[OPINION] Everyone Talks About Traffic. Now We Need To Do Something About It.

Last Saturday’s traffic was INSANE. In late afternoon, it took one “06880” reader half an hour to travel from McDonald’s to downtown. Another spent 40 minutes getting from the Post Road to the train station.

Side roads were no better. Cars backed up on Cross Highway from Weston Road all the way to Bayberry Lane.

This was a particularly bad Thanksgiving weekend mess. But more and more, it’s the norm.

An alert “06880” who asked to be identified as GS has had enough. He writes:

I’ve lived in town a long time. I’ve seen the traffic get worse and worse.

You can’t get from here to there anymore. I envision a not-too-distant future in which our property values go down, because traffic has become what Westport is best known for.

One familiar scene …

Anyone who was on the road last Saturday around 6 p.m. can attest: You could have gotten where you were going faster walking than driving.

Do you commute to and from New York by car? It used to be that once you got past Stamford, you were home free. Now you spend 20 minutes just between exits 40 and 41 on the Merritt.

If you’re on I-95 and get off at Exit 17,  you’re dead in the water. If you continue on to 18, there is a 5-minute backup on the exit ramp.

Heading from Cross Highway toward Exit 42 at the wrong time of day? That’s a joke. I could go on and on.

and another.

For starters, there has to be an immediate ban on development. More people equals more cars.

Then you have to systematically examine the traffic patterns of every intersection, and the timing of every light. Yes, I’m sorry, you will need to replace some of those stop signs with traffic lights.

A few traffic officers stationed in the right places at the right times of day would provide some relief.

We need a plan, and it has to start with limiting new buildings.

Maybe we need to form a special commission. Or perhaps appoint a traffic czar.

Whatever we decide, we have to do something. Traffic in Westport has reached a crucial point.

47 responses to “[OPINION] Everyone Talks About Traffic. Now We Need To Do Something About It.

  1. I had the dis-pleasure of being stuck in the mess on Saturday. Mostly caused by the panic of the weather guessers predicting a blizzard for the next travel day. Also, there were accidents on both the Merritt and I-95.
    I agree with the premise of limiting development. Meanwhile , One simple fix, put a Turn signal on the East Bound side of the Post Rd in front of the Post Office (Powers Court).
    Instant bottle neck every time the light changes. I’m sure there are other spots that would speed up the flow with simple fixes…..

    • Not quite sure about which turm you are asking. There is a left hand at Myrtle/ Imprerial/ off the Post Rd.

  2. The traffic and the speeding, which I wrote about with some friends several weeks ago, are becoming unlivable in Westport. They are connected. The major roads get backed up, the traffic and speeding through town get accentuated by drivers using Waze. There are so many near accidents at the major intersections and extremely unsafe conditions for pedestrians as well. Agree the entire complex of problems must be elevated.

  3. I gave up trying to buy gas that day because traffic was at a standstill from Cumberland Farms almost to Trader Joe’s. I-95, which has always been a challenge, is a nightmare. The more onerous problem is the train to New York. Before I retired there were express trains that took less than an hour. Now many trains are an hour and twenty minutes. Connecticut’s lack of support for mass transit is a disgrace.

  4. Agree, agree, agree…I’m no Commie; but I like the idea of a Traffic Czar

  5. I agree, traffic has become ridiculous! Developers never consider traffic in their plans, just look at Norwalk, building thousands of apartments, and NO change in the roads!
    I cannot drive to Fairfield, from Norwalk, at rush hour, as it takes me an hour!

  6. “Limiting new buildings?” This is precisely the opposite of what is happening, and once property is developed, there is no turning back. Westport will continue to grow more traffic-choked. Ultimately, two-lane roads will be widened into four, sections of the Post Road will become expressways a la Route 9 in the Boston suburbs, and it’s likely there will be underpasses or rotaries to cross the Post Road at Rt 33 and elsewhere. Fortunately, Weston, where I now live, remains a refuge from congestion, and it’s still possible to bypass much of the daily traffic, by shopping in Wilton or Georgetown, for example, or commuting via the Danbury branch,

