Op-Ed: No Relief from Overnight Construction in New Canaan


In 2020 at the height of the pandemic, with our five-year-old and newborn in tow, my husband and I escaped NYC for New Canaan. 

It was an unsettling time for many of us, and New Canaan offered peace and community, and a school experience for our kindergartener that many at the time could only dream of. Moving here will likely go down as one of the best decisions we have made in our lives, and we have been wholeheartedly welcomed, supported, and included by the schools, our church community, parents and friends.

Yet this past September 2022, nestled in our beds at home on White Oak Shade Road near the Merritt Parkway overpass, we were woken by disturbing overnight construction by the Connecticut State Department of Transportation. 

It started with tree removal, and in the following weeks and months it became blasting, excavating, rock drilling, pile driving, dropping concrete barriers, flood lights shining in our windows, and incessant beeping every Monday to Friday night 9pm to 5am, and often throughout the day as well. Most nights the work begins at 9pm with a parade of vehicles with beeping alerts full blast, and the construction noise and vibration continue with a crescendo around 3am and completion by 5am or 6am. 

The house shakes from the work, and I have learned there are not enough white noise machines and earplugs in the world to keep this mother asleep in a shaking house full of her children. My husband and I both work full-time, and for us and our two small children the constant sleep disturbances are untenable and inhumane. The public timelines are vague, but the work is planned to go on until at least October 2024: two full years from start to finish next to our side yard.

In 2020 as newcomers, we quickly learned how important schools and sleep are to the New Canaan community during the debate and discussion on school start times. And I agree with all sides. Sleep deeply impacts every aspect of our health, and it is essential to every process in our bodies. In young children, sleep deprivation is associated with behavioral issues, lower capacity to learn and retain information, a propensity for weight gain, lower height outcomes, and even precocious puberty.  Sleep deprivation has been found to be cruel and unusual punishment for those convicted of crimes. 

So what about us?

Since September we have reached out to our neighbors, elected officials, the Connecticut Department of Transportation, the Merritt Parkway Conservancy, and our New Canaan Departments of Public Works and Health. We have granted live interviews to News12, shared our story in public meetings, and with our doctors. State Rep. Tom O’Dea testified on our behalf at state Senate and filmed a video press release in our driveway with his colleague, state Rep. Tracy Marra. Thanks to their efforts, and New Canaan Public Works Director Tiger Mann’s calls, the Department of Transportation recently moved its staging ground for large machines away from our side yard, but the all night work and sleep disturbances continue. 

To the hundreds of New Canaan residents living along State Route 15 (Merritt Parkway), Route 106 (Old Stamford Road), Route 123 (New Norwalk Road) and Route 124 (South Avenue and Oenoke Ridge)– be warned: Based on our experience, the state can work on these “highways” anytime, and for as long as they like. 

And this work extends to lead paint removal on bridges, overpasses and roadways without warning to nearby parents of small children. In the ultimate irony, the state mandates annual lead blood testing for my toddler while at the same time pulverizing (likely) lead paint off the overpass less than 20 feet away from the yard where she plays. Plumes of dust float off the bridge on any dry day. This February the DOT issued a warning to municipalities that bridge structures statewide have been raining lead paint chips. But still they did not have air monitoring during bridge paint removal until I requested it, and have not shared the results with me or the New Canaan officials as of this writing. I would suggest keeping your car windows shut and switching on your car air recirculation button when you are driving by these sites especially if you have young children.

I teach public policy and administration at the graduate level, so I understand why the state would not want to shut down commuter traffic for years on a major thoroughfare. Yet from what we can tell, nearly all of the work over the last nine months has been on the shoulder and not in the roadway. Major tree removal work last fall certainly made room for vehicles to move along the shoulder for work during the day without shutting down traffic. 

So what is behind the plan to do overnight work in layers across the parkway, and across years? Could this not have been in smaller segments for shorter periods of time? And why always overnight? Daytime on weekends seems possible. Clearly traffic was a concern when planning the project, but what about air quality, noise levels and vibration, and an analysis of how the project would adversely impact the lives of the families living nearby? At least we deserved some warning and noise mitigation in the form of sound barriers or another noise attenuation system like those that were provided during Tappan Zee Bridge construction nearby in NY State.

Our family deserves fair warning, respite and remedy. As the state marches along with this initiative, it doesn’t seem to be paying attention to the affected families left in its wake.

