‘It’s Beyond Our Control’: No Ready Solution To Morning Traffic Back-Up from NCHS Parking Lot


Town officials, after receiving a resident’s complaint about traffic backed up on Old Stamford Road at Farm Road in the mornings, reached this conclusion: There’s no feasible solution to the problem, short of an expensive New Canaan High School parking lot redesign for which no one has an appetite.

Students crossing the main access road at the New Canaan High School parking lot on the morning of Oc.t 28, 2014. Credit: Michael Dinan

Students crossing the main access road at the New Canaan High School parking lot on the morning of Oc.t 28, 2014. Credit: Michael Dinan

Police sent a shift out to investigate the complaint and what the officers discovered is that “it’s not a timing of the light issue,” Capt. John DiFederico said during the Police Commission’s Nov. 18 meeting.

“What the issue is, is that there is a very short period of time—maybe 15 minutes—when there is so much volume going into the high school that it backs up all the way down Farm Road so there are cars that cannot turn from Old Stamford Road onto Farm,” DiFederico said at the meeting, held in the Training Room at the New Canaan Police Department.

“It has nothing really to do with the light and it has nothing to do with us—it’s just a poorly designed high school parking lot which makes ingress of vehicles so difficult for those 15 minutes.”

A big part of the problem, Police Capt. Vincent DeMaio said, is that the lot is designed so that kids park at the far side—to the right of the access road as you come in—so that they then must cross the road in order to get to the building, which holds up traffic.

“That’s what causes the backup, really, and you cannot correct that,” DeMaio said.

Commission Chairman Stuart Sawabini said there’s a “real crunch” with the individual trying to direct traffic at the entrance of the high school access road.

“The challenge they have is they are attempting to keep cars flowing off of South Avenue and turning right into Farm and going to the high school, and that light is timed with our guy with the clicker, and they are trying to balance that with cars coming in at Farm Road,” Sawabini said. “The sad part is the cars at Farm Road actually could flow constantly into New Canaan High School because it’s right hand turn.”

Members of the commission floated some ideas for solving the design problems at the high school—such as creating a raised, overhead walk to get pedestrians from the students’ area of the parking lot at NCHS to the facility itself, and cutting out some space for motor vehicle traffic in the “panhandle” of Waveny that runs to Farm and South—though commissioners also agreed that those are ideas are not realistic.

“This is a temporary problem and it’s beyond our control,” commissioner Sperry DeCew said.

10 thoughts on “‘It’s Beyond Our Control’: No Ready Solution To Morning Traffic Back-Up from NCHS Parking Lot

  1. What about different start and end times for different grades. When I went to high school we had 7 o’clock start grades 11 and 12 and and 8 or 8:30 grades 9 and 10 start. Not inconceivable

  2. To anyone who has to deal with that daily traffic jam it has to be distressing to see town officials just throw up their hands and not look for a solution. It’s really more than 15 minutes. Anyone trying to get to The Merritt Parkway at that time of day knows that they need to factor in an additional 20 – 30 minutes to their destination travel time.

    It’s a shame that the back parking lot has to be used for the buses.
    Understand the reasoning but that area would have been perfect as second entrance and also safe student parking lot.

    On related note the afternoons are not much better and perhaps more of a “free for all ” as there is no one dedicated to directing traffic at HS exit.

  3. Too bad they couldn’t add a second exit/entrance with an extension from the parking lot between Dunning and Water Tower which empties into waveny driveway.

  4. This was all studied in the last New Canaan High School renovation—there were concrete suggestions by the outside traffic consultant—however; they were not acted upon due to the cost.

  5. There is another solution. Give an incentive for students to ride the bus one day a week. This is not percieved to be “cool”, but if there is an incentive and others do it it could work !

  6. Anyone who has sat through this experience even once can tell you that one of the issues heading south on Old Stamford Road is that the left turn arrow is ignored by anyone making the right turn on red heading north. A very simple no turn on red sign would serve far more than our lovely town has done so far. Yes, the traffic is temporary but it’s still very frustrating to watch the drivers ignore your right of way.
    If the town doesn’t want to stop the right turn on red altogether then they can implement something similar to what Darien has done on the Post Road by the train trestle. They have a no left turn sign that is only on at certain times of the day.
    Surely implementing that simple option is better than throwing your hands up and saying its too hard to fix.

  7. Back in the 1970’s/ 1980’s the lower lot where the buses are now was student parking and the middle lot was student parking which prevented kids from crossing into drop off traffic. The upper lot should be used for student drop offs and teacher parking and the rear lot by the foot ball fields should have buses enter from waveny and come in and out in a separate road behind foot ball field entering and exiting on south avenue. You have all the woods from south ave from farm road to past foot ball field to be utilized as a solution. Without disrupting the main waveny trails. It is very dangerous when kids try to cross the path of parents in a hurry to drop off their kids and almost hitting students. Also have a police officer direct traffic at farm road and 106. To allow even flow of traffic. Trying to turn left from 106 to farm road is impossible because of right turn on red at that light.

  8. It may not always be a clicker issue, but it is often enough that the conclusion is not accurate. There are many times when no cars are moving when cars from any direction could be going North on South Avenue (or turning right onto Farm Road) but every car from every direction sits there with no traffic moving. Simply because no traffic is able to turn left toward the High School does not mean that the cars seeking to go North (straight through the light) or turn right onto Farm Road should sit at the intersection.

  9. There is a lot of traffic at every high school in the area right before school and when school gets out. It’s not a new issue or one unique to New Canaan. We do not need access roads cutting through the Waveny panhandle, extra traffic lights or an exit dumping kids into
    People just need to be patient for a few minutes. Not a popular solution to problems in 2015 but pretty easy to institute.
    If your commute is effected, drive around the high school area on the way to the Parkway at those times, it’s not that difficult to avoid.

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