  7. J. Gottschalk

    We moved to westport 16 years ago. A mere blink when compared to so many. However in that span of time we have seen a huge change. We moved from another town due to congestion. When we first got here we were so happy that we could easily drive, unhindered and amongst thoughtful drivers that wouldn’t ever honk and always indicate with a wave “no, you go first.” It was lovely. Now, it feels like road warriors between the sheer volume and the anger of those behind the wheels and I can’t blame most. It’s gotten unbearable. When the train is an hour 20 (unbelievable!) and then your stuck in bumper to bumper blood pressure will boil. Too much humanity! Stop building. We can barely sustain what we have. Does anyone have statistics on our towns population increase in the past decade? In addition to stopping development immediately, we need to invest in making our town roadways smarter and more efficient. But without our state improving the major infrastructures — like metro north, 95 and the meritt (somehow) I’m afraid we will be stuck in perpetual traffic.

  8. Michelle Benner

    On 11/26 I received an email from The Town of Westport with a heads up about traffic on Saturday 11/30. While our traffic & speeding issues are larger and more complex than just this one event, it does help to get on the list for these emails & updates:

    Traffic Advisory – Firefighter Aksoy Wake and Memorial Services on Saturday 11/30 and Sunday 12/1/2019
    Post Date: 11/26/2019 2:00 PM

    This advisory is in regards to the wake and memorial services for Westport Firefighter Turk Aksoy currently set for Saturday November 30th and Sunday December 1, 2019. As previously detailed in a press release from the town’s fire department, the wake will be held at Harding Funeral Home located at 210 Post Road East in Westport from 3:00pm to 7:00pm on Saturday November 30, 2019. No road closures or traffic redirection will be necessary to accommodate this event. Despite this, motorists should nevertheless expect traffic delays in the downtown area and limited parking availability during the timeframe of the event as it is sure to be well attended. Our officers will be on hand for the duration of the service to assist with maintaining an orderly flow of the associated pedestrian and vehicular traffic.

    The memorial service is scheduled to take place at Saugatuck Elementary School, located at 170 Riverside Avenue in Westport, at 11:00am on Sunday December 1, 2019. This service will be preceded by a vehicular procession from Harding Funeral Home to the school beginning at approximately 10:00am. The planned route for vehicles is south on Imperial Avenue, west on Bridge Street and north on Riverside Avenue to the school. In addition to the vehicular procession, a march of uniformed personnel is also planned for approximately a 10:00am start time. It will travel from the area of Riverside Avenue at Treadwell Avenue north to the school. This march will necessitate the full closure of Riverside Avenue to all traffic from the intersection of Treadwell Avenue to Burr Road. There will also be no access to Riverside Avenue from any of the side streets along this route during the march. The exact duration of this closure is unknown and is dependent upon several factors, most notably the number of personnel in attendance on that date. It is estimated that the closure could last upwards of thirty to forty-five minutes in total duration. Again, our officers will be on hand to assist motorists with traffic direction and guidance on how to best reach their destinations.

    All other roads will remain open to traffic, however motorists should expect heavy pedestrian and vehicular traffic associated with the event in the areas surrounding the school including both lower and upper portions of Riverside Avenue. This will undoubtedly impact the area with delays until the conclusion of the procession and service. If travelling to the Saugatuck Railroad Station or destinations in the immediate vicinity of Saugatuck Elementary School, we ask that you please drive carefully and be sure to allow extra time for any traffic delays resulting from this event.

    A NIXLE traffic advisory message will be sent on Sunday December 1st at the time of the procession’s commencement and associated road closure, with a second message to be sent upon its conclusion.

  9. I guess the other comment is that congestion exists when everyone wants to go the same place at the same time. We all have the ability NOT to go on the busiest routes at the peak times, and to adjust our habits, such as where we shop, and for those able, the timing of our commutes. Not to speak of carpooling. Back in the 60s, my dad and a neighbor used to share a ride to the station in an old vehicle of the type then called a “station car.” It was to save money, not traffic, but rising affluence is another reason we have more traffic today.

  10. Nick Thompson

    My theory is it’s Waze diverting traffic from 95, unless there is a way to alter the algorithm (perhaps pay google) traffic gets diverted at times the average speed on 95 is 35 mph or less.

    • Yes traffic does divert from 95 and the Merritt onto US 1, RT 36 and many other secondary roads, but you can hardly blame technology for that. It’s the highway congestion that forces the re-routing.

