Tag Archives: William F. Cribari

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.

[OPINION] Traffic Cop Needed At Cribari Bridge

For the past 8 years, Rick Rosencrans has commuted to work from I-95 Exit 17 in Westport, to Exit 7 in Stamford. Recently — as the pandemic has eased, and the drive has gotten longer — he’s had time to think. Rick writes:

For 8 years I have watched traffic patterns on I-95 ebb and flow, often based on the day of the week, time of day, construction projects and accidents.

During the early months of COVID, and into this past winter, traffic was light. My pre-COVID 40-minute commute turned into a 15 to 20-minute ride, door to door. Yet while the shorter commute was nice, I’m not selfish enough to think the trade-off was worth it.

Fast forward to late winter and this spring. While many offices and businesses between Westport and New York still work with limited staff, traffic seems to have returned to pre-pandemic levels.

I assume that since the train station parking lots are hardly used, many of the people who have returned to work now commute by car instead of train.

On my daily Stamford to Westport return trip — particularly on Friday afternoons — traffic seems worse than ever. Due to Waze, Google Maps and natural instincts, many drivers get off at Exit 17, head up Charles Street, turn left on Riverside Avenue at Tutti’s, make a right on Bridge Street, and continue on to Greens Farms Road towards Exit 18 and points north.

This backs cars all the way up on to the exit ramp, and often on to the right lane of northbound 95.  It can take 25 minutes to get from the ramp to the Cribari Bridge in Saugatuck, a distance of about 1 mile. 

Saugatuck, on a rare day with little traffic. It often backs up on Riverside Avenue, from Exit 17 to the Cribari Bridge.

The streets of Saugatuck were not meant for this volume of traffic. But one impediment makes the situation even worse.

With no “No Right on Red” sign by Dunkin Donuts, bridge-bound cars idle in front of the firehouse and Saugatuck Sweets, while traffic flows from the bridge into Saugatuck.

I have no problem with the sign, during normal hours. But what I have observed over the years is that a  traffic officer at the Riverside Avenue/Bridge Street intersection, safely waving drivers to make a right on red, has a significant effect on the overall traffic flow.

I would guess that an additional 15 to 20 cars could be waved around the corner of Bridge Square during each cycle of lights. That would also allow for adjustment in the timing of the lights so that cars coming from the other direction on Riverside Avenue have more time allotted to make a left on to the bridge.

The William F. Cribari Bridge. A police officer could wave more cars onto it, during rush hour.

We need a traffic officer at the intersection on weekday afternoons, and perhaps at certain weekend times when I-95 is backed up.   

Once upon a time, there WAS a traffic officer — every day — at that intersection. He was visible, efficient, and very, very theatrical.

His name was William F. Cribari. And yes, he’s the guy they named the Bridge Street bridge after. 

Bill Cribari, at work (and play). (Photo courtesy of Paul Ehrismann)

=======================================================

Meanwhile, “06880” reader Gary Shure has a solution for another traffic chokepoint, a couple of miles east:

During rush hour there is often a long backup at the northbound Exit 18 ramp (Sherwood Island connector). It goes down the whole ramp, continuing onto the right lane of the highway itself.

It would be so easy to fix. Just put a traffic light there, timed to be green 80% of the time for people getting off 95.

Right now, the 4-way stop sign puts everyone getting off the highway on an equal footing with the occasional perpendicular vehicle on the connector.

Furthermore, with a light you could have 2 useful lanes on the ramp: the left lane (only for left hand turns), and the right lane (for left turns, and going right).

Exit 18, at the Sherwood Island Connector.

Friday Flashback #143

Years ago, the Bridge Street Bridge was renamed to honor William F. Cribari.

“Crobar” spent many years as the ever-smiling, often-dancing, always-vigilant traffic cop at the intersection of Bridge Street and Riverside Avenue.

But that was not his only post.

He was equally effective — though with less choreography — at the heavily trafficked Post Road/Main Street crossing.

This was a typical scene around 1985. Ships restaurant (now Tiffany) drew a steady crowd. So did the rest of downtown.

But Crobar was clearly in charge.

(Photo/Al Bravin)

Friday Flashback #119

The William F. Cribari Bridge has been in the headlines lately.

For one thing, its future — replace? repair? rehabilitate? — is very much up for debate.

For another, it’s the holiday season — when Al’s Angels’ lovely lights bring smiles to everyone who crosses the span. Even if they’re stuck in traffic on it.

Color photography had not yet been invented in 1910 — the year this “colorized” photo may have been taken.

But the bridge was already more than 20 years old.

And William F. Cribari — the cop who spent years directing traffic at the west end of the bridge, and for whom it was named after his death in 2007, age 88 — had not yet been born.

(Photo courtesy of Seth Schachter)

NOTE: The postcard calls it a “draw bridge.” The Cribari Bridge is, of course, a swing bridge.

Unsung Heroes #32

If they wave us through, we love ’em.

If they put up a gloved hand to stop us, we hate ’em. Especially if they stop us just as we get there.

Or if we’re in even more of a rush than usual.

A typical North Avenue scene.

But Westport’s traffic cops deserve our thanks. They’re this week’s Unsung Heroes.

In the words of alert — and grateful — “06880” reader Lauren Barnett, who nominated them:

“They assist with, and add calm and order to, the madness and mayhem of parents and teenage drivers outside Staples High and Bedford Middle School at dawn, and in the frigid cold, each day.”

Lauren gives a shout-out too to “those officers who stand out in the cold night by the bridge and Rizzuto’s to direct anxious commuters safely home from the evening trains in Saugatuck.

“I wish I knew their names. We all should.”

Interestingly, the William F. Cribari Bridge (noted above) is named for a much loved — and very theatrical — traffic cop. He owned that well-traveled corner for years. Each day, he brought order, grace — even humor — to it.

Bill Cribari, at work (and play). (Photo courtesy of Paul Ehrismann)

That’s the thing: We may love them, tolerate them, or curse them.

But when they’re not there, we sure miss them.

(Want to nominate an Unsung Hero? Email dwoog@optonline.net)