Traffic congestion is a sad fact of life
Published 3:04 pm, Friday, May 30, 2014
The most serious challenges facing Connecticut are the economy, the related human tragedies of poverty, hunger and homelessness, and the enormously important quest to improve the quality of education across the state.
High on the list, too, is an issue that affects thousands and thousands of state residents every day -- oppressive traffic congestion.
I received a double dose of reminders recently about just how bad traffic tieups are in much of the state.
I was in Westport for lunch and, on my return trip to New Milford, I found myself in bumper-to-bumper traffic almost the entire way from the Mansion Clam House (not far from the Westport train station) to the Spectrum/News-Times office along the Village Green.
From there,I headed to Wallingford for the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists' annual awards dinner, and my path took me across Interstate 84 through Waterbury, which, as most everyone around here knows, is Traffic Tieup City.
My passengers and I had not even reached the Waterbury city line when traffic came to a near stop, and we crawled -- bumper-to-bumper, three lanes across -- for an interminable length of time before we got past the city and started moving again at a decent rate of speed.
I spend a fair amount of time in New Milford, and it troubles me to see the downtown congestion that occurs at the high-traffic times of day and week, and the long lines of vehicles trying to get across Veterans Memorial Bridge from Route 7 and through the new intersection of routes 67 and 202 from Grove Street.
That Wednesday afternoon, traffic was backed up on Route 7 from the Veterans Memorial Bridge well beyond The Cookhouse restaurant -- a distance of several football fields -- just as it is nearly every day.
The fairly new Brookfield bypass and the relatively new four-lane roadway from the Brookfield town line to the bridge do a great job of speeding up the trip from points south, but at high-volume intervals, it is simply a matter of hurry up and wait.
The next afternoon, there was a line of vehicles stacked up from the new Route 67/202 intersection all the way down Grove Street to South Street, again the length of a few football fields.
Every time I see the bottleneck on Grove Street I shake my head and wonder why there was no right-turn lane designed for the intersection to help alleviate the backup there.
Design questions aside, the central problem is there is just too much traffic trying to get from the west side of the Housatonic River to the east side (and vice versa).
Bridge Street, Grove Street and East Street become bottlenecks because they just can't handle the volume of traffic.
The sad reality is that it didn't have to be this way.
More than three decades ago, town officials and residents talked about creating an east-west connector that would have served as a bypass around the downtown area for those heading to the northern part of New Milford, to nearby towns to the north, or to destinations beyond.
That was a good idea, and it would have been relatively easy to accomplish at the time, since there were a lot fewer homes and other obstacles in the way of a workable path for the proposed connector.
But the political will wasn't there, and New Milford missed an opportunity to solve a problem that continues to get worse every year.
Now it would be much more difficult-- from logistical, financial and political standpoints -- to build an east-west connector that would reduce traffic congestion in and around the town's gem of a village center.
To its credit, the town keeps searching for solutions to its traffic tieup woes, and every little bit will help.
Likewise, we can always hope for at least some minor relief if and when passenger rail service is restored to New Milford (and points north).
The truth is, for the people who live in and around New Milford, just like those who live in Westport, Waterbury, Danbury and countless other towns and cities in Connecticut, traffic congestion is simply an unfortunate fact of life.
Art Cummings is editor emeritus of The News-Times. He can be contacted at 203-731-3351 or at email@example.com.