Westport does not lack for old, Federal-style homes, with handsome features like cupolas and widow’s walks. (Though, like many venerable houses in Westport, they are an endangered species.)
So it’s particularly impressive that 17 readers quickly knew exactly where last week’s Photo Challenge — portraying just the top of the home — was.
Peter Barlow’s well-cropped photo (click here to see) showed 16 Bridge Street, next to Saxon Lane near Imperial Avenue.
It’s a well-traveled road. When back-ups occur — as they frequently do — at least drivers have a wonderful streetscape to occupy their time.
(And despite recent new construction, Bridge Street is now part of a Historic District.)
Fred Cantor, Seth Schachter, Doug Weber (who should know — he owns the home!), Andrea Cross, Dave Eason, Jonathan McClure, Andrew Colabella, Diane Silfen, Michelle and Steven Saunders, Werner Liepolt (who lives across the street), Nina Marino, Clark Thiemann, Jo Kirsch, Adam Starr, Shirlee Gordon, Bill Scheffler and Mary Ann Batsell all knew their architecture. Congratulations!
As for that widow’s walk: A kerfuffle broke out in the Comments section when a reader claimed the term referred only to those on homes in whaling communities. That’s not true. Any coastal house can have a widow’s walk.
However, the definition of that feature refers to a “railed rooftop platform” where women could stare out to sea, waiting for their husband’s ship to come in.
16 Bridge Street does not have that raised platform — it’s all enclosed (though perhaps it once did). The debate continues.
Today’s Photo Challenge is a bit tougher. If you know where in Westport you’d see this, click “Comments” below.
(If you enjoy this Sunday feature, please consider a contribution to “06880.” Click here — and thank you!)
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.
Waiting in line at the Imperial Avenue light. (Photo/Dick Lowenstein)
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).
What’s the holdup? Some dude at the front of this line, trying to turn left onto the Post Road. (Photo/David Waldman)
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.)
A “left-turn only” arrow from South Compo to Bridge Street will make traffic flow as easily as it appears in this image from Google Maps.
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.
Another reason Kings Highway North should be “right turn on red” only: The left lane lines up more directly with its continuation past Wilton Road.
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.)
Around the corner is the William F. Cribari Bridge. In 1987 — the first time the century-old span was slated to be replaced by a modern one — Westporters succeeded in gaining National Historic Structure designation for it.
The William Cribari (Bridge Street) Bridge is the gateway to Bridge Street. (Photo/Fred Cantor)
In November 2015 — with plans once again afoot to renovate or replace the Cribari Bridge, and spillover impacts likely for Bridge Street and beyond — Liepolt began a quest to get National Historic District status for his entire neighborhood.
The longtime Westporter knew that many of the houses on his road had contributed to Westport history. Over the years, he’d heard stories from older residents about who grew up where, which families were related, and how beautifully the forsythia had bloomed.
He saw historical plaques affixed to many homes. But to submit a Historic District application, he needed to learn more.
Morley Boyd — Westport’s historic preservation expert — directed Liepolt to a history of the town, and an 1869 document in which Chloe Allen “dedicated to the public” the road between her house (still standing on the corner of Bridge Street and South Compo) and the Saugatuck River.
Chloe Allen lived in the Delancy Allen House at 192 Compo Road South. It was built in 1809.
That half-mile stretch now boasts more than 20 historical resources. Thirty-one properties are eligible for Connecticut State Historic Preservation plaques.
Wendy Crowther noted that a New Yorker cover by Edna Eicke shows a little girl celebrating July 4th on the porch of her 1880 home, on the corner of Imperial Avenue and Bridge Street.
That’s the same house where John Dolan — keeper of the manually operated swing bridge — lived until the 1940s.
The New Yorker cover of June 30, 1956 shows this 1880 home, at the corner of Bridge Street and Imperial Avenue.
Liepolt also researched what it means to be a National Register District. Benefits, he found, are modest — and obligations non-existent.
A homeowner can do anything to and with a house that any other owner can. An owner who makes restorational repairs may enjoy a tax benefit.
Liepolt learned too that if any federal funding, licensing or permitting is involved in development in a National Register District, that agency must take into account the effects of that action on historic properties, and consult with stakeholders.