15 thoughts on “Op-Ed: No Relief from Overnight Construction in New Canaan

  1. I am saddened by the lack of consideration for the neighbors of these major arteries. The very roads that make it easy to live in New Canaan are bringing life altering stress to those along them. What empowers the DOT to be so reckless with the health of these citizens?

  2. So sorry to read about your family’s experience, Rebecca. For a “quiet little town,” New Canaan can be a noisy place indeed.

  3. I couldn’t even watch the whole video without getting a headache.. How can people be expected to live with this for two years???

  4. I am so sorry to hear of your travails and have had my own experience with the DOT. Back in the Spring of 2021 they shut down 123 to repair an underground ‘bridge’ that absolutely needed repair. They set up shop DIRECTLY in front of my house with 24/7 lights, jackhammers and staff and forced us to take a 7 mile detour to town (which was only 1 mile from house !). To make matters worse they started the DAY before the SATs and then consistently for weeks of my son’s finals his Junior Year of high school. I made myself a public nuisance to the Ct DOT employees in charge of the project and to Tiger Mann who, bless him, tried his best to be of assistance. They insisted there had been warning which apparently had gone to the owners that sold me the house which INFURIATED me that they did not pass along that information (which would have come along with my opportunity to plead some attempt at resistance). What I came to learn was that there is a reason Bureaucracy has the cliche of being endless red tape and a shit show. I also found the DOT to hide behind the “for the benefit to many and the sacrifice o one” mentality. But I also did find, in my case, the actual workers to be empathetic and kind and willing to make certain concessions where they can if you fight hard enough and offer some baked goods and hot coffee … I also found there IS good money for the affected homeowners – you just need to really fight for it. You will not get your years back, or your sleepless nights or the endless nagging feeling that you were wronged – trust me I agonize that I let the months of work torture me. But it will be over at some point, and then sadly it will be someone else’s turn, here, there or elsewhere. And in the meantime please know that you are right. And it is unfair. And it does ‘suck’. Truly.

  5. Living on Marvin Ridge Road near the Merritt, we, too, have been plagued by the cacophony coming from the work on the parkway. We were also shocked that the trees that always buffered the normal daily noise from the road were stripped away. Wouldn’t you think that we at least would have had some warning, like a letter in the mail?
    I’m especially disturbed by Rebecca’s revelation that the work on the bridges, of which there is one right near us, is creating hazardous lead pollution. It’s literally breathtaking how irresponsible the people who are running this project have been from the get-go. I hope that the New Canaanite follows up on this and demands some answers from the “Powers That Be!”

  6. While I sympathize with your experience, you did chose to buy a house very near the Parkway. You (or your real estate agent) should have explained that the highway makes noise, especially when under reconstruction. The work inconveniences the fewest people by being done at night and I’m sure the CDOT workers are trying to be quiet and get the job done quickly. If you want our highways repaired, there’s no easy (or quiet) way to get that done.

  7. Thank you for sharing your story.

    This is a despicable level of forced government backed construction, extremely insensitive and calloused. There should have been public hearings on this before the expensive project was launched. Cutting down trees and minimizing the pullover side margin of the parkway is also questionable.

  8. A disturbing pattern of disregard for neighboring property owners. Projects of this kind should take human impacts into account.

  9. I think as long as their are lobbyists pushing the case for construction companies with the means to write enormous checks to any and campaigns there will always be a “need” for loud 24/7 projects. I.e. the Merritt Parkway will never not be under construction.

    • Some of the construction companies are publicly traded. And such companies claim a “fiduciary duty” to maximize the profits despite consequences so doing. Those negatively impacted have imperatives to hold them accountable. And you can be sure many of those pushing so hard for them benefit financially from doing so. There needs to be total transparency with the stakes involved.

  10. I agree that the noise level is intolerable for those living adjacent to the construction zone and the delays very inconvenient for motorists who have to drive through it every day. However, the reconstruction of the Parkway through New Canaan is the final stretch to be modernized in a re-build program that began in 2001. So for the past ~20 years residents living adjacent to the Parkway from Greenwich to Shelton has been subjected to nightime noise and motorists to construction delays. Those living in New Canaan are getting their dose of it now. The best we can say is the long nightmare will be over in 2024.

  11. They should be made to do what other municipalities have done — that is to erect soundproofing noise abatement barriers along the roadway. This was done all along the Long Island Expressway before beginning the major night time widening that lasted a couple of years. These are permanent and I’m sure the local residents are thankful not only for how it helped them during the construction, but how their neighborhoods are now separated from the constant noise and air pollution of an adjacent major thoroughfare.

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