  11. Matthew Mandell

    Traffic would get worse if the Hiawatha development goes through. 187 units in a small affordable neighboood.

    P&Z has denied it, they have lost their sewer. But yet they are seeking an access road through deed restricted open space in Norwalk to back door it. Next Tuesday night 7pm , at Norwalk City is the Conservstion Commission hearing.

    You can help oppose this intrusion. Write to the NCC, come and speak, contribute… See http://www.saveoldsaugatuck.com

  12. Collette Winn

    I couldn’t agree more. It’s bananas. And the train schedules (never mind cost!) to commute to NY are worsening each year. Who can help? Really, who can help?

  13. David Waldman

    The solution is not a ban on development or even traffic cops. I my opinion that is not even the issue. The issue was caused, as it always is, by accidents and stand still traffic on I-95 and the Merritt. They were both backed up from accidents and holiday madness and as a result thousands of cars got off the highways and clogged our town roads to find a quicker path home. If you want to solve the problem, put congestion tolls at our exits (19, 18, and 17 and 41 and 42) and charge people who are only getting off the exit to drive thru Westport. Technology would allow visitors who want to enjoy our town to pay nothing and for those who just want to only pass thru would have to pay.

    • David — First, if 95 or 15 is at a standstill, do you honestly believe a 50 cent, a dollar or even a 2 dollar toll is going to keep ordinary people from getting off the highway? Second, are you not aware of the continuing failure of the current governor to gain support for any tolling proposal n Hartford? Imagine how a skeptical CT public will see things if tolling is selectively imposed at the whim of a single wealthy town to penalize the riffraff who would otherwise be trapped in an endless traffic jam!

      • Besides, the scheme as you describe it would involve tolling of state and town secondary roads — something as far as I know that doesn’t exist anywhere in the US, with the exception of the 17 mile drive in Pebble Beach, which belongs to a private resort

      • David A. Waldman

        I don’t but I do think that if people are using our roads for nothing more tjen circumventing traffic, then they should pay. As for the amount, I was thinking more along the lines of $10-$15 dollars. At that amount I do believe people will think twice before getting off.

        As for our Governor and the issues he is having garnering support, I don’t care. WESTPORT is my home and where I do my business and while I ha e no problem with the riff raff, I do have a problem when they clog our streets just to avoid traffic. I know this sounds silly and I am sure impossible to make happen, but if we are going to deal have to deal with “carmagettum” maybe crazy is the way to deal with it

    • All concerned with Density, Housing Developments P&Z, Traffic, etc. would do well to read the Brookings Institute research below…
      https://www.brookings.edu/research/gentle-density-can-save-our-neighborhoods/?utm_campaign=Brookings%20Brief&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=80392949

  14. Someone may have mentioned this but we think Waze and similar apps are rerouting cars throughout the town so even less-travelled roads end up having traffic if the major ones are backed up. Waze is very helpful but the impact is being felt by communities nationwide.

  15. Jennifer Johnson

    In January of 2014 shortly afterJim Marpe was elected as First Selectman, the Westport Transit District Directors provided him with a detailed memo outlining key recommendations for how to begin addressing the transportation problems facing Westport. In January of 2018, following Mr Marpe’s re-election, Mr Marpe stood before a packed Town Hall meeting and announced his decision to form a town wide transportation commission (a key recommendation of the 2014 memo). Those were empty words: nearly two years later, no such commission has been convened. Mr Marpe’s continued ineffectiveness on this critical issue has been exacerbated by the adoption of a poorly executed Town Plan lacking a vision for traffic solutions. Bottom line: if we want to address our crippling congestion problems, at a minimum we need to start by electing a First Selectman who is willing to show leadership on this issue.

    • Seriously? You are going to blame the traffic congestion on the First Selectman?

      • Addison A. Armstrong

        Jamie Walsh, while Mr. Marpe is not responsible for the traffic last Saturday, he has been completely derelict in his duty regarding public infrastructure under his purview. This is especially true when it comes to our roads and the oversight of the contractors that are hired by companies like Aquarion. The commission promise that was pointed out by Jennifer Johnson is another example.

