Category Archives: Transportation

Pic Of The Day #733

Bumber sticker spotted (appropriately) at Old Mill Beach (Photo/Seth Schachter)

The Only Time, Ever, You Will See This View

Old Mill parking lot project is finished. But cars have not yet returned. (Photo/Matt Murray)

Trifecta!

Parking is always tight in the State Cleaners lot (corner of Post Road and Imperial Avenue).

It’s even tougher when some Entitled Asshat takes up not just two, but three — 3! — spaces.

(Photo/Miggs Burroughs)

Please, don’t post a comment saying, “Maybe it was an emergency.”

I’ve never heard of a dry cleaning, picture framing or Rich Dean boxing emergency.

Don’t Text And Drive — Even At A Red Light!

An alert — and now $175 poorer — “06880” reader writes:

The other day I got a $175 ticket while sitting at a red light for entering an address on Waze on my phone.

I had no idea it was against the law to check your phone at a red light. The officer was very nice, and I mentioned to him that I felt like specific cell phone usage laws aren’t well publicized.

I know you can’t text and drive, and it makes sense you shouldn’t check your phone at a light either. I just didn’t know.

I have no idea whose job it is to publicize driving cell phone rules, but no one I mentioned this to had any idea you couldn’t check your phone or enter an address in Waze at a red light.

I’m curious if this is well known. Or maybe I’m just an idiot.

Texting while driving is illegal — even at a red light.

Today’s Really, Really Poor Parking Job

There are several signs on Saugatuck Avenue, all noting the 10′-11″ height of the underpass ahead.

This driver* decided to see for himself.

(Photo/Andrew Colabella)

He was not injured. He’s fine.

His job security might not be.

*And he’s hardly the first one.

(Photo/Andrew Colabella)

(Photo/Jennifer Johnson)

 

Westporters: Help Downtown Find Its Way

Earlier today, I posted a story about 3 successful local businesses. Toward the end, 3rd Selectman Melissa Kane mentioned one longstanding issue: helping visitors (and residents) realize there’s a lot more to downtown than Main Street.

She — and other officials — are addressing the problem.

And they need our help.

Kane also chairs the Westport Wayfinding Steering Committee. They’ve hired MERJE — a “nationally recognized wayfinding design firm” —  to create a “master wayfinding plan for downtown Westport and the gateways to the town.”

(“Wayfinding” helps guide motorists and pedestrians to parking and destinations using signage, maps and digital plans.)

The committee and MERJE have developed a survey about downtown design and directions. They’ve sent it to merchants and landlords. Now they want public opinion.

Click here to participate. It’s open through next Wednesday (April 17.)

One way to find our way. (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

Hiawatha Lane: 150 Years Of History

This Thursday (April 11, 7 p.m., Town Hall), the Planning & Zoning Commission holds another hearing on the long-running, often-amended, quite-controversial proposal to build a 5-building, 187-unit housing complex on Hiawatha Lane. The application is made as an 8-30g, meaning some of the units will be “affordable,” as defined by state regulations.

But the road — wedged between I-95 Exit 17 and the railroad tracks — has long been where owners and renters find some of Westport’s least expensive prices.

Homes on Hiawatha Lane.

Hiawatha Lane has a very intriguing history. Here’s a look at how the neighborhood developed — and a little-known fact about its deeds.

In the late 1800s, train tracks for the New York, New Haven & Hartford Rail Road tracks sliced through what today would be considered prime property.

Laying those tracks was a back-breaking effort. The physical power was provided by thousands of men, who immigrated to America from all parts of Italy.

When their work was done, some of those laborers settled close to the tracks in Saugatuck. They built a tight-knit community — as well as churches, stores, a vital small business economy, and their own homes. Some still remain.

Families with names like Vento, Stroffolino, Cribari, Nistico, Anastasia, Luciano, Sarno, Caruso, Fabbraio, Pascarella, Penna, Giunta, Valiante — and many more — settled in Saugatuck, and helped it grow.

