Diverting Cut-Through Traffic, Town Installs Barricade on Conrad Road


Temporary traffic diversion plan for Conrad Road. Courtesy of DPW

The town on Wednesday temporarily closed a heavily trafficked cut-through road near Exit 37 of the Merritt Parkway, as officials try to figure out how to control motor vehicle volume and speeds there.

Town installs barricade at Conrad Road on Nov. 1, 2023. SK photo

The Police Commission discussed the possibility during its Oct. 18 meeting of closing Conrad Road so that motorists cannot use it to quickly access South Avenue and the Merritt. The appointed body did not vote on the measure.

Nevertheless, the town has put up barricades on Conrad where it juts west toward South Avenue (before Whiffle Tree Lane), and they will remain in place for five weeks, according to Public Works Director Tiger Mann.

“The NCPD and DPW, after multiple discussions with neighbors, the Police Commission and our traffic engineers, noted that some measures were needed for the safety of the residents on Conrad Road,” Mann said in an email. “We are hoping this measure will be temporary in nature until we can change the behavior of the commuting public.”

Thousands of southbound commuters using navigation apps such as Waze get off of the Merritt Parkway at Exit 38 on weekday mornings and cut through New Canaan, using roads such as Gerdes and Conrad to get back on at 37. Cars end up speeding through the residential, pedestrian-heavy “South of the Y” neighborhood, including along Conrad where there are no sidewalks. The matter entered the public sphere this past summer, when neighbors voiced concerns about traffic and safety. In September, the town contracted with a traffic engineer to design a “mini-roundabout” for the intersection.

Town installs barricade at Conrad Road on Nov. 1, 2023. SK photo

Yet while that plan is being drawn up, the town is pursuing a plan that was broached at the most recent meeting of New Canaan’s state-designated “local traffic authority,” the Police Commission.

There, Conrad Road resident Michael Nurzia said that he’s seen traffic and speeds increase in the area in the past 11 years.

“I think I’m pretty in tune with what a safe street is for pedestrians, just because of a lifetime of being out there, and it definitely feels unsafe,” he said at the meeting, held at police headquarters.

Nurzia added: “Just as an individual, my vote is to cut off access to Gerdes with Conrad. It would solve it as a cut-through street. It would solve the speed issues. It would solve the volume issues. Obviously that’s not going to be a solution for everybody. That is a complex system. To make a change there’s going to be unanticipated consequences to that. Not everybody is going to be on board. But it’s something you could test: cheap, quick. You could just temporarily blockade that road and then study it. See what happens. And if it’s a solution that works for everybody, you have your solution.”

Officials noted at the meeting that such a solution could push the problem elsewhere. 

“Yes, it would solve problem for 15 or so residents on Conrad but that traffic is going to go somewhere,” Police Chief John DiFederico said in response to Nurzia.

He continued, “So we have to consider that, as well. That traffic may stay on Gerdes or may go up Shagbark or may go up Brookside. It’s not going to go back on the Merritt Parkway, so we have to consider that and what is going to be the negative effect of that. It’s something we are considering and it does seem like a viable solution and it would certainly solve the issue on Conrad. But it would create issues elsewhere, so we are looking at it. It’s definitely not off the table.”

During the meeting, town officials talked about other possible solutions—such as speed bumps or a designated “no-thru traffic” zone—but those have problems, too. DiFederico and Mann noted at the meeting that speed bumps create more noise and that motorists tend to speed up between them in order to make up time, and that there’s no way to enforce a “no-thru traffic” zone, because it’s not a formally approved traffic designation. 

The new plan calls for signs at Conrad’s intersections with South Avenue and Gerdes Road to alert motorists to the change. 

The town’s emergency services agencies and the school district, with its buses, both have been notified “and are aware of the changes in the road system,” Mann said.

12 thoughts on “Diverting Cut-Through Traffic, Town Installs Barricade on Conrad Road

  1. There are so many problems with this road closure – no notice, no vote, no plan for the other roads where this traffic will be diverted to, no meaningful opportunity for neighbors to voice their concerns (of which there are many). At 5:44pm on 10/31, I received a notification that my children’s bus routes would change starting 11/1. We have essentially closed a public road for the benefit of 12 homes on Conrad Rd. This may solve a problem for those 12 homes but it will exacerbate the issue for dozens of other homes. We have just started organizing but you will hear much more from us soon.

