Parker Harding Cut-Through: Not So Fast

For decades, Westporters heading to the Post Road from Main Street have used the Parker Harding Plaza cut-through.

Avoiding the twisting, traffic-filled turns on Avery Place and Elm Street to reach Myrtle Avenue and Church Lane, we zip along a one-way path by the river, emerging at the light with Starbucks on the left.

Now — in a proposal from the Downtown Plan Implementation Committee — the cut-through would be eliminated.

The “cut-through” (left) and adjacent parking spots, in a screenshot from the Downtown Plan Implementation Committee website.

Rumors are swirling throughout town. Residents warn of chaos, as cars stack up on Avery, Elm, Myrtle and Church Lane (when it’s not closed for dining and music).

But that’s only part of the plan.

In the DPIC plan, we can still get to the Post Road. We’ll just do it differently: via 2-way traffic closer to the backs of the Main Street stores.

The parking lot will be reconfigured, Both lanes of traffic will be normal width, unlike the current narrow, snaking paths.

The Parker Harding Plaza plan. Note the 2-way traffic through the reconfigured lot; the 1 entrance and 2 lanes of exits (far right), and the “turnaround” loop near Gorham Island (left). Click on or hover over to enlarge.

DPIC chair Randy Herbertson says that the new plan was created after public input favored greater riverfront access for pedestrians.

Moving traffic away from the river will also ease frequent downtown flooding, by replacing hard surfaces with grass and a rain garden.

The plan followed a professional traffic study — done last September, Herbertson says, when Church Lane was closed.

Wide 2-way lanes will eliminate the need to squeeze past parked cars. (Photo/Susan Garment)

Reconfiguring Parker Harding will result in the loss of parking spaces. However, Herbertson says, that would happen no matter what plan was utilized. Zoning regulations adopted since the last reconfiguration mandate fewer spots.

“If the lot were re-striped today, we’d lose 47 spaces because of zoning regulations,” he says. “Under the current plan, we’d lose 44. And if we change a few of those to compact-only, we hope to gain 5 to 10 more.”

He notes that more spots will be available too when the Jesup and Imperial Avenue lots are re-striped.

Parker Harding Plaza (Drone photo/John Videler for Videler Photography)

Meanwhile, back at Parker Harding, Herbertson says that a new turnaround near Gorham Island will help with traffic flow.

And, he adds, “With 2-lane traffic, you won’t always be stuck behind one car waiting for one driver to pull out. If no one is coming from the other direction, you can just go around them.”

On your way to or from the Post Road.

(Click here for the Downtown Plan Improvement Committee website. Click here for its Parker Harding page.)

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43 responses to “Parker Harding Cut-Through: Not So Fast

  1. John McCarthy

    Fun Fact: The “traffic study” cherry picked two days over the long Rosh Hashanah holiday weekend. It also didn’t forecast what traffic would be like around town after the cut-through road was closed down.

    Why don’t we shut down the cut-through road and block off 44 spots for a 2 week trial? During the trial we can measure the traffic in downtown intersections and surrounding areas like Imperial, Evergreen, Kings Highway North, etc. And we can also measure the impact to downtown businesses, many (most?) of which oppose these plans.

    There are many ways to improve Parker Harding traffic and aesthetics of the area. But let’s not make things worse.

  2. Janine Scotti

    Great idea run a test

  3. Matthew Mandell

    As to the number of spots. The size of spots is controlled by the P&Z, as it said in the article. So, if in this particular case the size of spots was left as is, let’s say grandfathered, there would not be as many lost when it is restriped.

    As to the cut through. Is this a road with parking on either side or a lane through a parking lot? Could be either and speed through would depend on how many people are parking and how good they are at getting in and out at 90 degrees. Add that to Mr. McCarthy’s experiment if done.

    An aside – why do some people back into spots at the mall or Costco? The trunk is now inaccessible for all those goods just bought. It’s a mid-Atlantic thing creeping north.

    • Peter Dunham

      It is easier to back into a parking space than to back out into traffic. If you leave enough space behind you trunk remains accessible.

    • Andrew Colabella

      Let’s be honest here, Barely anyone in todays society backs their car into a spot, let alone know how to drive it.

