Too Much Traffic? Try This!

Westport may not be able to solve every traffic problem by ourselves.

We need help from the state — synchronizing Post Road lights, for example.

It would be nice if Waze could rejigger its algorithms, so the slightest fender-bender on I-95 or the Merritt does not send highway drivers onto local streets.

But we’re not blameless.

There are things Westporters can do to alleviate traffic congestion and stress. We don’t help matters, with our aggressive, me-first driving styles and attitudes.

You know who you are, and chances are you’re not going to change.

Just another day at Bedford Middle School. (Photo/Adam Vengrow)

But here’s one simple tweak that could go a long way toward making traffic flow more smoothly. It comes from Jimmy Izzo, the RTM member and native Westporter who has spent decades living in, watching and wondering about the town he loves.

Jimmy says: “Observe the yellow light.”

That’s right. When the traffic light turns amber: Stop.

Don’t speed up. Don’t try to beat it. Just put on the brakes, and wait for red, then green.

Think about it. How many times have you seen (or been the driver of) a car that has just come over the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen (Post Road) bridge downtown. You floor it on yellow, trying to turn left onto Riverside.

But you get stuck in the intersection. Every car on Riverside and Wilton Road, turning and heading toward town, has to maneuver around you. By the time it’s all sorted out, another cycle of traffic has backed up on all 4 corners.

Trying to beat the yellow light.

It works the other way too. Drivers turning left from Wilton Road, and right from Riverside, who try to beat the yellow cause similar chaos.

Or consider the Compo Shopping Center (CVS)/Compo Acres (Trader Joe’s) cluster****. You come down the hill in front of Gold’s. You try to make the yellow light. You stop smack in the middle of the CVS exit. No one moves — though cars try desperately to maneuver around you. Meanwhile, the CVS/Gold’s lots get even more crowded.

Another spot where drivers try to beat the yellow.

Westporters treat yellow lights like greens, Jimmy says. In fact, they’re closer to red.

Believe it or not, stopping at yellows might actually make traffic flow more easily when the red turns to green.

And drivers wouldn’t have to resort to such colorful language all the time, either.

This may soon be obsolete in Westport.

31 responses to “Too Much Traffic? Try This!

  1. Out of the tens of thousands of cars on the road, out of the hundreds of thousands of trips made in Westport per day, per year, the % of bad drivers, rude drivers or inconsiderate drivers is minuscule. Stop bitching about bad drivers and be thankful for all the good, thoughtful and considerate people behind the wheel….the actual number of community threatening, thoughtless drivers is astonishingly small compared to the number of cars out there….all the dogs that don’t bite anyone never make the news.

    • True.

      Unfortunately, it is that minuscule number of bad, rude, inconsiderate, community threatening, thoughtless people who create an outsized effect on the community. A small group and their selfish actions grind our town to a halt and lead to anger and resentment that festers and affects everyone.

      Jimmy is correct, “Observe the yellow light.”

      Everyone is trying to get to where they are going. If we are all considerate of each other, we will not only get there, we will get there sooner, safer, and happier.

      Observe the yellow light.

  2. The Post Road is, what my friend termed, The Circus Maximus.
    Helpful hints: do your errands from 10 – 1130 in the am, 130 to 230 in the pm.
    Don’t take left turns- plan your trip, taking rights one way down, turn around, repeat. Give it a try!

  3. We should be more proactive with regard to the traffic overflow problems created by Waze when drivers get off 95 and line up for miles on Bridge St (for example) as a detour. There are cities and towns around the country that have proactively worked with Waze so that certain busy local roads are reflected as limited access or unavailable routes on the application. This will require some effort on the part of town leaders – it’s not going to happen all by itself

  4. Michael Vitelli

    [Starman is driving the car, and speeds across a recently turned red light, causing crashes for the other motorists]

    Starman : Okay?

    Jenny Hayden : Okay? Are you crazy? You almost got us killed! You said you watched me, you said you knew the rules!

    Starman : I do know the rules.

    Jenny Hayden : Oh, for your information pal, that was a *yellow* light back there!

    Starman : I watched you very carefully. Red light stop, green light go, yellow light go very fast.

