Tag Archives: Merritt Parkway

Roundup: Donut Crazy, Merritt Parkway, “La Mancha” …

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Donut Crazy — the wonderful, warm, not-for-the-calorie-conscious coffeehouse on the eastbound side of the Saugatuck train station — is closed today.

It’s unclear whether it’s permanent. Loyal customers hope not. Their fingers are crossed it will reopen — perhaps under new owners.

The past 17 months have not been easy. Always a bit out of the way for late-arriving morning commuters to New York, the steep drop in ridership during the pandemic must have hurt.

The arrival of Steam donuts and coffee at Desi’s Corner, at the Railroad Place by Riverside Avenue, is another blow.

Donut Crazy’s 4 other locations — in Stratford, Shelton, Branford and West Hartford — remain open. That’s not too far to go for some of the craziest donuts (and more) on earth. (Hat tip: Carolanne Curry)

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Hurricane Henri was a washout. It had virtually no effect on Westport — except for a ban on beach activities through Wednesday.

Swimming, fishing and paddle crafts are prohibited for the next 2 days, says Westport Weston Health District director Mark Cooper.

The cause: possible contamination of Long Island Sound, from untreated sewage discharges after the storm.

It’s a good thing Caroline Sherman swam to Cockenoe Island before Sunday. (Photo/Alex Sherman)

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The Merritt Parkway paving project between northbound Exits 40 and 41 appear to be a mess.

Readers report numerous flat tires, due to holes in the pavement. Be careful out there!

In better days …

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Sam Palmer is the son of a Staples High School teacher. A 2019 graduate of Fairfield Warde High School, he’s been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He’s waiting for a blood stem cell/bone marrow transplant.

And he needs a donor.

A “Swab for Sam/Be the Match” donor registration drive is set for this Saturday (August 28, 9 to 11 a.m., Fairfield Warde High School, 755 Melville Avenue).

It takes just 5 minutes to register, and have your cheek swabbed to enter the marrow donor registry. The more donors, the more chances Sam — and others like him — have to live long, full lives.

Sam Palmer

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Rod Gilbert — the New York Rangers great who died last weekend at 80 — leaves behind many fans.

Among them: Charlie Capalbo. The Fairfield hockey player — and grandson of Westporters Ina Chadwick and Richard Epstein — has battled cancer for several years. His spirits have been lifted by many people in the hockey world.

Gilbert was among the first. Here was his message to Charlie, in 2017:

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Did you miss the 2018 Westport Country Playhouse presentation of “Man of La Mancha?” Saw it, and want to see it again? Just looking for great entertainment, as the Delta variant has us all wary again of crowds?

The award-winning show is available now, on demand, through September 5.  Tickets start at just $25. Click here to order.

Pick a time. Buy sangria. Prepare paella. Enjoy!

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Laura Nelson died Friday, surrounded by family and friends, following a battle with cancer. She was 55.

Her family says: “Laura’s light always shined brightly. The people of Westport may remember sharing a friendly wave, a peace sign or a warm smile with Laura as she drove around the neighborhood in her clementine orange VW bus, laughing and soaking up every drop of life.

“She was an accomplished communications executive and public relations expert, dedicated wife and mother, loving sister and aunt, best friend, and adored colleague.

“Above all, Laura loved her husband Jim and their children Charlie and Annabelle fiercely and unconditionally. Her pride in their accomplishments knew no bounds.”

Laura began her career as a PR professional with Dan Klores Associates in New York City. For over 3 decades she rose through the media industry as the cable television business flourished.

In her early career she led the communications team at Comedy Central, then a fledgling startup channel. She rose to senior vice president of communications and public affairs for VH1 and MTV. She later joined Nielsen, where she served as chief communications officer during a transformative period.

Laura advised celebrities and media executives throughout her career. Her family says, “She was known as a savvy strategist and insightful advisor. She was a student of the spoken and written word and used this knowledge to advance the interests of her clients and organizations. Maybe most importantly, Laura knew how to bring out the best in her people—she was the perfect combination of mentor, coach, advocate, leader, and friend. Over the years, she assembled multiple award-winning teams, and many of her protégés have gone on to serve as chief marketing and communications officers themselves.”

Born in Mt. Prospect, Illinois, Laura grew up in Darien. In 1983, Laura served as a Page in the US Senate and attended the Capitol Page School. At Darien High School she was the editor of the school newspaper. She graduated from Boston College with a BA in ohilosophy. As part of her undergraduate studies, she attended Temple University in Rome, where she developed a lifelong love of Italy and its culture.