      The size of spots, for example, the entire back of Westport Hardware “Compact Car Parking Only,” is beyond ridiculous in a town but also region of the USA where we all drive 4×4 and SUVs because of seasonal weather.

      Westport has grown. There are more drivers, businesses, thus more cars and people…

      We’re going to take away a road, a pass through with parking for sole proprietors and employees, to make it one big lot with a pass through where foot traffic and risk of accident and injury is and will be increased…

      This is the worst “improvement” but also example of it it’s not broken do not fix it.

      Redo the sidewalks, paving, basins and drainage, relocating sanitation containers, painting lines and the islands, AS IS, save some money, and focus on actual expensive projects coming up on the capital forecast, such as, Police Department building that is extremely old, small, outdated, and has HVAC and mold issues, same with the Fire Department HQ, and same with LONG LOTS AND COLEYTOWN ELEMENTARY.

      A road through a parking lot…outrageous and insane.

  4. Morley Boyd

    I was born at night. But it wasn’t last night. The proposed “two way lane” through the middle of a really active and crowded parking lot isn’t remotely equivalent to the current dedicated bypass road in terms of efficiency. And that’s without considering the fact that this plan, last I knew, has also eliminated the loading zones. I’m informed the thinking is that the huge delivery trucks will simply double park in the, um, lane. Nice.

    • joshua stein

      insane, a waste of time, and money, in my opinion. i agree with you that the proposed plan would be less efficient among an array of other potential issues. what exists today actually works well. there always does not need to be change.

  5. Michael Calise

    If you assume a ten-hour business day with each space being used for a two-hour shopping trip (five turnovers a day per space)
    times forty-four eliminated spaces over a six-day business week it equals one thousand three hundred twenty (1,320) fewer customer shopping trips per week. This does not seem like a sensible idea for the vitality of Westport center. I guess Pottery Barn was eyeing the future!!

  6. Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

    Boycott the stores that are not locally owned and operated. There. Problem fixed.

  7. Douglas Enslin

    This a flawed plan! The survey referenced by Randy Herberston did not have an option to redevelop other parts of downtown, but preserve the essential Parker Harding cut thru Road.

    Below is a petition to sign letting the committee know this change is not in the best interest of the community.

    Additional options to support the opposition include attending an RTM meeting on Monday June 5th at Mrs. Londons and attending the Town Planning Committee meeting at city all on June 8th at 8:30AM.

  8. Morley Boyd

    It’s disingenuous to assert that a rain garden is going to mitigate the industrial grade flooding that occurs in Parker Harding. Statements like that make me feel I’m being fed something.

  9. Dave Eason

    “public input favored greater riverfront access for pedestrians”..I call BS on that. Flooding downtown is tidal and no rain garden is going to mitigate that. Spiff up the existing “greenery” along the river and call it a day.

  10. Ilene Mirkine

    Parking in town is already a challenge….losing 44 spots is a big issue. (Not to mention the lack of loading zones). We need to consider traffic flow hand-in-hand with any beautification plan. Testing the impact I’m advance (as indicated above) is a brilliant idea, and specifically NOT doing so during a holiday/vacation window.

    • Ilene Mirkine

      (Oops, testing “in” advance)

    • Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

      Building piers? Just like NYC and the Hudson. Well, I suppose it had to happen sooner or later. I’m sure the EPA won’t have a problem with what it would do to the ecosystem of the Saugatuck.

  11. Don Bergmann

    A key goal of the Downtown Plan and now being developed by the Downtown Plan Committee is the enhancement of the river front. To do that the route through Parker Harding needs to be relocated as proposed. I believe our First Selectwoman supports this change, and also believe that most on the BoF and the RTM also support this change. Without this change, the most fundamental aspect of the Downtown Plan will disappear. It is as simple as that.

    • John McCarthy

      Don, it would be fantastic for all the elected officials you mentioned to publicly state their support for this plan in the comments.

      And if the elected-class has collectively made up their minds on this project, without a single public hearing or substantive public input on the matter, then we have bigger problems in Westport. We’ve seen many “done-deals” not get done after they have been thoroughly vetted in a transparent way. Sunlight, disinfectant, all that.

