Responding to concerns from residents that speeding commuter traffic on Nursery Road is creating a safety hazard, town officials on Wednesday said they would request a formal study to figure out how to best address the problem.
Navigation apps such as Waze appear to be sending motorists stuck in Merritt Parkway traffic along Nursery Road—as well as Gerdes and White Oak Shade Roads—as a cut-through between Exits 37 and 38, officials said at the regular meeting of the Police Commission.
According to Police Capt. John DiFederico, data from speed sentries shows that Nursery Road is getting a major spike from 7 to 9 a.m., where traffic rises from about 30 to 40 cars per hour to 200 cars per hour.
For Nursery Road residents such as Charlein Megherby, the traffic on the street has been “horrible.”
“It really is a big safety issue for us,” Megherby said at the meeting, held at the New Canaan Police Department.
About 20 residents of the roads affected by the surge in traffic attended the meeting. They told of periods where it’s difficult or impossible to get out of their own driveways due to congestion, of motorists speeding up to 65 mph in their 25 mph zone, car accidents that result from the high speeds, drivers passing school buses, kids waiting for the bus as hurried commuters whiz by and the impossibility of walking the neighborhood streets safely or even crossing to get the mail.
DiFederico said he’s had speed sentries collecting data on Nursery Road four times in the past year, and that they “consistently come back with high volume at rush hour times,” with a spike in westbound traffic in the morning and eastbound traffic in the afternoon though it tends to be spread out a bit more at that time. Officers on patrol have been directed to do targeted enforcement there—ticketing those not wearing seatbelts or violating distracted driving laws, with a goal of deterring them from taking the cut-through—though the traffic congestion has persisted.
Officials with a working group that fields requests for traffic-calming measures in New Canaan have agreed that a formal traffic study from Fairfield-based Frederick P. Clark Associates Inc. is in order.
With that in hand, the Police Commission as New Canaan’s local traffic authority will have hard data to inform a decision about how to best address the problem. The consulting firm also will be able to say in its report what New Canaan can do on its own and what will require state approval, DiFederico said.
For example, as some residents of the area suggested, state approval may be needed to create a “No left turn” rule for westbound traffic seeking to take Nursery Road as a cut through between Exits 38 and 37 for the period of 7 to 9 a.m. on weekdays.
Though some towns in other states have created rules that restricts nonlocal traffic from using specific roads that have seen more congestion as a result of navigation apps, those municipalities also have faced lawsuits in some cases, DiFederico said.
Importantly, the traffic study also would include a look at where the traffic may go in the event that it’s no longer allowed to travel along Nursery Road as the navigation apps currently direct motorists.
Because the town empties out in the summer, it would be best to hire the traffic consultants to do their study in the fall, DiFederico said.
Police Commissioners Sperry DeCew, the chairman, as well as Paul Foley and Jim McLaughlin backed the idea of requesting the traffic study from the town.
Mike Mauro said he lives in the middle of Gerdes Road and that he’s seen motorists “blasting through,” including “leapfrogging” school buses, while waiting with his own children for the bus at the end of his driveway. According to Mauro, the traffic on Gerdes is so significant in the morning that it’s backed up all the way from South Avenue to his own house. He suggested that while the Commission seeks an opinion about traffic calming from the consultants, the panel may also request an opinion from the town attorney about what New Canaan may do on its own and what would require state approval.
The Commissioners said they would make that request of the town, as well.
Running east-west and roughly parallel to the Merritt Parkway for about a half-mile between Marvin Ridge and White Oak Shade Roads, Nursery Road includes 20-plus residences, according to tax records.
Residents of Nursery Road signed a petition last fall seeking help from the town reducing traffic on their street. The town last summer approved contracts to replace guiderails along Nursery Road that had been deemed “poor” by the state and in need of improvement.