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Tag Archives: I-95
The other day, I mentioned how few photos I’ve seen of Saugatuck before I-95 was built. I’ve always had a tough time visualizing what that neighborhood looked like before bulldozers, concrete and pillars.
Alert — and historic-minded — “06880” reader Neil Brickley rode to the rescue. He’s a Staples High School classmate of mine, with an equal fascination for the Westport a few years before our parents arrived.
The photo Neil sent is fascinating. It’s a stupendous aerial view of Saugatuck from 1951 — about 4 years before construction began.
I noticed a few things.
The Arrow Restaurant (most recently Blu Parrot) was not yet built on Charles Street.
Greens Farms Road met South Compo quite a bit further south than it does today.
Most significantly, the area west of Saugatuck Avenue — where land was taken to build the Exit 17 interchange — was much more wooded than I imagined.
Click on or hover over the image above. Explore. Then click “Comments,” to share what you see.
Neil also sent this bonus aerial view: The same area, taken in 1965.
A lot changed in just 14 years.
Which makes me wonder what the Saugatuck of today will look like in 2032.
The ongoing intense, important and interesting discussion about the future of the William F. Cribari Bridge — including effects on spillover traffic from I-95, particularly with tractor-trailers and other large vehicles — got me thinking.
The highway — then called the Connecticut Turnpike — sliced through Saugatuck in the 1950s, devastating that tight-knit, largely Italian neighborhood. Homes and businesses were demolished. Families were uprooted. Entire roads disappeared.
But for the rest of Westport, “the thruway” was a godsend. Post Road traffic had become almost unbearable. Trucks rumbled through day and night. Route 1 was the main — and really the only — direct route between New York and Boston.
I know this only because I have heard stories from people who lived here then. When my parents moved to Westport, the Turnpike was open. It was fresh, modern and new — a symbol of postwar modernity, heralding a very promising future.
What I do not know — and what many “06880” readers would like to hear — is what the Post Road was really like, in the years before I-95.
How bad was it? Did it affect parking, businesses, homes? How did people cope?
If you lived in Westport in the pre-thruway days, let us know. Click “Comments” below. Tell us what you remember. If you’ve got photos, send them along.
And if you’ve got any advice for the town and state, as we grapple once again with the future of Saugatuck, we’d love to hear it.
Why is this morning different from all other mornings?
An accident in Darien — Darien! — caused commuters to abandon I-95 (and the alternate Merritt Parkway route).
Backups spilled all the way to Westport. Jammed-up local streets included the Post Road, Greens Farms Road, Bridge Street, Riverside Avenue, Wilton Road, Coleytown Road, Main Street, even Parker Harding Plaza.
First selectman candidates are welcome to click “Comments” below, and let us know what — if anything — you think can be done to address this near-daily situation.
Saugatuck is in the news a lot.
Consultants are devising a “Transit Oriented District” plan, to redevelop the area around the train station. There’s talk of dredging the Saugatuck River. And of course the Cribari (aka Bridge Street) Bridge is very much in play.
Which makes this the perfect time to look at “timeless Saugatuck.”
Peter Barlow’s view of Franklin Street — heading toward Saugatuck Avenue — was taken from the brand-new Connecticut Turnpike (now I-95) overpass in 1958.
But — except for the cars — it could almost have been taken any time in the 60 years since then.
Hey. I said “almost.”
Tolls on Connecticut highways are one step closer to reality. The legislature’s Transportation Committee recently gave the “green light” to the state Department of Transportation to begin the 4-year process of planning to reintroduce the controversial devices.
Tolls were phased out over 30 years ago on I-95 and the Merritt Parkway, following a deadly accident at the Stratford turnpike plaza. New tolls would be electronic.
In their previous incarnation, there were tollbooths on I-95 near the Westport-Norwalk border. But they were not the first in the area.
In 1806 the state General Assembly granted a charter to the Connecticut Turnpike Company. They ran the road from Fairfield to Greenwich — today known as the Post Road.
In return for keeping the thoroughfare in “good repair,” they were allowed to establish 4 turnpike gates. One was at the Saugatuck River crossing — now known as the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge.
Four-wheeled pleasure carriages drawn by 2 horses were charged 25 cents. Two-wheeled pleasure carriages drawn by one horse paid 12 cents. Each sled, sleigh, cart or wagon drawn by a horse, ox or mule was charged 10 cents.
The state granted exemptions for people traveling to attend public worship, funerals, town or freemen’s meetings; those obliged to do military duty; “persons going to and from grist mills with grists”; people living within 1 mile of the toll gates, and “farmers attending their ordinary farming business.”
However — for reasons that are unclear — those exemptions applied only to the 3 other toll gates. The Saugatuck River bridge was not included.
Astonishingly, the toll for automobiles over 150 years later was still 25 cents.
I bet that won’t be the base rate
if when the new tolls are installed.
On Friday evening, traffic was probably heavy on I-95.
Folks at the Black Duck probably did not care.
Alert “06880” photographer Andrew Colabella captured this unique shot of both.
For years, the Weston Road/Easton Road/North Main Street rotary near Exit 42 — the unofficial “Welcome to Westport” landmark for everyone coming off the Merritt Parkway — was maintained, as a public service, by Daybreak Nursery.
But when financial problems caused the nearby business to close, the triangular plot grew grungy.
Now — suddenly — the space looks gorgeous.
I don’t think it was a state Department of Transportation project. But huge props to whoever got it done.
Meanwhile — across town — another “Welcome to Westport” site looks decidedly less welcoming.
Just one more reason to avoid I-95, and take the Merritt.