  16. Elizabeth Thibault

    Remember the big hullabaloo a bit ago about the town in NJ that made an ordinance prohibiting people without local business to use town roads? That was an attempt to fight the through traffic that routings software like Google and Waze sent there.
    How much recourse do we have, with Rt 1, 136, 53 being state roads? How about developers using the 830-g statute like a cudgel to force almost any development on the town? (It’s our location and the conveniences that makes Westport more desirable than other more rural cohort towns, not that they have better ordinances that prevent them from having these problems…)
    We need realistic and perhaps creative solutions that we’re able to make ourselves, rather than having to hope that unresponsive MTA/state bureaucrats and legislators take pity on us for our problems that only give them schadenfreude.

  17. Dick Lowenstein

    It’s becoming what some of my Greens Farms neighbors have aptly called a CARtastrophe. And if we don’t do something about it soon, we’re headed for CARmaggedon. It’s the issue that propelled me to run for the RTM and it will be my No. 1 priority.

    Dick Lowenstein
    RTM DIstrict 5

  18. The traffic lights are not well synchronized on post road. Who is responsible for fixing? The lack of synchronization directly causes a bad traffic flow. And some lights stay green for far too long for side streets / turns into parking lots where there is little-to-no traffic (perhaps we need some more turning lanes too??). As for general commute issues, why hasnt an additional lane (or movable barrier for peak commute times) been added on i95 or the merritt in all of these years? Other highway systems that don’t have the real estate to add lanes have converted shoulders into travel lanes, either permanently or during peak commute hours. Its absolutely insane that our representatives are doing what seems like nothing to fix this long-standing commute time problem between CT and NY. Commuting is miserable but it doesnt have to be. The trains are a whole other story – the schedule times have increased, there are frequently delays, trains move at a crawl, even though we see the Amtrak fly by at full speed. Its a disgrace.

  19. John Terpening

    I’ve been in and around Westport for about sixty years. Long enough to vote on the traffic problem. Solution: Use the medium divider on the Merritt Parkway and I-95 to install high speed monorails with giant parking lots in which to park hundreds of bicycles (see Japan). Install automatic gates that immediately close off the entrance and exit ramps when there is an accident on either the Merritt or 95. Ban all vehicles with the exception of those which are absolutely needed (police, fire, ambulance and folks who’s profession demands large pieces of equipment such as carpenters, plumbers, landscapers, fuel oil trucks, etc.), single occupancy vehicles (especially the electric cars, if need be, I can explain later), motorcycles & scooters. Demand that roads only be used for the above mentioned vehicles, make/encourage people either use mass transit, walk, bike, ride in a rickshaw or row (as in a dinghy) to where ever they think they need to go. Suggest we limit the number of children “we” produce (ZPG) and get rid of all of our schools (stay at home, learn how to use words to communicate, computers for home schooling & research, help build/improve the nuclear family, save on resources (think of what is needed to support a child “going” to school). I have seen the greed and the development destroy Westport for years. Say good bye to “sub”urban, say hello to Urban. Another link in the chain of urban sprawl from New York to Boston. And if you think today is bad, lay back, close your eyes and imagine more development in Saugatuck, factor in the Cribairi Bridge and Gault’s proposed housing development. Now image what a “proper/strong” zoning department could do to put an end to allowing developers to destroy classic and in some cases historically important buildings, landscapes, fields and wetlands. If you have been reading “06880” for a while most of them have been documented and still the blight goes on.
    If I seem a little bitter, upset and disgusted, I will close by adding that from personal, first hand experience, that Lillian Wadsworth purchased the land that was the “Nature Center” because she (as a very gifted, independent and forward thinking woman) saw the development of Westport and to paraphrase, “I purchased the land so that children in the future will have the opportunity to experience nature”. Very few people, developers, lawyers, bankers, stockbrokers, have a clue as to what long term negative effect they can have when thinking they have a good “idea” or see a way to “prosper”. And what is the long term effect. Like cancer, it lives only to consume it’s host. The end! It is going to take more than a freight train to resolve this problem if in fact if it is not already off the tracks. On the other hand one can google Paul Newman (a Westporter) and see how much one man can donate(millions) to doing good. Caring for those who have difficulty caring for themselves. You choose how to relate to this problem, get out of your car, reflect on the present day deforestation of the Post Road, and for “Crying out loud”, don’t complain, you created it, apathy is not an action.