Liepolt says this means that a possible Connecticut Department of Transportation plan to use federal funds to widen Route 136 — Bridge Street — as it feeds the bridge over the Saugatuck would require the Federal Highway Authority to consider the effect, and consult with property owners there.
The 1884 Rufus Wakeman House, at 18 Bridge Street.
The goal of this consultation is to mitigate “adverse effects,” Liepolt explains. These can be direct or indirect, and include physical destruction and damage; alteration inconsistent with standards for the treatment of historic properties; relocation of the property; change in the character of the property’s use; introduction of incompatible elements; neglect and deterioration, and more.
In February 2016, Liepolt asked Westport’s Historic District Commission to make a formal request for designation of the Bridge Street neighborhood. It was approved unanimously.
Liepolt worked with HDC coordinator Carol Leahy and an architectural historian to complete the research, take photographs, compile materials and write the final application to the National Parks Service.
The 1886 Orlando Allen House, at 24 Bridge Street.
This past April, the application was approved. Bridge Street is now added to the list of Nationally Registered Districts.
There was no big announcement. I’m not sure if anyone in town really noticed.
But we sure would notice if — without this designation — the look and character of the Bridge Street neighborhood ever changed.
Due to electrical grid damage from Friday’s storm, and continuing repairs, it is anticipated that the intersection of Greens Farms Road/Bridge Street at Compo Road South may remain closed to traffic at least through the morning commute tomorrow (Monday, March 5).
No traffic will be allowed through the intersection of Greens Farms Road at Compo Road South.
Road closures will be in place at Bridge Street at Imperial Avenue, Compo Road South at Keyser Road, Greens Farms Road at Hillspoint Road, and Compo Road South at Elaine Road. Any destinations within this area will be accessible only to local traffic; all other traffic should must use detours.
Drivers traveling from all points south of the I-95 overpass on Compo Road South should follow Compo Road South to Hillspoint Road north to the intersection of Greens Farms Road. From this point, traffic will be routed either east on Greens Farms Road and/or north on Hillspoint Road.
Drivers traveling west on Greens Farms Road will be detoured north at the intersection of Greens Farms Road and Hillspoint Road toward Post Road East.
No westbound traffic will be allowed on to Greens Farms Road from the Sherwood Island Connector. This area will be accessible to local traffic only. All other traffic will be diverted north on the Sherwood Island Connector towards Post Road East.
Compo Road South will be completely closed to southbound traffic at the intersection with Keyser Road.
All southbound traffic on Imperial Avenue will be diverted west on Bridge Street. All eastbound traffic on Bridge Street will be diverted north on to Imperial Avenue.
On Friday, “06880” posted a story on a citizens’ campaign to install mobile speed signs — “traffic calming devices” — on Imperial Avenue and Bridge Street.
The GoFundMe drive had already garnered $1975 in pledges. The goal was $10,000 — by December 31.
Today — just 72 hours later, and nearly 60 days ahead of schedule — that figure has been reached. (And more: As of this morning it was up to $10,100.)
Nicole Dodge — one of the organizers — says:
This issues clearly resonates with residents of our neighborhood. It’s the first step towards addressing the issue of excessive speed on Imperial and Bridge Street and the surrounding areas. We are pleased we were able to raise the money so quickly, so we can move forward in further addressing this problem and prioritizing pedestrian safety.
Well done, Gang of 6 who came up with the campaign.
And well done, “06880” readers. You rock!
Now please be sure to slow down on Imperial Avenue, Bridge Street — and everywhere else in town!
We’ve all seen them: The solar-paneled radar signs that give the speed limit on a particular stretch of road, then flash your speed. It’s always faster than the speed limit, of course, and you always slow down.
A typical mobile speed sign.
Studies show significant decreases in vehicle speeds on streets that use them. But they’re mobile, so they pop up in different places at different times.
There is no funding in the town budget to purchase these “traffic calming speed signs.” But 6 Westporters have begun a GoFundMe campaign to buy 2 more. They’ll be placed — permanently — on Imperial Avenue and Bridge Street.
The citizens — Matt Heisler, Karen Jacobs, Nicole Dodge, Jennifer Johnson, Andrea Moore and Al DiGuido — are spurred by the fact that in the last 6 months, 2 neighbors have been hit by cars while jogging.
