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.
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.