During COVID, Westport’s eerily empty streets were a joy to drive.
A sad joy, to be sure. The other side of our unimpeded ride was knowing that so many friends and neighbors were stuck home, inside, with nowhere at all to go.
Now — thanks to vaccinations, warm weather and pandemic fatigue — traffic is back.
And it’s worse than ever.
For hours a day, backups stretch everywhere: from Route 1 and 33 almost to Fresh Market. Canal and Main Streets. All of Saugatuck.
No one can say for sure why it’s this bad. But driving in Westport really, really sucks.
With time on my hands the other day — I wasn’t going anywhere — I tried to think of solutions.
I wouldn’t wish another townwide quarantine on anyone. Banning Waze is not an option. (I’m as hypocritical as the rest of Westport: I happily use the app to avoid highway traffic by driving through other towns.)
So I did the next best thing. I came up with a few ideas.
Alternate red and green lights at both Wilton Road and Riverside Avenue. The awkward dance between cars heading northbound and southbound doesn’t work. One car trying to turn left from Wilton Road onto the Post Road — or left from Riverside onto Post Road West — can hold up a dozen cars behind it. So why not have green for only northbound traffic; then only green for southbound traffic; followed by what we’ve got now (first a “left turn only” for eastbound and westbound drivers, then a full green for both).
Add a “left turn only” for drivers on South Compo, going westbound on Bridge Street. Traffic now routinely backs up under the railroad bridge.
At the same time, change the timing of the light. It’s too long for Greens Farms Road and Bridge Street drivers, not long enough for those on Compo South. (I know; a long light helps ease traffic on Greens Farms and Bridge Street when it’s backed up with I-95 overflow. Maybe shorter lights would effect Waze’s algorithm of suggesting that as an alternate route.)
Reconfigure the turning lane from Kings Highway North (where the Willows/ “Fort Apache” medical complex is on the right), onto Wilton Road. Right now the right lane is for right turns and cars going straight on Kings Highway. When one car in that lane heads straight, no one behind can turn right on red. Make the left lane for left turns and straight ahead; the right lane should be “right on red” only.
All of these ideas are beyond the scope of Westport officials. They’re state roads. So yeah, I know, I have a better chance of walking to the planet Zork than I do of seeing meaningful traffic light changes.
But a boy can dream.
(Do you have an idea for easing Westport’s traffic woes? Click “Comments” below. It won’t do any good — but at least “06880” readers can appreciate your brilliance.)