Her family notes: “Laura was generous, loyal, and warm, and she readily adopted friends into her extended family. She was known for her sense of humor, authenticity, and dedication to her family and friends. She was unyielding on the things that mattered to her and to the world, and she loved with her whole heart and soul.

She is survived by her husband James A. Kremens; children Charles Kremens and Annabelle Kremens, all of Westport; siblings Gina Wilcox (Brady) of Old Lyme; Paul Nelson (Julie) of Wilmette, Illinois, and Andrew Nelson (Meghan) of Cincinnati.

A mass of Christian burial will be held Friday, (August 27, 11 a.m., Church of the Assumption.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to The Cancer Couch Foundation, P.O. Box 1145, Southport, CT 06890, or thecancercouch.com.

Laura Nelson

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The rain seems finally to have moved away. As it moved out yesterday, it left this hopeful sign over Sherwood Mill Pond:

(Photo/Ferdinand Jahnel)

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The Friends of the Weston Senior Activities Center plan a flea market for Saturday, September 18 (9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Weston High School).

Past years have drawn 80 vendors, selling old, new and handmade items. Spaces are going quickly. To reserve a space, call 203-222-2608.

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It doesn’t get more “Westport … Naturally” than this Winslow Park scene.

(Photo/JC Martin)

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And finally … country singer/songwriter Tom T. Hall died Friday, at his Tennessee home.

He was known both for the songs he wrote and sang himself, and those he wrote for others. Click here for a full obituary.

Roundup: Weather, Sam Wilkes, RFK …

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Yesterday’s “hurricane” was a dud. All that time spent hauling in patio furnitue, hauling boats out of the water, hauling ass around town for food, batteries and gas — what a waste!

Except it wasn’t.

Storms are capricious. We expected to be battered this time, but barely got a tap. Last summer, no one was worried about Isaias. It brought us to our knees.

It’s the same with winter weather. We’ve stripped Stop & Shop of all its eggs and milk, only to receive a few flakes. And we’ve been homebound for days after snow and ice we didn’t really expect.

So what’s the lesson? Should we ignore every warning, and just try to be prepared all the time?

No. The weatherpersons have gotten their forecasts right far more often than they’ve been wrong. Listen to the experts. It really is better to be safe than sorry.

Or put another way: It’s a lot better to be pleasantly surprised that Henri was a dud — in Westport, at least — than to broil in the dark, with no utility truck in sight for days, because of a storm we were not worried about.

Homes on Compo Cove — many boarded up, in anticipation of Hurricane Henri — yesterday. Instead of high winds and heavy rain, the day passed without incident. (Photo/Andrew Colabella)

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After closing the town’s Emergency Operations Center yesterday afternoon, 1st Selectman Jim Marpe said:

“I want to thank our residents and businesses for heeding the instructions to remain at home and prepare for what could’ve been a major situation. I hope that for many Westporters, today was a day well spent with family, or at least a chance to test and improve your emergency preparedness.

Thank you also to the Westport Fire, Police, Public Health, Parks & Recreation, Public Works and Human Services Departments for their efforts to monitor and prepare to respond to the needs of our community.”

Fire marshal Nate Gibbons provided updates on Henri yesterday, on WWPT-FM. He had little to report.

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One last Henri photo.

In contrast to Saturday’s packed-all-day Merritt Parkway, yesterday was a breeze.

Merritt Parkway, from the North Avenue bridge. (Photo/Jo Shields Sherman)

Maybe we should have hurricane warnings more often?

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At Staples, Sam Wilkes was all music, nearly all the time. He played in the band, jazz band and orchestra. (He also took as many English courses as he could: 4 in senior year.) In high school, he says, “I learned how to learn.”

After graduating in 2009, Sam headed to the University of Southern California. He was in the 1st class of the new Popular Music Performance program.

He’s still playing — and living life on his own terms.

The August 23 issue of The New Yorker includes a piece about Sam and his musical partner, Sam Gendel. Kelefa Sanneh explores their 2018 jazz-and-more album “Music for Saxofone & Bass Guitar,” one song of which was featured n the Netflix movie “Malcolm & Marie.””BOA” has been streamed nearly 2 million times on Spotify.

Wilkes is doing plenty of recording, including with Chaka Khan. Sanneh expresses surprise in The New Yorker that he and Gendels do not tour more, and describesthe quirky route to where the duo is today. He appreciates, though, their simplicity, ambience and texture.

