Category Archives: Transportation

Y Seeks Clarification Of “Membership Cap”

During the many long months years decades it took for the Y to move from downtown, I thought the result would be a traffic disaster.

I envisioned lines of cars backed up and down Wilton Road, all the way to the Post Road. I’ve seen bad traffic there; I could not imagine it wouldn’t get worse.

Well, the Y has been out there next to Exit 41 for more than 2 years. And — you could blow me over with a feather — the traffic is not only not worse. It may even be better.

Maybe the lights have been rejiggered. Maybe everyone hops onto the Merritt and gets off at Exit 42. Maybe everyone jogs there.

Whatever the case, the traffic apocalypse never happened.

And next Thursday (March 2, 7 p.m., Town Hall), the Planning & Zoning Commission may discuss a membership cap for the Y.

The (relatively) new Westport Weston Family YMCA.

The (relatively) new Westport Weston Family YMCA.

According to an email sent to members, in 2008 — when the Y sought approval to build — the P&Z established certain conditions. One was a “membership cap” of 8,000.

The Y says they’ll ask the P&Z to clarify that the 8,000 “pertains to individuals that are of driving age.”

That makes sense. The fire marshal should care how many people are in the building. The P&Z should concern itself with the number of cars.

The Y did not ask me to write this. They don’t know I’m doing it.

But as someone who spent years imagining gridlock — and hailed the cap when it was first announced — I might as well admit how wrong I was.

Smile! You’re NOT On Candid Camera!

The new Main Street traffic lights — at the Avery Place/Parker Harding and Myrtle Avenue/North Kings Highway intersections — have some Westporters spooked.

An alert “06880” reader sent photos of what he thought were surveillance cameras:

traffic-light-not-camera-2

Were they installed to catch drivers zooming through the light?

Or — worse — some kind of nefarious, Big Brother spy cams?

traffic-light-not-camera-1

This called for a call to Westport’s top cop.

Have no fear, Police Chief Foti Koskinas responded quickly. There are no cameras on any traffic lights in Westport.

These are traffic control devices. They replace the strips that previously lay under the pavement, sending signals to the lights to determine if cars were waiting in line. That’s why sometimes a light allows a left turn on red, while other times it turns green for everyone.

In the past, Foti said, every time a road was repaired or repaved, the strips were torn out and replaced.

Now — sitting high above ground — they’re much safer.

Until the next wind storm.

Deli Owner Tries To Solve Pickle

The state Department of Transportation calls the Post Road/Riverside Avenue/Wilton Road intersection one of the most dangerous in Connecticut.

Everyone in Westport agrees. But every day, Breno Donatti gets a first-hand view of exactly how horrible it is.

In just the few weeks since he took over Art’s Delicatessen, the owner of what is now Winfield Street Italian Deli watches pedestrians run for their lives as they cross the street.

He gets plenty of lunch and catering orders from the Wright Street building and the offices on Wilton Road. His employees are terrified to deliver, though. At least twice, they’ve nearly been hit by cars.

The Winfield Street Deli on Post Road West.

The Winfield Street Deli on Post Road West.

It cuts both ways. “People who work across the street don’t feel like risking their lives to get coffee here,” Breno says.

And customers parking in front of Winfield Deli are beeped at constantly, as they back into a space.

This morning, Breno emailed First Selectman Jim Marpe. He asked for a simple “Yield to Pedestrians” sign, or maybe a pedestrian button on the traffic light.

What happened next made him realize that — despite the Post Road hassles — he opened his store in a great town.

Within minutes, Kirsten Carr from the selectman’s office wrote back. She said that although the streets are state property, she would forward his concerns to the town’s traffic control officer.

And just a few minutes after that, 2 police officers — Ashley Del Vecchio and Al D’Amura — strolled in.

They told Breno that they’d already called state officials, to plead for more signs or a renovation of the intersection. And they assured him they’ll do everything in their power to help the state make the area safer for pedestrians.

“They were so courteous, gracious and responsive,” Breno says. “Wonderful people!”

Breno Donatti (right) and Matthew Mandell, executive director of the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce.

Breno Donatti (right) and Matthew Mandell, executive director of the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce.

The intersection won’t improve instantly. But plenty of people are working on it.

Including the concerned — and now pleased — owner of Winfield Deli.

Free Detail At Westport Wash & Wax!

Well, at least for one person.

Alert “06880” reader Jaime Bairaktaris spotted this sign at our town’s favorite (okay, only) car wash:

westport-wash-wax-tesla

Intrigued, he asked the cashier for the back story.

Apparently, Tesla vehicles cannot be put into neutral and pulled through the car wash tunnel — unless someone sits in the front seat.

Because every Westport Wash & Wax customer must get out of the car, this causes quite an inconvenience. As soon as you step out of a Tesla, it stops moving.

So a free detailing awaits any geek who can figure out how to let Teslas remain in neutral, even without anyone in the front.

Gentlemen, start your engines!

Coming Round The Bend? High-Speed Rail Line May Slice Through Saugatuck

It pays to read what the government puts out.

Lawmakers are fond of sticking something on page 1218 of proposed bills that turn out to be a windfall for one constituent who runs a casino, owns a farm or wants to sell something in China.

Department officials, meanwhile, put out studies about future projects. Take this recent one from the Federal Railroad Administration, about high-speed transportation from Boston to Washington.

Speeds of 200 miles an hour sound great!

Of course, we’d need new rail lines.

Whoooosh!

Whoooosh!

