Tag Archives: Connecticut Department of Transportation

[UPDATE] New Townhouse Proposal For Post Road

Many Westporters have no idea what goes on at 900 Post Road East. The lot next to Walgreens, across from the Sherwood Diner, is filled with trucks and mounds of sand.

In fact, it’s a maintenance lot for the Connecticut Department of Transportation.

At least, it is now.

Sometime in the future though, it could be the site of new townhouses. Eighty or 90% could be “affordable” — under state 8-30g standards — while the rest would sell or rent at market rates.

As first reported by the Westport Newstown officials — including 1st Selectman Jim Marpe and the Planning & Zoning Commission — are in very preliminary discussions with the state. The complex would be built on 4 of the 10.73 acres, along West Parish Road.

900 Post Road East

Early indications are that some nearby residents favor the move. They prefer townhouses to trucks in their back yards.

Others, however, oppose more development in the Greens Farms/Post Road area. New housing — some affordable, others for seniors, most at market rate — has gone up recently near Greens Farms Elementary School, and the foot of Long Lots Road.

Affordable housing is mandated by the state. It is not optional. In Westport, that translates to people earning just under $80,000 a year, says P&Z chair Danielle Dobin. That includes teachers, firefighters, police officers, other town employees, young people and seniors.

The P&Z’s Affordable Housing sub-committee meets today (Friday, January 10, 12 noon, Westport Town Hall Room 201). It’s the first of many meetings about this proposal.

Post Road Lights Out Of Sync? Who You Gonna Call?

It’s frustrating enough to drive on the Post Road, and realize how out-of-sync the traffic lights are.

It’s even more frustrating to call Town Hall to complain, and be told: “Sorry. We can’t do anything. It’s a state road.”

Alert “06880” reader Josh Stein shares your frustration. Now he shares something else: a possible solution.

The Connecticut Department of Transportation offers an online form to report road issues.

The worst light in town? …

Some of the dropdown categories include mowing, illumination, potholes and dead animals.

But there — right in the middle of the menu — is “Traffic Signal Revisions.”

Click here for the form.

And remember: It’s not just the Post Road (Route 1) that’s a state road. Click here for a map showing all the others in town (they’re green).

There’s no guarantee that filling out the form will make anything happen.

There’s no guarantee anyone will even read it.

But it gives you something to do the next time you’re stuck at a mistimed, too long or otherwise frustrating light.

… or this one? Let the state DOT know!

Cribari Bridge Disappears

Werner Liepolt — an alert “06880 reader/William F. Cribari Bridge neighbor/member of the Connecticut Department of Transportation Project Advisory Committee for a new, rehabilitated or (long shot) basically unchanged span — read with interest yesterday’s post about $40 million in possible funding for the project.

Then he noted with equal interest that the DOT has pulled (“temporarily?” he wonders) the Cribari Bridge project from its web page. (Click here for the error message.)

However, he does have 2 public documents — sent to Advisory Committee members — showing plans for the “restored” bridge. Here they are. Click on, or hover over to enlarge:

State: Here’s $40 Million For Cribari Bridge Rehab. Town: Not So Fast…

The state Department of Transportation today released a draft list of projects, under the 2021-24 Transportation Improvement Program.

Included is $20 million in fiscal 2023 — plus $20 million more in fiscal ’24 — for the “rehabilitation/replacement of state-town Bridge #01349, aka William F. Cribari Memorial Bridge.”

For those who haven’t followed the years-long saga, that’s the 133-year-old swing span over the Saugatuck River. It connects Riverside Avenue and Bridge Street.

One view of the William Cribari Bridge … (Photo/Patricia McMahon)

All projects on the list must be evaluated for air quality concerns. Because federal funding is also involved, national regulations — as well as state — must be adhered to.

The Cribari Bridge project may not necessarily be placed into the TIP. No decision is likely on the TIP until at least next summer.

First Selectman Jim Marpe said:

The town of Westport has not endorsed any plans for the Cribari Bridge, and awaits a conclusion to the CTDOT Environmental Assessment and Environmental Impact Evaluation.

As part of the EA/EIE, the DOT established a Project Advisory Committee, and met with this committee several times over the last year. DOT conducted a professional process, and I am confident they have taken away the community’s sentiments and concerns about the Cribari Bridge.

However, the town of Westport neither accepts nor rejects the CTDOT’s budgeted funding of $40 million over the 2 years until it is clear on the specific proposal for the Cribari Bridge, and the community agrees on which solution is the best for the town of Westport.

The Project Advisory Committee reviewed several alternatives for rehabilitation, including a no-build operation, and provided feedback to the DOT. No decision has been made.