    • Agreed. The root cause of all of this is Merritt traffic which we cannot control. The process for how this dead end was enacted is wrong on so many levels. Abutting neighbors, or anyone else other than those on Conrad Road, were not informed or invited to participate in the discussion. Most learned about this just days before the dead end went in place on 11/1 via the large digital signs flanking Conrad at Gerdes and South. This is unacceptable. Traffic calming measures can be complicated, but it is generally agreed by traffic experts that dead ends are to be used as a last ditch effort when other calming (volume and/or safety) methods have been tried , tested and failed. I don’t think a dead end was on the town hired traffic engineer’s list of recommendations nor was it even formally voted on by the town. Yet it was enacted anyway. The barricade should come down immediately to allow for community input which I understand to be required by the town. (From cga.ct.gov: New Canaan Municipal Initiatives 2008: “ Under the procedures, traffic calming must be neighborhood driven. Residents of an area proposed for installation of traffic calming measures must be given the opportunity to participate in the discussions leading to the implementation of such proposals. Informational meetings will be held with residents to present and discuss individual projects as the commission deems necessary.” Town should not be able to effectively privatize a public road without full community input. Due diligence was not done here.

  2. Put in roundabouts at the Merritt intersections and eliminate the traffic lights. Maybe if the town makes it easier for traffic at those intersections people will stop cutting through.

  3. This is solving one problem that happens for a couple of hours a day and creating new problems around the clock.

    While the stop signs on Conrad were a welcome safety addition, shutting down the entire street is a significant disruption for the entire community.

    Did the town look into the traffic light at Gerdes/South to see what impact it has on traffic? It is not timed for the flow of traffic and causes traffic to back up for over half a mile on Gerdes, causing people to cut through Conrad.

    Commuters are already pissed when they have taken Gerdes — what they thought was a shortcut — only to have to stop every minute for the school bus they are stuck behind. They often run the school bus stop sign to go around the kids in haste. If you don’t fix the light and block Conrad, traffic will only get worse, exacerbating this problem.

    We have notified NCPD and the school district numerous times but each points the finger at the other. This is a public safety issue and we should not have to negotiate between two town resources to do their jobs.

    No one on our street – Gerdes – was contacted for feedback/input. We were told one day before that bus times would be changing. We are all on tight time margins and to send that notice the night before shows a lack of respect for all of us here.

    And… news flash, communities all over are impacted by increased traffic. Should we shut down more public town roads? Conrad is not a special snowflake.

  4. Enable more cars to flow from Gerdes to the Merritt by adjusting the duration of the traffic light.

  5. I am a resident on Gerdes Rd and I must say I am appalled at the lack of discussion and notice that we were given. I have a 5th grader and the night before I got an email saying that their bus time was going to be a new later time and when my child arrived 5 minutes earlier than the new time the bus had already passed by so that was an unnecessary ordeal. The town really needs to do a better job of communicating/debating & informing all residents of their intentions way before the fact.
    I also noticed a police presence at the south/conrad entrance the last 2 mornings behind the obtrusive new signs and have to wonder if there is a better use of their time !

    • Unfortunately, that’s been happening all week. It’s been a guessing game all week of when to be out front, and giving the bus a +/- 10-minute margin — because we have so much free time in the morning. Totally okay if our kids don’t make it to school on time or get hit by pissed-off commuters frustrated by traffic but by all means please make sure no one disturbs beauty sleep on Conrad. By the way, Conrad Road has also asked the Earth to change its rotation because the sun setting in the west is very inconvenient for them.

  6. Is the No Left Turn onto Nursery from Marvin Ridge not being enforced? Why not stanch the flow there?

    • Apparently, it is not. Maybe because they didn’t spend time and resources to put a barricade up?

  7. What about the speeding on Gerdes Road? Twice in recent memory cars have ended up in my front lawn and my neighbors front lawn – causing extensive property damage – due to speeding on the curves between Conrad and South Ave. I contacted the town about the concern – suggesting speed bumps be considered – and never received a response. Gerdes is never a safe place to walk – the reason every front door light I saw on Halloween was off.

    Not to mention that you can’t exit your driveway on weekday mornings due to the line of cars backed up from the traffic light at South Ave.

    The entire behind the Y community is impacted by the Merritt traffic, and the entire community should be involved in a solution.

  8. I believe the solution needs to start upstream. There are two main sources of this traffic including the left turn from a Marvin Ridge onto Nursery and Old Norwalk Rd. Old Norwalk Rd is main thoroughfare for most of these drivers. Certain mornings there is a constant flow of cars speeding down the road and traffic can be backed up on days from the corner of Old Norwalk/Main to the intersection of Old Norwalk/Marvin Ridge.

    One potential to deter commuter and Waze suggested rerouting is to cut the speed limit down from 30 to 25 on Old Norwalk (perhaps 20 for a portion) and also reduce the speed between the Merritt and Old Norwalk.