Traffic on Nursery Road soars to 345 motor vehicles on weekday mornings from 8 to 9 a.m., a “very distinct peak” caused by mostly westbound drivers skirting the log-jammed Merritt Parkway, officials with a transportation consulting firm said last week.
Based on New Canaan Police data from early-June 2017, that heavy traffic starts to swell about 30 minutes before 8 a.m. and persists until about 30 minutes after 9 a.m. and represents “a very distinct peak” on Nursery Road, which also sees about 141 vehicles in the hour from 5 to 6 p.m., according to Michael Gallante of Fairfield-based Frederick P. Clark Associates.
Though the firm must conduct its own traffic counts at different intersections in order to determine how best to address the sharp rise in traffic, there are “some existing conditions” along the area’s roads that likely will be included in recommendations for a future report, he said.
“There is some vegetation that has overgrown on the side of the road, in some cases they are weeds, there are sight restrictions—if you go to one end of White Oak [Shade], there are some large hedges that you cannot see looking south when you come out of Nursery Road,” Gallante told members of the Police Commission at a regular meeting, held Sept. 18 at department headquarters. “We are going to make recommendations to kind of clear things up like that, that is in a way unrelated to the traffic condition but we are looking at safety conditions also. We will likely recommend some additional signage out there, again for safety purposes. The tough issue here is really, How do you mitigate traffic volume? And it’s not an easy answer and it’s our next step.”
It’s a next step eagerly anticipated by residents of Nursery Road as well as Gerdes Road, who see commuters—many suspected of using the navigation app Waze—rush into their neighborhoods to avoid Merritt Parkway traffic between Exits 38 and 37.
The town in July approved a $7,000 contract with Frederick P. Clark Associates after residents of Nursery Road and others affected by the traffic spike voiced concerns about safety. They had signed a petition last fall seeking help from the town to calm and reduce traffic.
Neighbors who attended the meeting said that motorists roll through stop signs, that they cannot get out of their own driveways, that Nursery Road vehicles back up to White Oak Shade Road and that getting from White Oak Shade to South Avenue has been so difficult that on some days a secondary traffic line opens up on Conrad Road.
Julie Bostwick said she’s lived on Gerdes Road for 22 years and that she has “never seen this before” in terms of the heavy traffic.
“And the people are rude,” she said. “On occasion I have been given the finger, I cannot get out of my driveway, I am petrified to walk my dog because people are going as fas as they possibly can and slamming on the brakes.”
Gerdes Road resident Michael Mauro said the problem has gotten worse in the last year. Motorists accelerate for portions of Gerdes Road and then get so frustrated with the traffic backup that they swing out blindly into the oncoming traffic lane in order to make illegal U-turns.
Police Capt. John DiFederico said he’s received phone calls from residents of Marvin Ridge and White Oak Shade Roads requesting that existing traffic patterns be left alone “for fear that the traffic will be sent by their houses.”
“The traffic is going to go somewhere and their concern it is just going to be transferred to somewhere else,” he said.
Commissioner Paul Foley asked Gallante whether he expected to have a report done some time in October.
Gallante said, “We will chat as far as how and what to do. The next step is to get traffic counts at the intersections, so we know exactly where people are coming from in terms of direction, and that will help us look at patterns.”