  5. Also, when stopped in the left lane, use your Turn Signal!! In fact,as my Staples driver ed teacher drilled in my head always use your turn signal! It’s that little stick on the left side of the steering column!

  6. Michael, you beat me to it on the Starman reference. It was my first thought when the “yellow light” came up.

  7. I would love if people would just observe the rules of the four-way stops as well as not running through yellow lights. Over the past month, especially at Bayberry/Cross, and North/Cross, drivers assume that they can simply follow the car in front of them through the intersection even if other cars are already waiting their turn. One day, a woman coming down Bayberry went through the stops at Bayberry/Cross, North/Cross, North/Long Lots and one other intersection (I was traveling the same route behind her). For the first time in my 30 years in Westport, I actually called the police and gave them her license number. It seems she was late for her Restore Hyper Wellness appointment (sigh)! This is a danger to our community when people, even people from our town, are incapable of not stopping at stop signs and running through yellow/red lights. It is not just Wave re-routed drivers… it is mostly our own fellow Westporters who seem to have no regard for the rules of the road or each other.

  8. Sorry, meant Waze

  9. Paint a box with diagonal lines in problem intersections and post “Don’t Block the Box” signs. Enforcement by WPD at peak times could help.

  10. In many places, “blocking the box” gets a very hefty fine…if there any police around to see it.

  11. Bill Strittmatter

    Hmmm. When I saw the picture of the line of cars at Bedford middle school, I thought the suggestion was going to be “Put your kids on the bus” and/or “Let the kids walk”.

  12. Matthew Mandell

    So here is gray area concept. When making a left, pulling into the intersection and waiting. Some say no, some say yes.

    What it does is ensure at least 1 car if not 3 get to make the turn as the light changes as the oncoming cars stop, allowing for the turn. What it also does is allow a car going straight to get around and move forward. If the left turning car sits at the line it blocks all the cars behind and when the light changes it no longer can make that left. An entire cycle can be lost. Again, some say it is not to be done, but it surely would move things along if done correctly.

    As for blocking the box. Tickets, but then there has to be a cop right there at that moment. Doubt we’ll see many given out, but maybe the threat will teach folks not do it.

    Traffic has gotten bad. Last week on Riverside av. Cars were backed up both ways at the Sunoco by Sylvan road. I had never seen that. Cars all the way to the VFW and the other way to the Post Rd.

    • It is not a gray area concept.

      Connecticut General Statutes permit pulling into the intersection to make the turn, however the turning vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicle approaching from the opposite direction. (CT Gen Stat § 14-242 & 14-299)

      The activities of Car 2 and 3 are a little ashen.

  13. It might help if drivers who wish to turn left would just move as far as possible to the left of the lane, hugging the centerline. This might make it easier for cars to pass on the right of the stopped car. I think this was standard operating procedure when I first learned to drive.

    Stopping right in the middle of the road to make a left turn is just plain discourteous and disrespectful to other drivers. . . And the mark of a lousy driver.

  14. Stopping on a yellow light is a good idea, but an even worse problem is the many drivers who run red lights at those “hot spots”. Sooner otr later there is going to be a serious accident.

  15. Donald Bergmann

    I hope our police, namely the traffic folks, read the thoughts. In those cases where suggestions have been rejected by our police that would be nice to know. One suggestion I have is to try to cause drivers to slow down more as they turn from Hillspoint Rd. onto Compo Rd. South, the curve is a bit treacherous. I think intersecting white lines might get peoples attention and might cause some slowing. Not a stop sign or even a slow sign, just something to get the driver’s attention as the turn is approached.
    Don Bergmann

  16. What is the town policy about civilians taking photos or videos of people in the act of a traffic violation? (i.e making a left turn out of Winslow Dog Park when there is a very clear sign posted “No Left Turn” ?) Is there a place to send the video or photo?

    • Anyone can take photos of someone outside. But that would require a written statement from the person who observed it snd the police would have to do it by warrant. Big waste of time if you ask me. Talked to one officer in Westport who said they’re short staffed due to retirements and transfers to other departments. Said they are having a lot of trouble hiring new cops because of the terrible retirement the town gave the new hires.

