Editorial: Find a Better Way for Nursery Road

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Installed with the best intentions and even successful in some ways, the new “no left turn” sign at Nursery and Marvin Ridge Roads is creating more problems than it’s solving and should be removed.

It’s true that since a sign prohibiting a left-hand turn from Marvin Ridge to Nursery from 7 to 9 a.m. weekdays went in nearly one month ago, some in the neighborhood have had relief from a surge in morning commuter traffic. The approximately 350 vehicles that had been using Nursery Road between 8 and 9 a.m.—including motorists using navigation apps such as Waze to avoid Merritt Parkway backups—posed a safety risk, advocates of the sign said.

Yet a 3.5-year police history showed no reported accidents on Nursery Road from 2015 through 2018—that’s one data point cited by a professional traffic engineer hired by the town to study roadway characteristics, traffic volume and speeds on Nursery Road and make recommendations about how to help solve the problems there and on Gerdes Road.

Ultimately, the engineer said, installing a “no left turn” sign would have the same negative impact as closing the road would. Though Nursery Road residents may benefit, “it would only shift this traffic to other roads and potentially to the vicinity of the Saxe Middle School, which has traffic-related delays and congestion at the School, as well as the New Canaan High School campus.”

Despite those findings, and despite concerns voiced by the New Canaan Police command staff about pushing more cars onto roads that do have accidents, as well as schools, the Police Commission voted 3-0 at its Jan. 16 meeting to install the “no left turn” sign on a trial basis.

So now the trial is underway, and at the earliest opportunity—the Feb. 27 Police Commission meeting—opponents of the new sign packed into the room to detail new problems it’s causing and their overall displeasure. One Marvin Ridge Road woman said she counted 20 cars that used her driveway for U-turns in a single hour—they travel past the “no left turn” sign, turn around and make the right onto Nursery anyway. 

Others are ignoring the sign completely and, though the police say they’re conducting as much enforcement as is practicable, some drivers simply continue to make that left (see video above). Others are proceeding deeper into New Canaan—police say that Old Norwalk Road now is backing up regularly during rush hour all the way to the Marvin Ridge intersection. 

On top of all that, West Norwalk residents are upset by New Canaan’s decision to change traffic patterns in a way that so clearly affects them, and to do it with no advance warning, let alone collaboration. 

The quality-of-life problem that the navigational apps are creating for Nursery and Gerdes Road residents are real. It’s not a problem they caused, and navigation apps are not something they reasonably could have anticipated at the time they purchased their homes. Residents of Nursery and Gerdes are asking for patience from those now receiving the traffic they used to get—wait for all navigation app companies to update their routes, they say, and for inconvenienced motorists to change their driving habits. 

In fairness, they’ve earned the right to call for patience, because they’ve shown admirable patience themselves: Nursery Road residents filed a petition with the town in October 2017 and have attended Police Commission meetings regularly since then to try and find a solution.

And though New Canaan may not have found that solution yet, a well-intended show of support from the Commission that flies in the face of the experts is not a solid step forward.

We don’t know what the right answer is for Nursery Road, and we hope that Police Commissioners make good on their vow to work more closely with Norwalk to find a way to steer nonlocal traffic back onto the Merritt between Exits 38 and 37.

In the meantime, walk back this “no left turn” sign that isn’t working. At its next scheduled meeting, on March 20, the Commission should vote to remove the sign and pursue, in earnest, a more viable solution for Nursery and Gerdes Roads. 

Undo this poor decision, and in the future, listen to the professionals.

[We’ve embedded a copy of the traffic engineer’s full study below.]

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7 thoughts on “Editorial: Find a Better Way for Nursery Road

  1. If it is this bad now what will it be like when they install tolls and people use the side roads to avoid paying the tolls? Not sure lawmakers are factoring in what the quality of life will be like after they install tolls, there are many routes to go from exit 38 to 36 cutting through our town. They are also excluding Connecticut legislators from having to pay the tolls.

  2. What evidence do you have to show that the sign is “not working”? And more importantly with what professional expertise (professional or educational) do you have to deem this.. with any credibility.. as a poor decision. Stay in your lane and I will continue to look out for the safety of my family and neighbors.

    • “Lane”? Editorial writing is part of this job. More people attended the Feb. 27 meeting of the Police Commission than I’ve seen in 10 years of covering it. Do you feel this topic is off-limits because you live on Nursery Road?

      I feel I went to some lengths in writing this to explain that the traffic problems on Nursery and Gerdes are real and need to be addressed.

      I’m not sure how to answer your question about evidence that the sign isn’t working, other than to ask you to please read the editorial again. There’s also a video at the top of the editorial that shows several cars flagrantly violating the “no left turn” instruction, including one motorist who does so with a police vehicle in plain sight, and who then is stopped by the officer, and another who makes the left right behind them and then weaves around the stopped car.

      This is my lane.

  3. Excellent editorial, Michael. Thoughtfully recounts the arguments pro and con the issue, cites the experts who HAVE opined on the issue (traffic engineer, NCPD) and makes a reasonable proposal for dealing with unintended consequences. That’s what an editorial should do.

  4. This sign is the biggest Epic Failure the town has ever done – it is making more problems and safety issues then its solving – lets move on from this and take it down! Cars are now flying down Marvin Ridge Road because they have to make up for lost time on the way to work.

  5. I understand the concerns of those who live on Nursery Road, and there’s clearly a problem that needs to be addressed. But the “No Left Turn” sign at the top of the street only moves the problem elsewhere. That said, I can’t come up with a better answer other than leave it open and strictly enforce speed restrictions. A speed camera or two would help, but I don’t think the legislature has approved them for use in CT. (Also, interesting to note that the only car in the video that stopped at the stop sign appears to have done so only to avoid broadsiding the police car.)

  6. As a New Canaan resident coming down Carter St., (I look up the ramp onto the Merritt accessing its traffic) I have been taking the Nursery Road bypass years before GPS navigation aided non-resident motorists. Most times I just need to get into Darien and, I feel the backup at the Gerdes/124 traffic light negates any time savings. Would speed bumps work on Nursery?
    That GPS traffic Apps have aided politics being local… Serious consideration towards getting “rush-hour” single occupancy vehicles off the road needs to occur. Our population rises, the amount of vehicles on roads rises yet, the amount of roads and volume they can handle stays relatively fixed. Think about the sheer volume of gas, the world over, being wasted by cars simply backed up, going nowhere, on our global transportation infrastructure.

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