Posted onMay 7, 2022|Comments Off on Roundup: Post Road Improvements, “Straight White Men” & A Drag Show …
“06880” is not a big fan of political photo ops. They’re — well, political photo ops.
But we’re happy to announce one set for Monday. The reason for it is a great one.
State Senators Will Haskell and Stephanie Thomas, State Representative Jonathan Steinberg, 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker and Department of Transportation senior advisor Carlo Leone will gather at 10 a.m. at the “Westport Plaza” (known to normal people as the Home Goods/Panera Bread shopping center near the Southport line) to celebrate $11.7 million in funding for Post Road safety and traffic improvements.
The work will add left-turn lanes at Bulkley Avenue and Roseville Road, and the Fresh Market light.
Work will begin this fall, and is expected to take a year.
Left-hand turning lanes are planned for the Post Road near here.
The Westport Country Playhouse curtain rises May 24 on “Straight White Men.”
The cast of the comic satire — which ran on Broadway in 2018 — includes Richard Kline (Larry Dallas on “Three’s Company”). He’ll be directed by his Northwestern University classmate, WCP artistic director Mark Lamos.
Lamos calls it a “bold, exuberant, very funny comedy. Near the end it builds up to a surprising dramatic punch.”
The show takes place on Christmas Eve. Ed (played by Kline) has invited his 3 grown sons back home for pranks, Chinese takeout, and gossip. In between the male bonding rituals and conversations about money, work and love, they are forced to face their own identities.
Spots are going fast for Wakeman Town Farm’s summer camps. They include:
Little Farmers (4-6-year-olds): Children dabble in every farm experience from planting and harvesting fresh veggies to feeding the animals. Youngsters learn how to spot squash bugs, collect eggs from the coop, and where to look for monarch caterpillars.
Junior Farmer Camp (7-10 year-olds): Great for kids who want to get their hands dirty. They learn about sustainable farming by planning, planting and caring for a garden, feeding animals, and raising a successful garden using both modern and time-honored technologies.
Green Teen (6th-8th graders): The focus is on planting, watering and harvesting vegetables that will be donated to local food pantries. Representatives from receiving agencies visit the Farm, talking about food insecurity and how community volunteering changes lives. Students will also learn about rabbits, ducks, chicken, sheep, goats and alpacas. Environmental topics include composting, creating a pollinator garden, and the Zero Waste initiative.
Riverside Avenue between Charles Street (Tutti’s) and Railroad Place (Steam Coffee) will be closed to traffic Monday and Wednesday, for paving.
New York-bound passengers can be dropped off by driving through the eastbound (Ferry Lane) parking lot, and continuing under the railroad bridge. Passengers can also be dropped off in the Charles Street lot, and walk up the stairs to the platform.
This stretch of Riverside Avenue will be closed Monday and Wednesday.
Living in a condo near Playhouse Square, it’s impossible to avoid the Post Road.
No matter where you live in Westport, you find yourself on it too.
The Post Road is our central artery. It’s where we get our groceries, coffee and gas. Much more than Main Street, it really is our “main street.”
And though — or maybe despite — being clogged with traffic, it’s also our Indy 500 race track.
Every day, we see them: pony-tailed, baseball capped moms wielding enormous Lincoln Navigators. Tanned, sunglass-wearing guys in midlife-crisis Maseratis. Teenagers in their parents’ (or their own) Range Rovers.
All share one common thought: themselves.
It doesn’t matter that they also share the road with countless other cars, trucks, and occasional joggers. They don’t care that everyone else has someplace important to go too. They see the same yellow and red lights as the rest of us.
None of it matters.
At 8:05 yesterday morning I was part of the heavy traffic heading east. Terrain was on my left; the Volvo dealer, opposite it.
Suddenly a car roared out of Rayfield Road, on the right. It just missed the one next to me, and headed straight for my passenger door.
Instinctively, I swerved left — smack into the westbound lane.
Only by luck was the Fresh Market light red. Only by luck was it too early for anyone to turn right out of that shopping center. Only by luck was there no one there.
Had there been traffic on my left — as there almost always is — I would have hit them head on. I could have been killed.
Or killed someone else.
Only pure luck saved me from this.
By the time I got back in my lane, the car that floored it out of Rayfield was long gone. The driver was on the way to someplace important — CVS maybe, or Gold’s or Starbucks.
Was he — or she; I never saw their face — as stunned, terrified and adrenaline-rushed as I was? Or did they just see this as one more example of their invincibility — a sign that other drivers would always get out of their way?
I’m a careful driver. But I drove extra carefully the rest of the day.
Within 2 hours, 2 other drivers flew through red-for-awhile lights. One was at the notorious Post Road West/Wilton Road/Riverside Avenue intersection. The other was a mile away, where Riverside and Saugatuck Avenues diverge.
I have not exaggerated any details. It’s several hours later, and I’m still amazed I’m not at Norwalk Hospital or Harding Funeral Home.
Only by luck, I’m not. If I had been looking at the dashboard, looking at the traffic on the left, looking in my rearview mirror — doing anything other than using my right-side peripheral vision — I might never have survived.
But luck was on my side. I lived to write another story.
Every couple of years Bob Weingarten drives up and down the Post Road, counting “For Sale” and “For Lease” signs. (He does not check out Main Street or Saugatuck.)
Right now, the number is 61. That’s in between the 50 or so in 2017, and the more than 65 in 2019 — but fairly consistent with the past.
Mumbai Times (next to Westport Hardware) is newly vacant. So are a couple of bank buildings — Citibank and Bank of America.
But the bank at Morningside Drive North, which was vacant for about 3 years, should reopen soon. And there’s plenty of activity across the street, where the old Barnes & Noble and Marshall’s are being converted into Amazon Fresh.
The former Men’s Wearhouse building has a sign saying “SOLD,” but there’s been no action there in months. The Garden Center near Goodwill has been vacant for quite a while. So has the former Olympia Sports store in Compo Shopping Center.
Here are some of Bob’s photos:
(Photos and collage/Bob Weingarten)
Clockwise, from top left:
Former Blockbuster and XL Men’s Shop (considered for apartments)
The former garden center near Stop & Shop
The former Boccanfuso and Subway
The former Men’s Wearhouse (planned for multi-family housing)
The former bank next to Walgreen’s
The former Bank of America, next to Starbucks.
Looking at Bob’s photos, I thought: Man, those are some fugly buildings.
What do you think of the commercial real estate market on the Post Road? Click “Comments” below.
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.)
As Westport’s downtown renaissance continues, Seth Schachter sends some fascinating postcards from a far different era.
All 3 show “Fountain Square.” The Post Road (then called State Street)/Main Street intersection was as heavily trafficked — for its time — as it is today.
One of the main attractions was a fountain — actually, a horse trough. (“Trough Square” does not have quite the same ring.)
This 1906 view shows the view looking north on Main Street. The first few buildings on the left look similar to today. The Westporter Hotel (right) was replaced in 1923 by the YMCA.
The view below — also from 1906 — looks west on State Street, toward the Saugatuck River and Norwalk. The building in the center of the photo would soon be demolished for — as the postcard says — “the new Jesup Library.” It would be expanded in the 1950s toward the west.
In 1986 the Westport Public Library moved to its present site near Jesup Green; it was replaced by, among other tenants, Starbucks, Freshii and the recently closed Pop’TArt gallery.
In the scene below, similar to the first photo above — probably from the 1920s — the YMCA had already been built (right). A small park outside the library can be seen at the left. The Main Street streetscape is very recognizable.
A horse drinks contentedly from the trough.
And the street is just as rutted as it is now, a century later.
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