Responding to traffic and safety concerns from the neighborhood, town officials say they’re asking the state for permission to make changes in the area of Conrad Road.
Officials are asking the state Department of Transportation whether Conrad—a cut-through between Gerdes Road and South Avenue for motor vehicles seeking to get onto the Merritt Parkway at Exit 37—could be designated as a “no thru traffic” street, according to Public Works Director Tiger Mann.
The town also can ask the state whether the timing of the light at Gerdes Road and South Avenue could be adjusted in order to release more motor vehicles from Gerdes onto the Merritt, Mann said, though that “would be very difficult to enforce.”
“We would just be shifting it back to Gerdes one way or another,” Mann said during the Police Commission’s July 19 meeting, held at police headquarters and via videoconference. The DOT’s Office of State Traffic Administration or OSTA “might not have a problem because it would be intra-town not inter-town, but it might be a problem with enforcement,” he added.
In addition, the state’s “primary concern all the time is traffic on their road,” Route 124/South Avenue, Mann said.
“So that’s why it gets the biggest amount of time [at the traffic light] regardless,” he said.
Mann spoke in response to concerns voiced by Conrad Road resident Janel Sinacori.
Some 400 cars come through Conrad Road on weekday mornings, Sinacori said, and the street has been the subject of multiple surveys in recent years.
Most drivers turn onto Conrad from Gerdes as they try and make their way toward South Avenue and the Merritt, she said.
“So at the traffic light at the corner of South and Gerdes, I’ve come down in the morning and I’ve counted more than 70 cars lined up,” Sinacori said. “Way past Conrad. So people come up, they see the Gerdes light back up all the way past Conrad, and they basically race down Conrad. I’ve come down South Avenue and I’ve timed it.”
There often are just a few cars waiting on South Avenue at the same light, she said.
“You can watch 14 cars get through the light going onto the Merritt in 44 seconds, turn down Gerdes and still count more than 50 cars waiting on Gerdes to get to the light, then get to Conrad and in five minutes, you can count cars going down Gerdes and then another 45 going down Conrad to race to do the cut-through to get onto the Merritt going south, she said.
Commissioner Paul Foley said the situation is similar to one that arose on nearby Nursery Road, where navigation apps such as Waze are sending motorists on New Canaan’s local roads in order to get around logjams on the parkway.
“That road [Conrad] was never on Waze and now it is on Waze because I’ve been in Norwalk and I have a Tesla and I hit ‘home’ just to see where traffic is and it will put me right on your street,” he said. “It runs right on Gerdes and around Conrad and out to South Avenue.”
Mann said the town has already asked traffic engineer Michael Galante at Hardesty & Hanover “to take a look at the intersection and Conrad itself.”
“And they are preparing a proposal to do some traffic-calming measures on Conrad that should help,” he said. “I know we put in some temporary stop signs on there. Not necessarily a traffic-calming measure but they have been helping slow speeds somewhat in the area. But we had Hardesty & Hanover do a preliminary study. They came back with a couple of ideas. We were going to have them chase down one of the ideas to see what it would look like and how it would be enacted and then we bring it back to the Commission at that time for review and approval. We are looking at it.”
It isn’t clear what measures the traffic engineering firm is proposing. A public records request from NewCanaanite.com for the firm’s proposal was not immediately fulfilled.
Sinacori said the most important issue is that as things stand “it’s dangerous” along Conrad Road.
“There’s a lot of kids and family walking up and down the street, to and from school,” she said. “So it’s a safety issue, let alone the volume and speed.”
Mann agreed, and noted that Conrad is one of the very last streets in the “South of the Y” neighborhood that doesn’t yet have sidewalks.