      Thankfully, RTM District 9 reps will be available to listen to people’s thoughts on this plan this coming Monday at 5 PM at Mrs. London’s. District 9 encompasses the downtown area and the surrounding neighborhoods that will be most impacted by this plan.

    • Jamie Walsh

      Don, I am interested in how you know that so many town officials support it, yet many of the constituents were clueless about this issue until the plans were released and it seems like a done deal.
      I am interested in hearing what our RTM District 9 Representatives have to say about this on June 5th.
      Seems more like a case of more government saying we know what’s best for you. Not a process but a “shove it down your throats” and you’re going to like it no matter what you think.

    • Morley Boyd

      With respect, Don, I believe you are possibly misinformed. The actual plan for reimagining Parker Harding which was developed by the Downtown Planning Committee and which appears on pages 42 – 44 of the final draft of the Downtown Westport Master Plan dated May 15, 2015, specifically retains the existing bypass road while increasing waterfront greenspace from 2,000 SF to more than 20,000 sf. This document was accepted by the Board of Selectman at a special public meeting. Subsequently, a Plan Implementation Committee (PIC) was appointed to implement said plan. The PIC, for reasons that are not known to me, has chosen to eliminate the congestion mitigating bypass road from the program it wishes to implement.

      • John McCarthy

        Yup, there it is on page 42 of the 2015 plan “A
        roadway would still be provided to facilitate traffic circulation in the southbound direction.”

      • joshua stein

        how do other places increase waterfrontage? build piers. look all along the FDR drive and east river.

    • Jesse Harte

      What is your plan for the traffic issues and the effect on merchants? Isn’t a town shopping area suppose to encourage parking and shopping/dining in its economic zones?

    • Ciara Webster

      Well Don, it seems out of over 40 comments yours is the only one in favor of this ridiculous plan, therefore I suggest democracy will have to prevail. If in fact we still live in a democracy.
      The DPIC forgot to ask residents and merchants directly effected by this what they thought.
      In fact we were lied to and the lack of any transparency whatsoever is shocking and outrageous. We have had to dig for every bit of information uncovered and all detrimental to our town.
      If we want Westport downtown to go back to the ghost town it used be then this is the plan.
      There is nothing whatsoever in this plan that benefits the town.
      Not the immediate residents, and not those driving from further afield.
      Certainly not visitors.
      Westport is not a public park.
      It would be great if we had more space to allow for extra green areas but we DO NOT. Mind you there are plenty all over town including riverside avenue there are 3 all empty all the time.
      The massive opposition to this plan is growing by the hour.
      The minute residents were informed of the TRUTH, it lost all support. And let’s remember any small support it had was all based upon grave misinformation. Now that those initial supporters know the real truth they have all changed their opinions. And I do mean ALL. Except maybe yourself.
      Surveys were hand chosen and flawed, questions asked in such a way as to get the result they wanted.
      As the residents have said, fix the unmaintained embarrassing existing space giving plenty access to the water( a stagnant mosquito drenched smelly swamp) which by the way is not some stunning vista such as one finds in the south of france, and certainly not somewhere anybody is going to eat or do yoga without gallons of DEET.
      Let’s be real here.
      Ciara Webster

      And still awaiting the D9 rtm to tell us on what side they are of this vote.
      Remember in NOVEMBER !

  12. Gloria Gouveia

    Zoning Regulations for parking space sizes haven’t changed in 40 years. This statement is categorically false. A plan that relies upon untruths is untrustworthy from the start.

  13. TIME OUT! Parker Harding is a Collector Road – not some cut-thru or minor road. Best comment I have read on this subject is “traffic is like water – it seeks and finds its own level.” Damn it up or divert it and it will flood some place else. Changing the flow of traffic downtown will divert it to residential areas.
    Eliminating this access to the Post Road and around the Downtown will have unforeseen consequences.
    Not every idea is a good idea. If you think this is, shut the parking spaces and roadway down during the sidewalk sales and see how it will work. Then determine if indeed it is a “good idea”.