Sanneh mentions a video Wilkes and Gendel filmed with the band KNOWER. They help the group “burn through a breakneck funk groove”; Wilkes, he says, “contributes a particularly tasty bass fill.”

it’s been viewed more than 5 million times. (Click here for the full story.)

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Check out the new header (top photo) on “06880.” The great, wide shot of the Levitt Pavilion comes courtesy of Joel Treisman. Much appreciated!

Speaking of the Levitt: Here’s this week’s schedule.

  • Tuesday, August 24: The Fairfield Counts (19-member big band)
  • Wednesday, August 25:  Sonia de los Santos (Latin Grammy nominee)
  • Thursday, August 26: Nellie McKay (Great American Songbook)
  • Friday, August 27: Mihali (Singer/songwriter)
  • Saturday, August 28; Gunsmoke (country, Western swing, rockabilly)
  • Sunday, August 29: Dr. K’s Motown Revue

Click here for times, and (free!) ticket information.

Dr. K’s Motown Revue will have audiences dancing in the street — well, on the grass — next Sunday, at the Levitt Pavilion.

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As summer workers head off to college, this retro Compo Beach Soundview parking lot sign may soon be hauled out of storage:

(Photo/Daniel Maya)

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Robin Gusick ventured out to Fresh Market yesterday. She reports:

“The ice cream shelves were empty. But shoppers could start advance planning for Thanksgiving.

“They might even begin saving, to buy an $89.99 chocolate turkey.”

What?! Have we just skipped Halloween, and gone straight to “the holidays”?!

(Photo/Robin Gusick)

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Spotted downtown: Support for a politician absolutely with no chance of winning.

(Photo/JC Martin)

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These 2 Compo birds had no idea yesterday that a fierce hurricane was predicted. Or that it never arrived.

They didn’t even realize they were posing for today’s “Westport … Naturally” feature. They just did their Compo thing.

(Photo/Dr. Michelle Widmeier)

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Don Everly — the older of the duo, whose “fusion of Appalachian harmonies and a tighter, cleaner version of big-beat rock ’n’ roll made them harbingers of both folk-rock and country-rock” (according to the New York Times), died Saturday at his Nashville home. He was 84.

Click here for the full obituary.

 

Question Box: Answers #2

Last week’s Question Box was a smash.

Readers wanted answers to everything from Grace Salmon Park and “Bob” to our eternally renovated bridges and old/new firehouse. 

I did what I could to respond. Readers pitched in. (Click here if you missed it.)

Then you sent more. Here’s the next set of questions. I know some of the answers. When I don’t — someone else will. Click “Comments” below to help.

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I’m sure you’ve covered this in the past. But I’m curious about the history of the boat “Gloria” that I pass every day as I ride through Longshore. And what might the future hold for this venerable vessel? (John Richers)

Short answer: Yes, I’ve written about Gloria many times. Click here for some of those stories and photos.

Longer story: Alan Sterling built the wooden oyster boat himself. He named it after an old girlfriend, and took it oystering on 150 acres of beds, between Compo Beach and Cockenoe Island. It was a tough job, but Alan — a Staples grad — loved it from the day he began, in 1964.

Alan moored Gloria in Gray’s Creek, between Compo Beach Road and the Longshore exit. Some winters, he lived on the boat. It was cold — but it was home.

On July 4, 2014, Alan died of a heart attack.

After that, Gloria drifted. Michael Calise took care of it. Earlier this year, it washed up on shore. Its future is uncertain. It’s an old boat that’s seen a lot, and given many Westporters years of joy.

Just as it did for Alan Sterling.

Gloria, in 2017. (Photo/John Kantor)

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I am new to Westport, from Brooklyn. I know there is talk about revitalizing downtown, and bringing in businesses to fill some of the vacancies. I’m curious if there has ever been a survey of what people would like to see downtown? I am interested in business ownership, and really being part of the community. I wonder what type of businesses folks think would be needed and supported. (Travis Rew-Porter)

Travis, this is awesome. I don’t know of any consumer/user survey. It’s a great idea.

And readers: If you’d like to work with Travis on a business or revitalization project, click “Comments” below!

What kind of businesses do Westporters want? Great question! (Drone photo/Brandon Malin)

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Does Public Works have any input into local traffic lights? The timing at Morningside Drive/Post Road has changed to prioritize the Post Road more dramatically. The green light for Morningside lasts just 3 seconds. It is impossible to cross on foot. Help! (Amy Bedi)

Unfortunately, nearly every light in town is on a state road. Those balls are in the Department of Transportation’s court.

Click here for a link to report issues to the DOT. But don’t hold your breath.

