Tag Archives: Merritt Parkway Exit 41

Mystery On The Merritt

Anyone who has visited the Westport Weston Family Y — or zoomed past Exit 41 on the Merritt Parkway — has seen the activity.

Every few days — because you don’t expect highway work to happen consistently — earth movers rumble to life.

They take mounds of dirt, and shift them from here to there. They do the same with boulders. They dig up some spots, flatten others. They look like they’re doing something.

But that sorry stretch of land, hemmed in by the road on one side and a forlorn fence on the other, also always looks the same. What exactly has been done there over the past few months?

Besides making the northbound entrance one of the scariest pieces of roadway in the history of transportation?

(Photo/David Meth)

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.