Merritt Parkway Work: The End Is Not Near

Construction work on the Merritt Parkway — from before Exit 41 to beyond Exit 42 — has been going on, it seems since dinosaurs and Studebakers roamed the earth.

The $56 million project includes upgrades to pavement, guardrails and drainage, and restoration of “historic concrete.”

It’s bad enough for drivers (who must navigate frighteningly tight concrete barriers, including on- and off-ramps) and residents (who have endured noise, dust and the destruction of acres of woodlands).

Concrete barriers and no shoulders make driving on the Merritt Parkway a life-in-your-hands experience. (Photo/Bob Mitchell)

But right now, work seems stalled. What’s happening? When will it resume? And how long will it take?

I asked Jonathan Steinberg, Westport’s state representative. He sits on the Transportation Committee, and lives not far from the endless mess.

A Department of Transportation representative told him that right now, there’s a restriction: Work cannot proceed after 11 p.m.

Because of that, the contractor — Manafort Brothers — has stopped work altogether. They say that with just a 3 1/2-hour night window, the project is not feasible. (Work cannot begin until 7:30 p.m., after rush hour.)

“It’s a tough spot,” the DOT rep wrote to Steinberg. “Everybody bought houses there due to the woodland setting and close proximity to a major travel way. The Parkway is over 75 years old and a project of the magnitude may come only once every 30 years. It’s safer if we cut the rock back for all of the travelers.”

However, the DOT official continued, “I agree that the noise we are making now is probably the worst, and this is only Southbound there is another opposite in the Northbound shoulder.”

DOT is “looking at various options that include reducing the amount of rock removed and beefing up the guide rail. Compensating the Contractor for his lost production. Utilizing day time lane closures. Allowing full shift work but on limited nights.”

However, he concluded — ominously for all — “as of today we do not have a solution.”

13 responses to “Merritt Parkway Work: The End Is Not Near

  1. So why/how did no one recognize the time restrictions when the project was put out to bid?

  2. Kristin Schneeman

    Is it really possible these conditions were not known before construction began? This is insane.

    • Jean Marie Wiesen

      Manafort, as in, the Manafort’s. Really.

      I’ve given up driving that stretch, it’s far too dangerous. It appears that it’s like many other state projects: we’re told one thing at the time of conceptual drawings and years later we’re stuck with a mess. Problem is, there’s nothing we can do once the state has begun the mess.

  3. Is there anything on the roadmap for adding lanes to help ease congestion? I.e. an extra lane on both northbound and southbound i95 would be awesome…even if its an extra fare/toll just for using that lane.

  4. Thanks Dan, quite informative. But I have to ask – just what does our elected state Rep. Steinberg, who (as you noted) sits on the Transportation Committee, propose here as a solution? This is squarely a Westport issue, we need some leadership and action here. Jonathan, care to weigh in?

  5. Please convey to them that cutting the trees has totally soured ne on their project! It’s a hideous mess!

  6. Cathy Smith Barnett '66

    Dan, yes I get the concrete guardrails, but what is that muddy field next to the 41 guard ramp?Looks like they are widening there but it sure is a mess!

  7. *IF* the construction project COULD be operated after 1130pm presumably until 5am or so (before the morning rush hour), how long would the project take before completion? If the work is truly needed and will make that stretch better for the long-term, is there a way to extend the workable hours? Assume the noise would be bothersome for nearby homes, so how have other stretches of the Merritt been allowed “through the night” hours which has been the case in the Greenwich-Darien portion over the past several years. Assume they had the same considerations?

  8. Michael Lonsdale

    Does anyone from the Transportation board know why they have raised the area with fill next to the YMCA at the entrance to Exit 41 North north? It has diverted all the runoff and in the future the access road in and out of the Y will be comprimised with water and ice. There are no drains to eliminate this runoff at present.

  9. Robert Bernard, SHS-1053

    An answer for Joshua Stein who asked about extra lanes:
    Sorry, but the Merritt Parkway was planned and built in about 1935. The planners had lots of room then and thought that 300 ft of right-of-way was plenty.
    That was almost 100 years ago, and probably no one thought that far ahead.

  10. Cheryl Polite

    I get so furious that there is not proper signage indicating whether or not Exit 42 is open or closed. I got caught three times getting on exit 41 to simply go 1/4 mile to get off at 42 not knowing whether or not the exit ramp is closed. Needless to say, I have to drive 11 miles out of my way to get to my home (between 42 and the non-existent exit 43). Only once, coming from exit 38 in Norwalk did I see signage saying that Exit 42 was closed. Also, coming from the Y there should be a sign when you make that right hand turn getting on the Merrit that the ramp is closed. It’s simply ONE PAIN IN THE…..!!!