The DOT continues to coordinate with other state and federal agencies, as well as various stakeholders, to consider specific concerns, such as impacts on historic properties.

… and another. (Photo/Katherine Bruan)

The DOT is expected to issue a preliminary environmental document early next year. There will then be a public hearing and comment period, after which the DOT will make a recommendation of a preferred design alternative. Review by the Federal Highway Administration and state Office of Policy and Management will follow, with a decision announced later.

Marpe added:

My staff and I will stay abreast of the air quality and environmental findings for the Cribari Bridge rehabilitation or replacement options. Thereafter, we will follow the development of the TIP closely. I am committed to keeping the residents and businesses of Westport informed in a timely manner about this very important project.

Ins And Outs Of Post Road Shopping Centers

On July 8, representatives from Connecticut’s Department of Transportation gave a public presentation on proposed work on the Post Road. Much of it involves the stretch between Fresh Market, and the Roseville/Hillspoint Road intersection.

The $5.3 million project (80% federally funded, 20% state funds) would include special left-turn-only lanes, as well as traffic signals, curbing, curb ramps, sidewalks and crosswalks.

Proposals for the Post Road near Fresh Market.

Alert “06880” reader Jennifer Johnson agrees with many of the ideas. However, she also has concerns. She wrote the DOT about several, including the need for a sidewalk on the south side from Mitchells to the fire station, and care of the cherry trees in front of the Volvo dealer.

However, what really caught my eye was this:

Eliminate multiple single-property curb cuts. There are an excessive number of curb cuts (17) on both sides of the road, from the traffic light at Fresh Market to the light at Roseville/Hillspoint Road.

The number of curb cuts is a source of danger to people regardless of how they travel (foot, car or bicycle). Now is the time to correct problems that have evolved as the Post Road developed.

There are many ways in and out of the shopping centers, and adjacent lots.

I never thought about that — but now that I have, it makes a lot of sense.

Why do we need so many entrances and exits at Fresh Market? Across the street, there are also a number of ways to get into and out of the Dunkin’ Donuts/UPS Store/Westport Hardware/Mumbai Times lot. (No one ever calls it by its official no-meaning name, Village Center.)

There are other spots in town too with multiple entrances and exits, like Stop & Shop, and Aux Delices/Carvel/Stiles.

There are only a couple of ways in and out of the CVS/Trader Joe’s clusterf***. But at the end of her email, Jennifer notes that this intersection appears to have been ignored by DOT.

Finally, she asks that one person be appointed to oversee and coordinate all of DOT’s Westport projects (there are others besides the Fresh Market initiative).

Great idea! I nominate Jennifer Johnson for the job.

(For full details of the project on the Westport town website, click here. Questions about the Post Road project can be sent to  the CT DOT project manager: Brian.Natwick@ct.com)

Proposed work at the Post Road/Roseville/Hillspoint intersection.

Drivers Beware: Newtown Turnpike Bridge Work Begins Soon

In 2016, the state Department of Transportation warned of an urgent need to fix the Newtown Turnpike Merritt Parkway bridge.

Deterioration could lead to capstone and fascia falling hazards, an engineer said.

Three years later, those urgent repairs begin.

The Merritt Parkway Newtown Turnpike bridge. (Photo/Jonathan McClure)

Beginning “on or about June 24,” Newtown Turnpike will be closed between Wilton Road and Crawford Road.

Drivers coming from the south (Norwalk) will be detoured to Cranbury Road, Chestnut Hill Road and Wilton Road. They’ll connect back to Newtown Turnpike north of the Merritt.

Drivers coming from the north will do the reverse, getting back on Newtown Turnpike south of the parkway.

Work is expected to be completed by August 27.

It’s a pain, sure. But so is getting conked on the roof by falling debris.

And it’s better than Greenwich. A similar project there — work on the Lake Avenue Merritt Parkway bridge — will result in a detour of 8 1/2 miles.

Through October.

Merritt Parkway Work: The End Is Not Near

Construction work on the Merritt Parkway — from before Exit 41 to beyond Exit 42 — has been going on, it seems since dinosaurs and Studebakers roamed the earth.

The $56 million project includes upgrades to pavement, guardrails and drainage, and restoration of “historic concrete.”

It’s bad enough for drivers (who must navigate frighteningly tight concrete barriers, including on- and off-ramps) and residents (who have endured noise, dust and the destruction of acres of woodlands).

Concrete barriers and no shoulders make driving on the Merritt Parkway a life-in-your-hands experience. (Photo/Bob Mitchell)

But right now, work seems stalled. What’s happening? When will it resume? And how long will it take?

