Selectmen Approve Traffic Study for Nursery Road, Overrun by ‘Waze’ Users

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Town officials on Tuesday approved a $7,000 contract with a Fairfield-based transportation consultant as New Canaan tries to figure out how to change traffic patterns on a local road that’s used as a cut-through for Merritt Parkway motorists.

By exiting the parkway at Exit 38, southbound drivers relying on navigation apps such as Waze snake their way into New Canaan and eventually land on Nursery Road as they head toward Exits 37 and 36, officials say. The road sees a major bump in traffic during the morning rush, from around 20 to 30 cars an hour to 200 to 300, Public Works Director Tiger Mann told the Board of Selectmen at its regular meeting.

The swell in motor vehicles has created major safety concerns for residents of Nursery Road—as well as other streets that the commuters eventually traverse, such as Gerdes Road—and the town’s local traffic authority last month recommended bringing in a professional firm to “study and see what we can accomplish,” Mann said, “either by restricting routes, trying alternate routes, discussing with the application software individuals and then go forward from there.”

“They’re going to go out and study and take a look at various movements and see what is happening at those various specific times, to review our traffic data, get their own data. They can actually put out video cameras there to actually see what is happening as far as how much volume, where the cars are turning, things of that nature, instead of having someone there actually doing the turning movements we can put cameras out and leave them there for several days to a week and actually have someone come back and analyze that data. And then hopefully come back with a couple of solutions for us.”

First Selectman Kevin Moynihan and Selectmen Kit Devereaux and Nick Williams voted 3-0 to approve the contract with Frederick P. Clark Associates Inc.

William said he was “very sympathetic” to the affected residents.

It isn’t yet clear just what remedies are available to New Canaan or viable solutions for the problem. For example, if the town instituted a rule whereby motorists traveling from Norwalk faced a “No left turn” rule for Nursery Road from 7 to 9 a.m., New Canaan may face a legal challenge from residents—as other towns have in similar situations—or the traffic that wanted to turn down Nursery Road may simply be forced elsewhere in town.

The selectmen asked Mann whether the town would pursue a ‘No thru traffic’ rule (no, the state makes such decisions) and what guarantees exist that Waze would make a change on its own end (that’s what has happened elsewhere). 

Devereaux asked whether traffic humps would work. Those come with their own problems, Mann said, such as an increase in “incremental speed” as motorists accelerate between the humps themselves, creating noise, as well as requiring additional signage and creating problems for emergency response vehicles. 

Running east-west and roughly parallel to the Merritt Parkway for about a half-mile between Marvin Ridge and White Oak Shade Roads, Nursery Road includes 20-plus residences, according to tax records.

Residents of Nursery Road signed a petition last fall seeking help from the town reducing traffic on their street. The town last summer approved contracts to replace guiderails along Nursery Road that had been deemed “poor” by the state and in need of improvement. 

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