Friday Flashback #253

Everyone knows that traffic — including the Merritt Parkway — is worse than ever.

We’d give anything to go back to the good ol’ days, when traffic flowed like …

… well, anyway.

The photo above (courtesy of Anthony Dohanos) shows what happened after a washout collapsed an entire section of the southbound pavement. The Merritt was closed between Westport and Darien, with delays of up to 8 hours.

Okay. That was unusual. This is more like what we dream of:


18 responses to “Friday Flashback #253

  1. That second photo is interesting because I think it was made into a colorized postcard, with the width of the Parkway somewhat exaggerated.

  2. Back to back hurricanes washed out road in Norwalk

    • Wendy Cusick

      Thanks for the link.
      Great history read and reminders.
      It also states how to mitigate flooding by to keeping rivers and streams healthy and flowing well by telling homeowners and contractors not to put yard cleanup in waterways.

  3. Rick Rosencrans

    Hate to complain but……speaking of traffic, some of the officers manning the Riverside Ave./Bridge Street intersection are kind of missing the point at afternoon rush hour.

    While they are manually timing the lights, they are still not waving northbound Riverside Ave. cars, idling in front of the firehouse, to safely make a Right Turn on Red. Moving the additional 10 cars over thru the intersection on each cycle will help alleviate the resulting back-up on Charles St. and the Exit 17 off-ramp.

  4. Peter Barlow

    What caused the dark streak running down the right lane in each direction? All I can think of is cars leaking oil. And cars in those days properly stayed in that lane.

    • Old cars had something called a “blowby” vent which spewed a mist of combustion gases, unburnt fuel and oil droplets through a pipe underneath the engine. Hence the blackening, which was also more visible against the concrete roadway. (Black asphalt is used today.)The first auto air pollution system — Positive Crankcase Ventilation, of which the most famous component is the “PCV valve” — was required in California in 1961 and nationally in 1964. It sucked the dirty and toxic brew into a hose leading back to the engine intake for re-burning. And yes, the oil marks do indicate the better lane discipline of drivers in past decades vs. today.

  5. Hilary Hatch

    I have always thought that the Merritt Parkway was one of the most beautiful highways ever built. It was made for a time when life was somewhat less frenetic and allowed the traveler to actually appreciate all that made it special.

  6. John Kelley

    I’m old enough to remember the washout–it occurred in 1955 with extensive flooding in the Westport area due to hurricane Connie. The Merrit Parkway bridge over the Norwalk River and Pittsfield branch of the New Haven RR (and adjacent to the old Armstrong tire factory) collapsed and a temporary wooden bridge was installed in its place. They later spent money on a curvacious stretch of road to circumvent the bridge while they then rebuilt the original bridge. In downtown Norwalk, a building apparently had to be taken down while one of its sides, including the paint on the walls of varying colors, remained attached to the side of an adjacent building. The downtown YMCA in Westport had a plaque indicating the water level of the water that flooded the basement level. I’;m sure many 06880 readers (they didn’t have zip codes in those days) have flood pictures.

  7. Rosalie Kaye

    I was born in Boston, but a couple of years later we moved to Hartford so my father could work at P&W as a defense engineer airplane inspector during The War. When we’d travel/tour around I remember how different Rte. 15/The Merritt looked vs. other roads: ‘it was white’ vs. the usual black.

  8. Jack Backiel

    The Merritt Parkway Advisory Commission decided to ban horses and buggies, bicycles, pedestrians, billboards, and U-turns. It was purposefully built to parallel Route 1. In 1952, we drove from Westport to Hollywood, Florida all the way on Route 1. My back still hurts from that ungodly trip!

  9. John Kelley

    There should also be a mention of a negative aspect. Robert Moses did not want busses bringing in minorities to the suburbs and thus deliberately built parkway bridges too low for busses, and the Connecticut Parkways followed suit. It is a reason why Connecticut and Westchester commuters use rail rather than busses, like most New Jersey commuters.

    And in the pre-95 days, going to Boston by Rt 15 and the Mass Pike had one interruption–the Berlin Pike in the eponymous town, where the limited access highway turned into a morass of roadside restaurants and the first McDonalds I ever encountered.

    • This was a little bit of “fake news” in Robert Caro’s “The Power Broker.” Caro also falsely claimed that Moses kept the water in the city’s public pools cold out of the belief that Black people were less able to tolerate cold temperatures. (Ridiculous, as NYC park pools generally are not heated…or cooled, so the weather sets their temperature.)

      The truth is that parkway overpasses within the city are also too low for buses and trucks) and the likely reasons are: 1) to save money on construction, b) to assure that the parkways would remain free of large commercial vehicles into the future.

      • There’s a little bit of fake news in your claim that Caro was engaging in fake news: Read all of this:

        • Here’s a link to the full article referred to in the post above. Not definitive, but the bridges are indeed shorter on Long Island.

          As to Moses’s motivation, “The story was told to Caro by Sidney M. Shapiro, a close Moses associate and former chief engineer and general manager of the Long Island State Park Commission.”

          In addition to other evidence of Moses letting his prejudice get into his work. “There is little question that Moses held patently bigoted views. But to what extent were those prejudices embedded in his public works? Very much so, according to Caro, who described Moses as ‘the most racist human being I had ever really encountered.’ The evidence is legion: minority neighborhoods bulldozed for urban renewal projects; simian-themed details in a Harlem playground; elaborate attempts to discourage non-whites from certain parks and pools. He complained of his works sullied by ‘that scum floating up from Puerto Rico.’ ”

    • Moses did the same with the bridges on roads to Jones Beach…he’d have been a hero in Texas.

  10. Jack Backiel

    John, it’s not that cut and dry. For example, Moses also gave Harlem a spectacular pool and play center—now Jackie Robinson Park, one of the best public works of the New Deal era anywhere in the United States. A crowd of 25,000 attended the opening ceremony in August, 1936, and the crowd gave Moses a thunderous applause.

  11. Linda Pomerantz Novis

    A long-ago memory of my driving home on the Merritt Parkway,late at night, during a
    quiet snow falling,just before exit 42,, and not a soul anywhere, nor any street lights…:-)

  12. Cristina Negrin

    30 years too late to start fixing I 95 and the post road. The info structure (including bridges) has been grossly ignored for too long. Construction is no fun but the way things are are worse.