According to “NEC Future” — NEC meaning Northeast Corridor — a new 2-track infrastructure would begin in New Rochelle. It would run through coastal Fairfield County.

And it would terminate in Westport, west of the Greens Farms station.

This “preferred alternative” would be constructed “parallel to I-95, typically on embankment or aerial structure.”

According to Matthew Mandell — RTM representative, Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce director and Slice of Saugatuck founder — “we could be talking about a train running right along 95, above and over Tarry Lodge, Tutti’s, the Duck and out over the river.”

Or, he says, “maybe a bit more north through who knows what.”

A map in the "NEC Future" report, showing a possible high-speed rail line route. Click on or hover over to enlarge.

A map in the “NEC Future” report, showing a possible high-speed rail line route. Click on or hover over to enlarge.

First Selectman Jim Marpe is on the case. He wrote a letter to the Railroad Administration, noting “extreme concern” — at minimum — in Westport about the possible route.

Marpe cited impacts on coastal resources, property owners and the Saugatuck neighborhood.

Mandell says, “While this may be decades away, so was 95 at some point — and look what it did.”

(Click here for the entire “NEC Future” report. For the appendix only — with maps — click here. Hat tip: Scott Smith)

Lighting Up Downtown

Alert “06880” reader and careful driver Jo Shields got a friendly wave a few minutes ago, from a worker installing new “smart” traffic lights at the Main Street/Avery Place/Parker Harding intersection.

traffic-lights-downtown-jo-shields

Next up: smart lights at the Main Street/Myrtle Avenue/Kings Highway North intersection, a few yards away.

Soon, traffic will flow flawlessly down that important block.

Friday Flashback #22

In the early 1950s, Peter Barlow took this photo:

westnor-diner-1950s-peter-barlow

Here’s the back story. The car-carrying  truck was parked outside the Westnor Diner one evening. The Westnor was on the corner of Post Road West and Sylvan Road North — where J. Pocker and Belmondo are now. The diner’s name comes from its Westport location, near Norwalk — get it?

In those days — before I-95 — all trucks traveled on the Post Road. It was a mess. As much as we loathe the highway, it’s taken tons of traffic off our streets.

Peter — who took this photo with an amateur camera (using a flashbulb) — figures that with all the snow on the truck, the driver was inside “having a leisurely meal.”

This is a serene scene. But directly across the street, a few years earlier — on May 2, 1946 — a truck blew a tire, smashing into a drum filled with vulcanizing cement.

The resulting explosion set off a spectacular blaze. Fire chief Frank Dennert, former fire chief Francis Dunnigan, and 2 other firefighters were killed. Eight people were injured. It was one of the worst disasters in Westport history.

DMV Just Got A Whole Lot More Crowded

When AAA moved its Compo Shopping Center location to Norwalk, Westporters were slightly inconvenienced.

As of this past Sunday, drivers throughout Fairfield County have many more hassles than that.

New Haven County, too.

On December 31, a contract between AAA Northeast — which serves those 2 counties — and the state Department of Motor Vehicles ran out. Because the 2 sides could not agree on new terms, AAA offices no longer offer driver’s license renewals, and other services.

That’s about 160,000 transactions a year, in both counties.

DMW wanted AAA to provide license renewal and similar services to members and non-members alike. That had been the policy — free to members, $5 for non-members — but AAA said that was not enough to cover its costs.

AAA’s services had been a godsend to drivers unwilling — or unable — to brave the long lines at DMV offices in places like Norwalk.

With the start of the new year, those lines got much, much longer.

This shot of the Norwalk DMV was taken last February -- when AAA was still providing driver's license renewal and other services.

This shot of the Norwalk DMV was taken last February — when AAA was still providing driver’s license renewal and other services.

(Hat tip: Peter Flatow)

It’s Raining. There’s A Lot Of Traffic. So I’ll Just Park Here …

… and I won’t even do it close, or straight.

(Photo/Matt Murray)

(Photo/Matt Murray)

Westport Oysters Pop Up At Grand Central

Claus Meyer is a world-famous food activist, cookbook author, professor and TV host. A founder of the New Nordic cuisine philosophy, his Copenhagen restaurant Noma was rated the Best in the World 4 times (!) since 2010.

So it was pretty cool the other day when he showed up at Sherwood Mill Pond. He visited the Northrop family’s Hummock Island house, accessible only by boat — the base of operations for their famous oyster farm.

He and a few of his chefs sat with the Northrops, discussing the finer points of oystering.

Claus Meyer (left) and Jeff Northrop Jr. at Old Mill Beach, before their oyster farm tour and tasting.

Claus Meyer (left) and Jeff Northrop Jr. at Old Mill Beach, before their oyster farm tour and tasting.

But that’s not the whole story.

Meyer invited Jeff and his son (Jeff Jr.) to be part of his food operation in Grand Central Terminal.

That’s the 16,000-square foot Great Northern Food Hall in Vanderbilt Hall, which has taken the historic landmark by storm.

Which is why — all week long — commuters, other travelers and food lovers of all kinds have been stopping  in at the Hummock Island Oyster pop-up bar.

Pat Hanna and Kenny Varyruardrok of Hummock Island Shellfish opening oysters from Westport for the hungry masses.

Pat Hanna and Kenny Varyruardrok of Hummock Island Shellfish opening oysters from Westport for the hungry masses.

They’ll be there through next Thursday (December 22) tomorrow (Friday, December 16) from 4-8 p.m.

That’s good news for Westporters heading home via Grand Central.

But if you’re not — heck, even if you are, but you love Hummock Island oysters — you can get them at Pearl at Longshore, any day of the week.