For the past 8 years, Rick Rosencrans has commuted to work from I-95 Exit 17 in Westport, to Exit 7 in Stamford. Recently — as the pandemic has eased, and the drive has gotten longer — he’s had time to think. Rick writes:
For 8 years I have watched traffic patterns on I-95 ebb and flow, often based on the day of the week, time of day, construction projects and accidents.
During the early months of COVID, and into this past winter, traffic was light. My pre-COVID 40-minute commute turned into a 15 to 20-minute ride, door to door. Yet while the shorter commute was nice, I’m not selfish enough to think the trade-off was worth it.
Fast forward to late winter and this spring. While many offices and businesses between Westport and New York still work with limited staff, traffic seems to have returned to pre-pandemic levels.
I assume that since the train station parking lots are hardly used, many of the people who have returned to work now commute by car instead of train.
On my daily Stamford to Westport return trip — particularly on Friday afternoons — traffic seems worse than ever. Due to Waze, Google Maps and natural instincts, many drivers get off at Exit 17, head up Charles Street, turn left on Riverside Avenue at Tutti’s, make a right on Bridge Street, and continue on to Greens Farms Road towards Exit 18 and points north.
This backs cars all the way up on to the exit ramp, and often on to the right lane of northbound 95. It can take 25 minutes to get from the ramp to the Cribari Bridge in Saugatuck, a distance of about 1 mile.
The streets of Saugatuck were not meant for this volume of traffic. But one impediment makes the situation even worse.
With no “No Right on Red” sign by Dunkin Donuts, bridge-bound cars idle in front of the firehouse and Saugatuck Sweets, while traffic flows from the bridge into Saugatuck.
I have no problem with the sign, during normal hours. But what I have observed over the years is that a traffic officer at the Riverside Avenue/Bridge Street intersection, safely waving drivers to make a right on red, has a significant effect on the overall traffic flow.
I would guess that an additional 15 to 20 cars could be waved around the corner of Bridge Square during each cycle of lights. That would also allow for adjustment in the timing of the lights so that cars coming from the other direction on Riverside Avenue have more time allotted to make a left on to the bridge.
We need a traffic officer at the intersection on weekday afternoons, and perhaps at certain weekend times when I-95 is backed up.
Once upon a time, there WAS a traffic officer — every day — at that intersection. He was visible, efficient, and very, very theatrical.
His name was William F. Cribari. And yes, he’s the guy they named the Bridge Street bridge after.
Meanwhile, “06880” reader Gary Shure has a solution for another traffic chokepoint, a couple of miles east:
During rush hour there is often a long backup at the northbound Exit 18 ramp (Sherwood Island connector). It goes down the whole ramp, continuing onto the right lane of the highway itself.
It would be so easy to fix. Just put a traffic light there, timed to be green 80% of the time for people getting off 95.
Right now, the 4-way stop sign puts everyone getting off the highway on an equal footing with the occasional perpendicular vehicle on the connector.
Furthermore, with a light you could have 2 useful lanes on the ramp: the left lane (only for left hand turns), and the right lane (for left turns, and going right).