The Police Department is partnering with the group. They’ll assume responsibility for installation and maintenance of the signs — and will monitor all speed data.
Each device costs almost $5,000. The GoFundMe goal is $10,000. It runs through December 31. If the total amount is not reached, no money will be collected.
As of this morning, $1,975 had been pledged.
“This is where we live,” the group says. “This is where our kids go to school. This is where we walk, run, bike and drive.”
Of course, they’ll accept contributions from anyone in Westport — and beyond.
(For more information, or to contribute, click here.)
On a Friday in late August, Kaeleigh, a Staples High School sophomore did what many Westporters do on a perfect summer day: She headed out for a jog to Compo Beach.
Before leaving, Kaeleigh and her mom agreed on her route. Kaeleigh would use the crosswalk on Bridge Street in front of the old Saugatuck Elementary School (now senior housing), instead of crossing further east at the busy intersection with South Compo Road.
Kaeleigh’s run was cut frighteningly short. As she crossed Bridge Street, Kaeleigh was hit by a car traveling eastbound. Evidently the driver never saw her. The impact propelled Kaeleigh onto the hood of the car. Her head smashed the windshield. She is still recuperating.
We don’t know why the driver didn’t see Kaeleigh, or why she didn’t see the car. It’s a flat, open stretch of road with long sight lines. Kaeleigh thought it would be fine to use the crosswalk. However, she was mistaken. The decades-old crosswalk she relied upon has been removed.
Bridge Street, where Kayleigh was hit.
Kaeleigh could be forgiven for her mistake. The fact that the crosswalk was supposedly discontinued is not obvious. On the north side there are curb cut marks in the sidewalk, while on the south side the sidewalk ends at the crosswalk. In any event, if she didn’t cross there she would have had to navigate past cars turning in various directions at the Compo intersection.
We all face similar obstacles when we try to walk or jog around Westport: sidewalks come to an end, shoulders are too narrow for road-sharing, temporary signs block sidewalks, people are forced to walk behind parked cars, etc. But unlike Kaeleigh most of us don’t have to live with the consequences of being hit by a car….yet.
We have failed to make Westport safe for pedestrians. Despite our stated goals in multiple town plans, and the strong desire across all demographics for improved pedestrian safety and access, we’re not making progress. Road congestion is increasing, new developments are cropping up everywhere, and more people have been injured or killed on our streets. We force people to stand in the road to wait for a bus, lead people down sidewalks that abruptly end, and force families to walk in roads that are designed and maintained solely for cars. Westport can and must do better.
Kayleigh, with a friend.
Across the country, and throughout our region (including Norwalk), towns are embracing the goal of making their streets “complete.” That means planning and maintaining streets to allow safe and convenient access for users of all ages and abilities regardless of their mode of transportation, whether walking, bicycling, driving and riding public transportation.
In the case of Bridge Street, there are many options to make it more “complete”: adding better signage, road markings and plantings to help alert drivers; adding road cameras or other tools to help enforce speed limits; creating wider shoulders and/or sidewalks on both sides of the road.
Westport needs a “Complete Street” plan for Bridge Street, and town-wide leadership and funding to make it happen — there, and on all of our 120 miles of public roadways.
In June, alert reader Scott Witkin noticed some activity on the tiny patch of land adjacent to Mansion Clam House and Bridge Street.
He watched in amazement as a 4-person DOT crew methodically rolled out a 60-inch mower, 2 weed whackers and a backpack blower — all to cut what Scott figures is less than 100 square feet of grass.
We shouldn’t have laughed.
Another alert reader — one who prefers to remain anonymous — says the plot has not been touched since June.
It used to be nicely maintained, with the old boat planting bed and grass cut regularly. It now seems to be going to rot. I’m guessing by your earlier post that it’s state property, since the crew that opens the bridge were spotted cutting it. It’s almost a little bit like a town green down in Saugatuck.
Perhaps you could raise a little awareness and see if local merchants would maintain it? I thought I had heard that the guys at Westport Wash and Wax are responsible for cutting the median grass on Post Rd East in front of their shop to keep things looking good.
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