Roundabout is good idea
Proposal for Still River Drive would be a small step to help reduce traffic congestion
New Milford has taken an important step toward reducing traffic congestion in the southern part of town in proposing to install a roundabout at the four-way intersection of Still River Drive, Lanesville Road and Pickett District Road.
Still River Drive, which connects to Route 7 a half-mile north of New Milford High School, is part of a popular bypass to and from the center of New Milford.
It is so popular, in fact, long lines of traffic back up during rush hour at the intersection with Lanesville and Pickett District, which is now regulated by four stop signs.
Roundabouts are popular and successful throughout Europe and increasingly in the United States.
We strongly support the proposal to create a roundabout at that Still River Drive intersection, and we hope the state Department of Transportation will approve the town's request.
The current setup stagnates traffic, and we believe a roundabout would cut down on traffic tieups and at least somewhat lessen commuting time for motorists.
Mayor Pat Murphy hit the nail on the head when she described the proposed roundabout: "It will keep traffic moving when it's heavy and allow you to drive through when you're the only one arriving there."
In the great scheme of things, a roundabout on Still River Drive would not dramatically reduce the significant traffic congestion problem in New Milford. But it would help, and it might lead to similar solutions in other parts of town.
New Milford missed an important opportunity years ago to prepare the town for the future and even out traffic flow when it failed to build an east-west connector north of Veterans Memorial Bridge that would have taken commuter traffic across the Housatonic River and around the center of town.
As a result, thousands of vehicles per day now crawl along downtown roadways like Bridge, East, Main, Railroad and Grove streets at rush hour and other high traffic times of the week.
None of those streets is equipped to handle such a high volume of traffic, and the resulting congestion makes it more difficult for shoppers to get to and around the wonderful, quaint, historic village center.
Two major road projects in recent years -- construction of the four-lane Route 7 from the Brookfield town line to Veterans Memorial Bridge and reconstruction of the Grove Street/Route 67/Route 202 intersection near the center of town -- were supposed to significantly improve traffic flow.
But the hard reality is that many Route 7 motorists, while they can make better time from points south, still wait in a really long line to get across the bridge, and commuters taking the Grove Street bypass frequently sit and wait at the new intersection.
There are simply too many vehicles trying to get through the center of town.
We do not believe town officials, the business community and residents should give up on an east-west connector, even though there is no question it would be far more difficult and far more expensive to do today than it would have been two or three decades ago.
We encourage the mayor and other community leaders to consider bold steps that would take traffic around the village center and help create a better future for the downtown and the whole community. Until that is accomplished, thousands and thousands of residents will be greatly inconvenienced almost every time they drive to or through town.
In the meantime, we applaud Murphy and her administration for seeking stop-gap traffic flow solutions -- like the Still River Drive roundabout -- in the absence of an east-west connector.
We urge town officials to take a good, hard look at the Grove/67/202 intersection, add a right-turn lane from Grove Street, and see what else can be done to improve traffic flow in that vicinity.
And if the Still River Drive roundabout is as successful as we and town officials think it will be, New Milford's leaders should move forward with roundabouts in other parts of town as well.