I asked Jonathan Steinberg, Westport’s state representative. He sits on the Transportation Committee, and lives not far from the endless mess.

A Department of Transportation representative told him that right now, there’s a restriction: Work cannot proceed after 11 p.m.

Because of that, the contractor — Manafort Brothers — has stopped work altogether. They say that with just a 3 1/2-hour night window, the project is not feasible. (Work cannot begin until 7:30 p.m., after rush hour.)

“It’s a tough spot,” the DOT rep wrote to Steinberg. “Everybody bought houses there due to the woodland setting and close proximity to a major travel way. The Parkway is over 75 years old and a project of the magnitude may come only once every 30 years. It’s safer if we cut the rock back for all of the travelers.”

However, the DOT official continued, “I agree that the noise we are making now is probably the worst, and this is only Southbound there is another opposite in the Northbound shoulder.”

DOT is “looking at various options that include reducing the amount of rock removed and beefing up the guide rail. Compensating the Contractor for his lost production. Utilizing day time lane closures. Allowing full shift work but on limited nights.”

However, he concluded — ominously for all — “as of today we do not have a solution.”

Arborcide? You Decide.

It took just a couple of days.

Last week, huge machines swept onto the south side of the Merritt Parkway at Exit 41. Loudly, insistently, they demolished dozens of trees.

Suddenly, the tranquil buffer separating the highway from the Westport Weston Family Y was gone. In its place were brush, wood chips, and an open view of traffic whizzing by.

Y employees were aghast. One said, “They took everything. There was even a hawk’s nest there.”

The Department of Transportation has every right to do what they did. It’s their land. In recent years, at least 2 people have been killed on the Merritt by falling trees.

Still, the speed and ferocity of the project was stunning. This is the same DOT that took about 23 centuries to replace a tiny Merritt Parkway bridge at North Avenue.

Meanwhile, folks on the north side, and east and west of the clear cutting — actual homeowners, not YMCA patrons and employees —  wonder who’s next.

Larry Weisman: State Can Prohibit Trucks From Cribari Bridge

Larry Weisman has followed the recent controversy over the William F. Cribari Bridge with interest.

The longtime Westporter reads “068880” comments too. One in particular drew his attention.

A preservation-minded reader referred to ‘’the statute’’ that controls the authority of the Connecticut Department of Transportation to prohibit truck traffic on a state highway.

Without quoting the statute, the commenter implied that it supports his argument for preservation as the only (or best) way to limit truck traffic on the bridge.

Weisman — an attorney — went to work. He found what he believes is the law: Section 14-298 of the Connecticut GeneraI Statutes.

Based on his reading — and in part on a successful campaign in Darien to ban trucks near I-95 — Weisman believes that the statute clearly allows the DOT to prohibit truck traffic under the same circumstances prevailing at the Cribari Bridge: “for the protection and safety of the public” whenever the route is “geographically located so that it could be utilized as a through truck route.”

Weisman found that among the physical characteristics to be assessed in determining whether the protection and safety of the public is at risk are: “road width and configuration, sight line restrictions, roadside character and development, number and character of intersecting streets and highways, traffic control devices, volume and character of traffic, and established speed limits.’’

I-95 is just out of this aerial view. According to Larry Weisman, Connecticut Department of Transportation regulations can prohibit through truck traffic on even a newly remodeled Cribari Bridge.

“Not only is there nothing here that would prevent prohibition of trucks on that portion of Route 136 which utilizes the bridge,” Weisman says, “but the bridge meets almost every criterion for such a prohibition and the statute effectively counters the argument that retaining our substandard bridge is the best (or only) way to address the issue.”

Click here for Connecticut DOT’s “Through Truck Prohibitions” page.

More Closings For Cribari Bridge

Town officials have been notified by the state Department of Transportation that an inspection several weeks ago revealed structural deficiencies in both the substructure and ornamental truss structure of the William F. Cribari Bridge.

ConnDOT says that immediate repairs are necessary to maintain “the continued safety and stability of the existing bridge structure.”

Repairs begin on July 30. The tentative schedule calls for 6 weeks of work — weather permitting.

The contractor will work between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m., Mondays through Fridays. The bridge and sidewalk will be closed to vehicular and pedestrian traffic. Marine traffic requiring bridge openings may be limited during work periods.

ConnDOT will continue to focus on the longer term future of the Cribari Bridge.  As previously announced, their Project Advisory Committee meets tonight (Wednesday, July 18, 6:30 p.m., Town Hall auditorium).

The historic, controversial and soon to be worked-on William F. Cribari Bridge. (Photo/Wendy Crowther)