    PS: to turn the heat up a little…. where is the “River of Names”? A pictorial representation of Westport from sailing ships, to horse and buggy, to trolly cars, to country roads, to Mini-buses, to traffic jambs. A part of our history that supposedly is in “storage” with no immediate plans for being reassembled. Could this be used as a reference piece to help resolve the “direction” we are going in or will it be crushed up and used as land fill for yet another Westport disaster?

    • You make a lot of sense, John. The solution will be long-term and involve a willful change in the privileging of private automobiles in (sub)urban planning: build communities that don’t require people to drive in order to shop, go to school, or work. Yes, intelligent coordination of traffic signals and turn lanes makes a lot of sense in the short term, and ought to have earlier impact. But then you also need to accept that we need to change how we design (or encourage such design if you’re a free marketer) residential and commercial districts that don’t require motorized linkage, biking and pedestrian access, and an expansion of satellite public transit to the commuting lines. I got a kick out of the monorail idea for the Merritt Parkway median! Imagine if we had this second commuting line parallel to Metro North, and light rail (along the rivers perhaps) linking the two so that people would all be within biking distance of a station. A time frame in decades rather than years. And a regional commitment of dollars to make it happen. Building wider roads and more highways will only encourage more cars and continued congestions. Building the infrastructure that accommodates riders rather than drivers is the way to go. And in order for this to be tenable financially, you have to have enough ridership. To get that you have to accept some combination of greater concentrations of residency as well as convenience to ride instead of drive. The Westport I grew up in certainly had the creative thinking to make this happen.

      • Obviously I meant “…residential and commercial districts that don’t require motorized linkage, THAT DO PROVIDE FOR biking and pedestrian access, and an expansion of satellite public transit to the commuting lines.”

  20. ABSOLUTELY AGREE, MAYBE IT’S TIME NOT TO GO ANYWHERE IN WESTPORT……

  21. Our P&Z regulations impose certain standards as to adverse traffic effects from new buildings and changes to existing building. These regulations are insufficiently strong. Developers, even fine ones such as David Waldman, are almost always able to secure professional opinions from traffic engineers that will justify these new or renovated structures under our present regulations. Years ago, continuing today, I recommended to the P&Z Comm. that our regulations be amended to mandate that any new or renovated structure must clearly demonstrate that there will be no, i.e. zero, adverse impact upon traffic from that new structure or renovation. Many thought that was going too far. I am delighted that at least many on this post express a view that reflects or approaches mine.
    Don Bergmann

  22. What I (and many commenters) missed is the info from Michelle Benner that this particular traffic snafu was due to a one-time event for which the town gave advance notice. So one helpful solution would be to ensure that every driver receives these notifications — perhaps by requiring email addresses or cellphone #s to be provided when paying personal property tax. Frankly I don’t think any of the other suggestions made here would help or are even feasible.

  23. Werner Liepolt

    This past Saturday’s traffic jam was statewide. My early afternoon trip from Rhode Island to Westport was a five hour crawl. If any agencies should be doing anything, they’re state not local.

    I got off I-95 at Rt 130 and drove in stop and go traffic from there onto Rt 1 and then turned into Southport. It’s true that Greens Farms Rd, the Sherwood Island.connector were packed with cars from NY, NJ, MA as well as CT. And so were Hillspoint, South Compo and even Eliane Rd which goes by the sewage treatment plant.

    It’s a bit of hubris to take this personally or to blame it on local people or conditions.

    Around the time cars became popular (a bit more than a century ago) horses were becoming untenable sources of pollution, health hazards, inefficient, etc. Maybe we’re coming to the end of another era and technology is pushing us there?