Town officials — including the 1st selectman and Department of Public Works — are in contact with the state about traffic lights. They can sometimes push things along. But they don’t hold their breath either.

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Can Westporters use the track at Staples to run, jog or walk? If so, is it time restricted? Do you need a pass? (Carmen Castedo)

The Laddie Lawrence Track at Paul Lane Field (the first time I’ve written that!) is open to all — except during the school day, or when it’s used after school by the track team, or if there is another sports event going on.

No pass is needed. But keep Fido home!

The Laddie Lawrence Track, at Paul Lane Field. (File photo; the track is now blue.)

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Is Clinton Avenue named after the namesake of Joseph J. Clinton VFW Post 399 on Riverside Avenue? (Linda Velez)

Not only have I never been asked that — I never even thought about it.

Private Joseph J. Clinton was a Westport soldier. He was killed in France just 4 days before the armistice.

That explains the VFW name. But the road off Main Street, opposite North Compo: I have no idea. Except to say that it is not named for either Bill or Hillary.

VFW Joseph Clinton Post 399.

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What happened to the time capsule that was buried at Greens Farms Elementary School for the bicentennial? I heard that at one time 3 people had plans and permission to dig it up. There is a new road in front of the school. You have a lot of fans who were involved in the project. (A passive-aggressive reader: This was sent by mail, with no name or return address.)

I addressed this in 2012. The answer was the same then: No one knows. (Click here to see.) 

But one reader responded with a back story:

I remember the time capsule at Greens Farms El in 1976. It was buried in the front lawn. All the classes/grades were asked to participate in drawings (I think that I was in maybe 3rd grade & our class drew pictures of ourselves and described our lives. We all mused how fun it would be for people 100 years later to see how we lived).

A crane dug a deep hole, and there was quite a bit of ceremony around the time capsule being buried. I’ve told people about it over the years, only to wonder if anyone else remembered it, as well:)

If anyone can dig deeper (ho ho), click “Comments” below.

Has anyone seen my time capsule? (Photo/Seth Schachter)

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Some 80 years ago I lived on 573 Imperial Avenue, at the corner of Wakeman Place. The numbers have been reset, but the house is still there. My brothers and I used to swim in the river. I remember diving off “White Rock,” which was close to the shore. Is it still there, or am I dreaming? (Karl Taylor)

You’re probably not dreaming, but I have not heard of it. Wakeman Place residents: What’s the deal?

Wakeman Place at Imperial Avenue. Karl, was this your house?

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Why did the state Department of Transportation remove and replace the trees, bushes and buffering hills from the northbound side of the Merritt Parkway, near the Westport Weston Family YMCA? It cost a lot of money. Was the outcome worth the expense? (Jacque O’Brien)

I asked State Representative Jonathan Steinberg, who serves on the House Transportation Committee. He says that location was a major staging area for projects up and down the Merritt.

Now that equipment and material has been moved in and out, it’s time to replace what was lost.

New trees on the Merritt Parkway, near the Y. (Photo/Bob Mitchell)

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What first inspired you to start “06880,” and did you ever think it would keep you this busy? (Jack Krayson)

Wow! I didn’t expect an “06880” question on “06880.”

I started the blog in March of 2009. I was a columnist for the Westport News (I still am!), but realized the future of print journalism was, um, iffy. I wanted to continue to write about town people, issues, events and history. Someone suggested I start a blog.

“No way!” I said. (That’s also what I said about cell phones, when they came in. And computers, before that.)

But he showed me WordPress, a great blogging platform. I learned the basics in a weekend. Here we are, 13,000+ posts (and 136,000+ comments later).

I never dreamed it would keep me this busy. If I knew then what I know now …

… I’d do it all again, in a heartbeat.

(Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

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Why is Westport pronounced “Wessport”? The “t” is silent! (Kevin McCaul)

My guess: It takes too long to say the first “t.”

And Wessporters are always in a hurry.

 

 

Friday Flashback #253

Everyone knows that traffic — including the Merritt Parkway — is worse than ever.

We’d give anything to go back to the good ol’ days, when traffic flowed like …

… well, anyway.

The photo above (courtesy of Anthony Dohanos) shows what happened after a washout collapsed an entire section of the southbound pavement. The Merritt was closed between Westport and Darien, with delays of up to 8 hours.

Okay. That was unusual. This is more like what we dream of:

 

Traffic Cop, Traffic Light: The Sequel

Police Chief Foti Koskinas feels Westport drivers’ pains. He hears their pleas for a traffic cop on Riverside Avenue, at the Cribari Bridge. The Westport Police Department is on the case.