  14. Chris Vatis

    There is ALREADY a river walkway adjacent to Parking Harding.
    My observation is it is rarely used and I am in town regularly . Perhaps upgrade what is already existing (embarrassingly decrepit benches and tables) with more comfortable and inviting seating. Make improvements to the landscaping, paving and lighting. Construct a more eye pleasing and safer barrier railing. Seems we have a lack of maintenance issue in this town as well( one may add Longshore bathhouse and Burying Hill pavement, cement walls and landscaping to a name a couple other glaring examples).
    Also, for the record, this is one of the buggiest areas in town- try eating a meal there! I have heard from store employees they tried it once, got eaten alive and never ventured again. Perhaps a valid consideration?
    Will more than a few, other than those who can secure a coveted parking spot in close proximity, regularly make use of this proposed “recreation area” to justify the expense and disruption? It will after all still be adjacent to a busy parking lot.
    People come into town to shop. Would any right minded person put shops in one of our may recreational areas?
    The intent of this plan is ludicrous and am unsure who it will ultimately benefit? Bicyclists are not going to risk their lives to navigate the roads that are going to see exponentially increased traffic for a short ride along the river.
    The suggested walk from the Imperial lot will not be without hazard with the increasing traffic and recent disregard for traffic signals, signage, and crosswalks. It will not be a pleasant or safe experience.
    Who exactly is on this Committee and how did they get on it?
    What are/were qualifications for inclusion? Is there any turnover in membership?
    I am befuddled over this.

  15. Irene Kniffin

    How many parking spaces does that Gotham Island office building need? Probably not as many as there are. Could the town lease some of those spaces? It’s convenient when you can park there.

    • Laureen Haynes

      One Gorham Island stated that they already experience creeping of parking during the week that then blocks their employees from parking there.

  16. Wendy Batteau

    As an RTM member, I haven’t seen an appropriation request for this. That is the formal trigger for subcommittees to gather more specific information, hear from experts, hear from the public on the record, and report back to the whole RTM for discussion and decision-making. I’m not aware of RTM members who support the plan now, but since we must remain objective until we see/hear all the info – including projections about possible future conditions – registering ‘pre-votes” isn’t appropriate. Having said that, I think Andrew Colabella and Matt Mandell make good points. And since it’s likely the town will be required to create more housing (per pending state legislation), traffic issues will probably get worse (yes, they can), so those points will be even more relevant. We really have to look at the objectives for the plan and measure them against likely consequences which now don’t look pretty.

  17. Ciara Webster

    Don Bergman makes a valid point if in fact he is correct and our first selectwoman, our BOF and our RTM support this, then we have a major difference of opinion happening in front of our eyes.
    It would appear then that the very people who came and asked us to vote for them are now choosing to blatantly ignore what is being asked of them, which is to forget this plan. A plan that is going to cause chaos and the death of westports vibrant downtown. It is going to cause more traffic congestion, and god forbid we ever have a fire downtown that coincides with rush hour( which mind you is now all day) the fire trucks will have no access to drive because there is no space for cars to pull over.

    Joshua Steins comment on building Piers. That would be wonderful.
    And I imagine a lot less expensive than the millions and millions earmarked for this project.
    As this part of the river can no longer support any boat traffic it would be fabulous to build an enormous pier which could add to the downtowns space, now that I could see huge support for.
    That pier could have stunning planters and baskets even some large enough for trees.
    It would also feel more removed from the parking lot right beside it.
    And eventually a bridge over to the saugatuck area in time.
    Quite honestly that is a plan that I think a lot of people might get excited about.
    A huge pier could have dedicated walking and cycle pathways etc..
    there was talk of a playground.
    Possibly the playground could also be on the pier.
    I think Westport has made an amazing comeback in terms of its vibrancy and it would be so unfortunate to kill that.
    I’ve lived here for over 20 years and I have never seen the town as busy as it is now.
    The other benefit of building a huge pier would be that most of the construction work happens over the water and from barges on the water so minimal disruption.

  18. Andrea Cross

    Could the concept of a parking garage in the Baldwin lot be revisited? As the back of that lot slopes downward, I do not believe a structure would appear too massive in that location. Ideally this could be constructed quickly, before any redesign of Parker Harding is implemented.