  24. Don’t shoot the messenger but your solutions are all wishful thinking. My credentials; I learned to drive in N. Y. C. ! Learned to parallel park with a total of 12″ extra between cars. I’ve held an international drivers license since the age of 18 and have had the pleasure of driving in about 50 countries on 4 continents….including trucks!. The single biggest problem I have witnessed is few people know the rules of driving and even fewer drive by them. Bad driving is half the problem, more cars on the road exacerbate the problem. My suggestion is to retest drivers for the rules each time you need to retest your auto emissions, every 2 years. How do I cope? I live on the third highway in town; Cross Hwy. I don’t even go to the store without consulting with my WAZE (thank god their algorithms work, god bless crowdsourcing). I bet by now you want to know what does work; ROUNDABOUTS. Europe embraced them decades ago. Street lights have higher compliance then stop signs. Continuous sidewalks save lives. Want to educate yourself read; TRAFFIC it came out about 10 years ago while you were all complaining. Attempts to “control” anything is futile, solving real problems is useful till they need updating. Big Data synthesized using AI is the next tool in your tool shed, use it. Smile & Wave if you see me on the road because ultimately we are all here just visiting. Stop driving so much, use public transportation, walk far it will keep you healthy. Close the streets from cars downtown. What? You think this won’t work? ask the people of Venice Italy, or Brugge in Holland or any number of places all over the world. We need to fix is the culture we live in, cars are not the real problem. PS- come see “Wors Matter” @#1Main St. Westport before the show starts to travel around the country mid-January. It will make you laugh and think about what you want your country to look like..

  25. William Strittmatter

    Really Dan? Sometime I think you publish pieces like this just to troll your readers. Are you sure the authors initials weren’t DT? I mean the gross overreaction to a partially self inflicted bad traffic day is almost Trumpian.

    Combine a normally heavy traffic weekend with accidents on the Merritt and I95 throwing a boatload of unwitting thru traffic onto the local roads and add in a well attended wake and Westport’s much beloved “traffic quieting” bottlenecks across the Saugatuck River and, BOOM, there are going to be massive traffic backups in Westport. I’m shocked.

    But turning a quasi act of god into a call to halt all development? Then the anti-development folks jump right on board any train that is going their direction. Nice.

    Then Mr. Waldman does some trolling of his own. I can just picture him giggling as he typed his comment to put up border tolls to discourage those non-Westporters from coming into/through town.

    What’s next? Walls?

    • David A. Waldman

      Don’t want to keep them out. If your coming to WESTPORT to shop, dine and enjoy all the wonderful things we have to offer the. God bless. Come on down. But if your tired or sitting in traffic on our state highways and think cutting thru out town is a quicker and easier way thru, then pay to play. No different then the congestion pricing big cities are trying to implement during rush hour.

      And no, not giggling. Working hard to keep our town vibrant and healthy.

  26. Although Fairfield, Norwalk, and Stamford have grown over the years, Westport’s population has remained pretty much constant for the past 50 years. So maybe it’s not Westport’s fault! Then again, in the old days there were more kids and therefore fewer drivers. Who knows? Imagine what the Post Road must have been like in the mid-’50s, when Westport’s population was doubling and I-95 wasn’t finished. Anyone have memories to share?

  27. Fantastic article. It is absolutely amazing and heartbreaking that there have been three new condominium complexes built on the Post Road. The Kowalsky property is full of apartments now. They are adding more housing across from Greens Farms Elementary in the Einsel property. Westport is being ruined with no intelligent planning for land use.

  28. Ian E. Warburg

    As bad as traffic currently is, it might get even worse if Summit Development is successful in its efforts to develop a 187 apartment complex on Hiawatha Lane, a narrow, dead-end street in the historic Saugatuck section of Westport.

    Hiawatha Lane is zoned as a single family residential neighborhood. Using the state’s “8-30g” statute, the developer aims to circumvent Westport’s single family zoning regulations and cram as many as many as 400 new residents, and as many cars, into this modest and affordable neighborhood.

    Next week, the Norwalk Conservation Commission will meet to decide whether to allow the developer to build a new road through a conservation area that backs up to the intended site of the project in Saugatuck. Without the new road, the developer cannot go forward.

    We do not believe that the Hiawatha neighborhood, Westport’s natural resources, and our quality of life should be sacrificed solely to benefit a private developer, and at the great expense of the many thousands of existing residents who chosen to live, and work, in Westport. (Just imagine what adding 200 cars to that area will do to your commute!)

    Please send an email ASAP to the Norwalk Conservation Commission (acherichetti@norwalkct.org) prior to their meeting on Dec. 10 (7PM, Norwalk Town Hall). This is important—and every email will count. So please don’t delay. And, if you can attend Tuesday’s meeting, by all means, be there.

    Sincerely,
    Ian Warburg, Chair
    Save Westport Now

    info@savewestportnow.org.