But there is another side to Westport’s traffic woes too.

Driving habits have changed dramatically during COVID, Koskinas and public safety officer Al D’Amura say. Though Westporters have returned to work, all but 1oo or so of the Saugatuck and Greens Farms train station parking spots are empty every day. Those folks drive instead.

The situation is the same at every train station from Greenwich to New Haven. That’s why I-95 and the Merritt Parkway have become parking lots.

Looking for every bit of help, drivers turn to apps like Waze. Offered an alternate route, they take it.

Which is why we see more and more backups on Riverside Avenue. As well as Wilton Road, Cross Highway, Long Lots Road — anywhere Waze says is even slightly better. It’s a problem at I-95 exits 17 and 18, and Merritt exits 41 and 42.

When William Cribari and other officers were posted at what was then called the Bridge Street Bridge, Koskinas says, they facilitated 100 to 200 vehicles to and from trains.

Traffic is no longer timed to trains, Koskinas explains. Moving traffic off the bridge in the morning, and through Riverside Avenue in the evening, sounds like a great idea.

But Waze and traffic apps would immediately sense the smoother flow — making the alternate route off I-95 even more appealing to highway drivers.

A traffic officer will immiediately take over the Riverside Avenue post made famous by William William Cribari (Photo courtesy of Paul Ehrismann)

Still — starting immediately – there will be an officer on Riverside by the bridge, in the late afternoon.

“We’ll monitor the situation, to see if it helps or hurts,” Koskinas says.

“We may find that as much as people don’t like waiting through 4 or 5 light cycles, it’s better than having 300 more cars coming through Saugatuck. We don’t know what we’ll find for sure. We’ll study it.”

That’s not the only new traffic post in town. An agent will be posted from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Post Road/Wilton Road/Riverside Avenue intersection.

Actually, it’s not “new.” As a young officer, Koskinas once manned that corner.

Facilitating traffic there impacts other lights on the Post Road. For example, waving through more cars from Wilton Road might cause more of a temporary backup through the already congested downtown area.

“We understand the importance to merchants, and everyone,” Koskinas says. As with Saugatuck, he and D’Amura will monitor the situation closely.

As for another suggestion from an “06880” reader — installation of a light at the top of I-95 eastbound Exit 18 — Koskinas says, “we fully support it. It’s come up before.” His department — in collaboration with the Board of Selectmen — will make that recommendation to the state Department of Transportation.

Sherwood Island Connector is a state road. There will be engineering studies, and budget issues. It could take a while.

So for now, you might want to get off at Exit 17. A traffic cop there will move traffic along.

Or maybe he’ll inadvertently invite other I-95 drivers to join you.

Coronavirus Takes A Toll On The Merritt

Merritt Parkway, 1:40 p.m., March 29, 2020 (Photo/Jen Greely)

Friday Flashback #184

The debate over tolls on Connecticut highways is far from over.

If we ever get them — for all vehicles, trucks only, whatever — they will be the modern, E-ZPass transponder type.

They won’t look anything like the old toll booths that jammed up traffic every few miles on I-95. There was one on the Westport-Norwalk line, just west of Exit 17.

The West Haven tolls, near Exit 43.

They certainly won’t look anything like the rustic toll booths on the Merritt Parkway.

The Greenwich tollbooth, on the Merritt Parkway.

And they definitely will look nothing like the tollbooth that once stood on the east side of the Post Road bridge, in downtown Westport.

Yes, that really was a thing. The tollbooth was no longer operative, in this 1930s postcard from the collection of Jack Whittle. But at one point — decades (centuries?) earlier — people ponied up to cross the bridge.

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.

Here’s Why North Avenue Is Closed — And The Merritt Will Be, Soon

Last night’s heavy snow downed trees and power lines throughout Westport.

As of 9 a.m., over 1,100 customers were without electricity. That’s down from more than 1,500 after midnight.

One of the most treacherous situations is on North Avenue, at the Merritt Parkway overpass. A large tree dangles over the parkway.

(Photo/Tommy Greenwald)

Nearby resident Tommy Greenwald spoke to an Eversource crew. They told him that power would “definitely” be back today.

However, the Merritt was about to be shut down, to clear the tree.

If you’ve got snow photos or stories to share, email dwoog@optonline.net

Pics Of The Day #213

This morning’s commute on the Merritt Parkway.

Oh, yeah: There were downed train wires in East Norwalk too.

(Photos/Lynn U. Miller)