  17. My first question is how you synchronize the lights on a 2-way street? In New York City, the amber light (which I’ve always seen as orange rather than yellow) lasts for about 2 seconds. Here in California, where I live now, they have “metering lights” that restrict traffic volume. And maybe some streets could be paired as one-way, such as Riverside Drive and a street that parallels it on the opposite side of the river (not having been in Westport in years I don’t recall the name.)

  18. There are a few big observations I have made several times before: 1) lights need to be better synchronized, including between city and state roads. 2) lights should be smarter and use data to become smarter in real-time. that means sensors in the pavement (many intersections already have) so if there are no vehicles the light doesnt change/hold up traffic unnecessarily, knowing when to change lengths of lights due to peak/off peak times/turn to blinking lights, etc. 3) people should learn to use their blinkers and pay attention. 4) truckers should be held to very high standards and fined big time/lose licenses for speeding, driving in wrong lanes (including shoulders!), hitting bridges, etc. this will require enforcement that is currently lacking. i have seen truckers drive more aggressively and cause more accidents than passenger vehicles. perhaps data will say otherwise but this is what i am witnessing. 5) additional lane needs to be added to at least i95, if not the merritt too. stop with all the new construction and spending money on bridges and making things look pretty until this can be planned out and get underway.

    • and regarding 5) at least temporarily allow passenger vehicles to drive in the shoulders (where feasible) during rush hour. so many states already allow this. it essentially adds an additional lane and would cost a small amount compared to actually adding a lane, for signage, and some small tweaks.

      • Josh All new traffic lights being installed now have the sensors on the poles or at the actual traffic light.
        It’s usually a white sensor pointing down or a dome that looks a like security camera.
        Corrosion from weather and just wear tear of vehicles have caused the sensors in the road to wear out or malfunction.

        • pretty sure those are sensors to see emergency vehicle flashing lights. i am talking about sensors to detect vehicles waiting at a red light. you can see some intersections have a straight cut mark. i think that is where a wire is embedded in the pavement. its not a sensor just a wire that detects the metal in a large vehicle. we have them at our security gates and they have never worn out. even been under salt water.

  19. Put an Ez Pass reader on Saugatuck Bridge then build a secret tunnel under the river for residents use for free.

  20. Another unpopular but indisputably true observation: Even stationary at a red light, you are driving your vehicle… it’s not down time to be on the social medias or to do anything at all that delays your awareness of traffic moving again. Be ready to go! If your delay in getting started makes 2 cars which could have gotten through that’s just more traffic you caused. Pay attention, put your tiny supercomputer down – we literally see you on it, we know your shifter isn’t that interesting with your head down and to the right.

  21. PS – I wish there was a like button on some of these comments. 🙂

  22. Catherine Talmadge

    Another pet peeve of mine is people not using their turning signals. They stop unexpectedly on the Post Rd to turn left into parking lots or don’t use them at lights or 4 way stops. It would be so much easier if people gave other drivers some warning and traffic would move more smoothly. Unfortunately I have noticed that our police often do not use them.

  23. I have lived in Westport for 25 wonderful years…I’ve watched this town turn into the amazing place it is from an already wonderful place. It is very hard to watch the traffic become so out of control. I live on Riverside Avenue and literally, every day except Sundays usually, the back up at the intersection of Rte 33/Post Road is absolutely mind boggling. In all directions. I have actually called the non emergency police number to complain while stuck in this nonsense. Just put a traffic monitor there to keep people in check. Simple solution. What people do is insane…and this will end with a terrible accident or a road rage incident. We are all stressed and as I read this timely 06880, I was so happy that someone actually gave this some thought, came up with a reasonable solution and then that seemingly easy to put into practice idea just gets “meh” comments, some hostile. Get a grip people…stop at yellow/orange/amber…whatever you want to call it. Just do it.

  24. Another point to consider is traffic can slow down emergency response. Yes, vehicles should pull off to the side but if there is traffic in all lanes, and in all directions, that can be challenging to do. Traffic is a not just an inconvenience but safety concern too.

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