?

      The wooden guardrails on the merrit are certainly a good reference, in terms of a visually appealing commute.

      Sure, some dickhead could always choose to “sue” over safety issues (like, remember the famous McDonald’s hot coffee “scalding” lawsuit, which subsequently changed our lives as to-go-coffee buyers), but … really?

      • Just an FYI here. Though this has become the poster child for frivolous lawsuits the woman suffered third degree burns which means she was essentially served boiling water. She only wanted her medical costs covered but McDonalds balked and subsequently lost. It was McDonalds being the dickhead.

  9. I run on canal road but haven’t seen these in person yet. What a shame. If they are indeed rusting / paint chipping, they seem to be defective and need to be replaced . Perhaps a compromise could be leaving the metal “stakes” that go into the ground in-place and just switching the defective metal guardrail with wood?

  10. Who made the decision to use steel guardrails?
    Is this the best we can do Westport? Obviously the person who decided not to use wood doesn’t live in Westport. What a disappointment!
    If anyone knows how and why this was approved please let me know?

    • Dee, I haven’t any intel to offer on how this decision was reached, but it’s interesting to learn the department which made it anticipated that it would annoy residents. Its “let them eat cake” comment is priceless. At any rate, there appear to be a number of attractive, premanufactured timber rail systems available for low speed roadway applications where visual impact is a consideration.

    • Wood, bronze or brown colored guardrails are being used all over the state of Connecticut and New York. Merritt Parkway, Hutchinson River Parkway (NY) and Sherwood Island State Park for starters. Wood will hold up better along the shoreline with sea salt and flooding being a concern.

  11. Sharon Paulsen

    This post made me think of the Merrit Parkway overhauls during the last several years, and how in some areas, wood barriers were installed, which I would guess was for esthetics. A good idea, in those instances.

    I’ve had family and friends, years ago, who lived in many areas near or within Saugatuck Shores.

    It was always charming, rustic, and quintessentially “New England coastal charm” back then.

    These out of place “interstate highway” metal rails are kinda a head scratcher.

    Safety makes sense … and nothing wrong with a few upgrades to accommodate safety.

    But these seriously look like a bad choice, an “oops”, or whatever the case may be.

    Oh well, charm aside, if they are already rusting, then this could become an even bigger “dollar” mistake vs. an aesthetic blunder.

    Either way, it will all be under water before you know it (IMHO).

    Sometimes the seemingly small or petty, “first world” issues of wanting a pleasing living environment, can speak volumes to the larger problem of “how shitty can someone be allowed to make your lives, environment, living conditions become, one step at a time, before you even notice, and/or when it’s too late to remedy”?

    Forest or the trees?

    If anyone cares to declare that the privileged shouldn’t “complain” to keep things “nice”, then I suggest they move to Flint, Michigan. Toxic water, and lots of crappy landscape, with no shortage of rusting metal railings. Have at it.

    Thanks for the post, Dan!

    • Sharon, I have to compliment you. I read the bit you wrote about incrementalism (captioned below) three times. It’s excellent.
      Thank you for writing that.

      “Sometimes the seemingly small or petty, “first world” issues of wanting a pleasing living environment, can speak volumes to the larger problem of how shitty can someone be allowed to make your lives, environment, living conditions become, one step at a time, before you even notice, and/or when it’s too late to remedy?”

      • Sharon Paulsen


        • By the way Mrs Paulsen, the gentleman above who spoke about his many generations of family in Westport he no longer lives here. He sold his business, Jr’s Deli and Grille to Eric J and moved south with his family. I do believe the Carolinas.

  12. And yet the town can spend thousands(as they should have) for wooden guard rails exiting Longshore….and $1,130.000 on a couple of crappers and a shower…..what’s gone wrong?

    • Sharon Paulsen


      Don’t know if you intended to be wry/witty here, but you made me chuckle at the irony of the decision making behind … ahem … railings, and “crappers”! 🤣

  13. I have no doubt a resident will remove these at their own effort/cost.

  14. I’m surprised they didn’t put up “Bridge Freezes Before Road” signs and traffic lights with yellow warning flashers at each end of the bridge.
    Safety first!

  15. I live nearby so I decided to take a drive over here to see this new guardrail.
    I used to spend time with a friends that used to live on Swallow Ln which is at the corner of Harbor Ave and Canal Rd so I’m familiar with the area.
    The construction crew did a lovely job and made the culvert area (bridge) WIDER. Over the years it has been getting eroded and that section of road has narrowed so I’m pleased it wider now.
    I do agree the guardrail are bit bright when my headlights hit the metal it flashed back at me. I can only imagine the sun hitting them being much worse.
    All around the state of Connecticut (local and state) they have been installing brown or bronze colored guardrails so they blend into the environment (example the reservoirs up north). Also along the Merritt Parkway, Hutchinson River Parkway (NY side), Sherwood Island State Park etc… they have been installing wooden guardrails which is what Westport government and DPW should have done.
    **Wooden guardrails hold up better to extreme weather environment which Saugatuck Shores has variety of tides, sea salt, flooding, heat and cold.

  16. Andrew Colabella

    So I went back and looked at the meetings where this project was Proposed and discussed and I could not find anything about the guardrails being included in the project.

    However, given that the large RCP pipes that travel underneath the much wider road now are very important to diverting flow of water into the marsh need to be protected from vehicles and people going near it, the metal guardrails is a poor decision in my opinion. Coming from a background with 15+ years in construction, public works, municipality background, and given the pleasing aesthetics of the public, wood would be more ideal given that this road is frequently flooded by salt water. Wooden guardrail would hold up much better than these untreated metal guardrails.

    I do feel this project was a major improvement because of the two feet width increase of the road, larger RCP pipes creating better flow, and the concrete barriers to help drain water atop of the road to spill out below. Only thing I would change personally is wooden guardrail vs metal guardrail. Is there an engineering safety rule or thought behind this? Most likely.

    • I called the highway dept and was told that the galvanize steel was less expensive… that was their only reason for using it. Wood guard rails were too much money- I do not think they thought this through for one sec. How would the residence of Westport feel if large neon signs were used on Main Street? Well thats how we feel looking at these guardrails!

  17. Adrian Little

    The Merritt Parkway has new wooden guard rails that are much less intrusive visually than these…
    If they are deemed strong enough to deal with cars at parkway speeds then 20 mph on Canal Road should not be an issue…