They built all of Westport, as barbers, stone masons, restaurateurs, store owners, carpenters, police officers, firefighters, town employees, lawyers, teachers, and in many other professions.

In the 1920s — when Italian immigrants made Saugatuck a thriving community — Esposito’s gas station stood on Charles Street. Today it’s Tarry Lodge.

Three and four generations later, many of their namesakes still live in Saugatuck, or elsewhere in town.

In the mid-1950s, another transportation revolution plowed through town: I-95 (known then as the Connecticut Turnpike).

Many of the same families who had forged the railway built the new highway system. It was a source of national pride — but also a massive disruption to the lives of those living in its path.

Churches, stores, meeting places, roads and many homes were demolished.  Westport’s Italian community was bisected. Roads like Indian Hill and Hiawatha Lane were cut in half by the highway. Longtime neighbors were suddenly displaced.

I-95 under construction. The photo — looking east — shows the toll booth near Exit 17, with Hiawatha Lane on the right. The Saugatuck River bridge is in the distance.

But some Westport philanthropists saw what was happening. The area between the rail tracks and I-95 — today known as Hiawatha Lane and Extension, Davenport Avenue and Indian Hill Road — was subdivided into parcels. They were then deeded to many of the displaced Saugatuck families, for as little as $1.

Julia Bradley deeded most of those properties, which still stand today. The Bradley family put a specific restriction on each deed. It stated that each house should remain in perpetuity, as one single-family house on each plot.

Ever since, the neighborhood has remained a unique place, providing affordable, low-cost home ownership.

Of the 187 units proposed by Summit Saugatuck LLC, only 30 percent are deemed “affordable” by state Department of Housing standards. They will be small 1- and 2-bedroom rentals — replacing the homes that are there today.

Sixty years after the turnpike came through, many longtime families and close neighbors who have lived next to it may again be displaced.

Merritt Parkway Saugatuck River Bridge Makes “Deficient” List

Once upon a time, traffic moved easily on the Merritt Parkway Saugatuck River bridge. Below, a rope swung delighted youngsters at Camp Mahackeno.

Today, drivers creep — or race — over it. The span between Exits 41 and 42 is lined with construction barriers. It’s one of the scariest parts of the parkway.

The Merritt Parkway Saugatuck River bridge. The Westport Weston Family Y is at lower left. (Photo courtesy of Google Maps)

Now there’s even more reason to fear it.

The American Road & Transportation Builders Association’s has classified it as structurally deficient.

According to the New Haven Register, a bridge is structurally deficient “if the deck (riding surface), the superstructure (supports immediately beneath the driving surface) or the substructure (foundation and supporting posts and piers) are rated in a condition of 4 or less on a scale of 1-10.”

All told, 308 of Connecticut’s 4,270 bridges — 7.2 percent — were classified as structurally deficient. Nationwide, we’re 26th of the 50 states in the percentage of such bridges.

But if you think you can avoid the Merritt Parkway Saugatuck River bridge by taking I-95, think again.

The Yankee Doodle Bridge — the span over the Norwalk River, between Exits 15 and 16 — is ranked as the #1 most deficient in the entire state.

(Click here for the full New Haven Register story. Hat tip: Fred Cantor.)

Pic Of The Day #713

Saugatuck train station (Photo/Katherine Bruan)

Ned Lamont Has To Go

Alert “06880” reader/Donut Crazy fan John Karrel was minding his own business, drinking an iced coffee and sitting on a sofa in the sugar-laden shop on the eastbound side of the train station around 3 this afternoon.

All of a sudden, in walked Governor Lamont, with 2 of his security detail.

Was he there for a strawberry frosted sprinkle donut? A cinnamon sugar cake? Perhaps one with shamrocks (special for St. Patrick’s Day week)?

Maybe the state’s chief executive was checking on the progress of our Transit Oriented Design Master Plan Committee?

Nope.

The governor had to use the restroom.

As he was leaving — without ordering — John chatted him up. They exchanged pleasantries.

No one else recognized him.

Par for the course, when it comes to Fairfield County and Hartford politicians?

Or crazy?

Have you seen this man? John Karrel did.