    • Harris Falk

      For Baldwin Lot, as it was making its way through the approval process, I suggested building a second level for cars and above that a green roof, possibly with solar panels.
      The green roof would be designated as a new public park with paths, seating, and an area or two for vending carts. It would also help with flooding by retaining a large portion of the rain over the entire area
      There wasn’t any interest at all, perhaps that’s changed.

      • Morley Boyd

        Harris, greenwashing goodies on the roof notwithstanding, there are reasons why no one was interested in digging up the corpse known as the Baldwin Parking Garage; one of them is that our neighborhood friggin hates the idea and has been pretty upfront about that right from the start. We don’t want some towering cement car mausoleum that – let’s be honest here – will NOT be maintained and will soon come to resemble every other sad, budget starved, litter strewn, weed filled, run down, town-owned property.

        But the big reason why the Baldwin Parking Garage has always been the third rail is this: it falls squarely within the visual dialect of urbanism. It’s what you see in places like Stamford. Think about what this place is and what it’s not because that distinctiveness can’t be retrieved once its been lost.

        By the way, are you aware that there is no maintenance plan in place for the newly completed Baldwin Lot that you voted for? Didn’t anyone on the RTM think to ask DPW how (or even if) the lot would be cared for before voting on the appropriation?

    • Werner Liepolt

      A point to consider: construction costs are at least $20,000 per parking space for parking garages.

      Much more expensive than painted lines on pavement.

  19. David Meth

    This solution allows for cars to park by the river’s edge obscuring the beauty of the river and makes it very unappealing. Parking and traffic will also be more dangerous by the cut-through. And it SHOULD NOT BE perpendicular parking as it is in every shopping area in Westport with cars backing and pulling out into each other. (See Trader Joe’s, CVS, and Post Office parking lots.) It should be one way in at an angle so drivers can see more clearly and one way out. A parking garage is needed on the lot between Church and Main to avoid the mayhem coming as a result of all the apartments going up. This is going to be extremely dangerous.

  20. Jamie Walsh

    For those who have not signed the petition being circulated by Doug Enslin please review and sign if you feel strongly that this proposal for Parker Harding is not well thought through decision by DPIC.

    • Josh stein

      When has a petition ever accomplished anything? Folks need to instead target the people with power either by swaying them to agree or take up their interests or voting them out, or finding an official means to redress whether attending meetings, gathering the masses to protest, using the courts, etc.

      Another thing forgotten is safety… Right now the cut through is segmented from the parking area for the most part. If I had to guess the number of accidents, possibly involving both property damage and human injury, will increase having cut through traffic passing through a parking lot.

  21. Carl Addison Swanson

    Who cares? Who goes downtown anymore since the Y moved? Mom and Pop are gone replaced by Corporate Boredom stores. I think soon they will convert the Post Road to an extension of I-95. It nearly is already. Shop online, save downtown for the out of town shoppers. Then, perhaps, this town might SAVE some money instead of, seemingly, an endless urge to spend it.

  22. John McCarthy

    10:51 AM on an overcast Sunday morning. Downtown is booming. And there are around 30 spots open in Parker Harding. So let’s remove 44 spots from the parking lot.

  23. Bobbie Herman

    When I moved to Westport in 1983 (40 years ago!),it was a charming little New England town. Although I moved to nearby Greenfield Hill to “downsize” in 2001, I still did everything in Westport.

    Now I’m in Redding in Senior housing, and I’m so glad I don’t live in Westport any more. It’s turned into a zoo. There was always confrontation about everything, but now it’s impossible to get anywhere, go anywhere and enjoy what the Town always had to offer.

    It’s too late to rescue it.

    • Carl Addison Swanson

      Good folks here who have argued among themselves since the 50’s and the Nike site. But the recent wave of Covid NYers has changed this town. The pace, the numbers and the attitude. Westport is NOT special. It is home. Or should be?

  24. Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

    I left in ‘78. My mother moved away in ‘87. It was a lost cause even then. When the Nisticos left it was all over. We had a wake for my mother at The Red Barn in 2002. They treated us like family. I can still taste their cooking and feel their warmth.

  25. John D McCarthy

    Update: the online petition in Oppostion to the DPIC plan is up to 447 signers. You can find it here:

    ALso, check out the Westport Journal’s summary of the District 9 RTM meeting, which was held to listen to people’s thoughts on the plan.