Letter: Westport's Traffic Issues Need To Be Addressed

  • Comments (2)

WESTPORT, Conn. – The Westport Daily Voice accepts signed letters to the editor. Send letters to westport@dailyvoice.com.

We’ve got a serious problem with traffic on state roads in Westport and it’s high time we addressed it. One more death, one more seriously injured person is simply not acceptable.

Last week, I attended a meeting at Town Hall which presented potential improvements to the intersection of Bayberry Lane and Easton Road (Rte. 136).  This intersection has been the scene of a good number of accidents – thankfully, none fatal – and countless near misses over the years. The town and the South Western Regional Planning Authority (SWRPA) engaged in a study of the intersection, resulting in the recommendations presented.

Neighbors and affected drivers came out in force, overflowing the meeting room. Needless to say, they’ve been waiting for a solution. As much as I appreciated the work and thinking that went into the presentation, I was underwhelmed by the proposed alternatives and disheartened by the long road ahead before any changes can be made. 

To me, the answer is simple: commit to a four-way stop, add some traffic calming techniques used successfully in other traffic settings and, perhaps, some improvements in sightlines and grading.  But certainly not the roundabout or major reconfiguring of the intersection suggested by the study. The most important thing we can do is to take action quickly to avoid a future calamity.

Speaking of calamities, Westport was the scene of another Post Road fatality last Saturday. It seems clear that the traffic solution in place near Shake Shack is inadequate and needs to be fixed immediately. But that’s hardly the only intersection on the Post Road where accidents can happen; there’s Turkey Hill Road, Sylvan Road and intersections downtown as well. It’s indicative of a growing problem which is not specific to the configuration of any one intersection. 

We, as a community, have to face this problem, brought on by changes in the way we drive, use our smartphones and engage in the world around us. Last week it was a 68-year-old man who was killed, but we all know of recent incidents where children and others were injured by inattentive drivers.

So what can we do? Yes, we need to make sure to walk in the crosswalks provided and ride our bikes in accordance with the law. Of course we have to stop texting on our phones while we’re driving and look out for pedestrians and bicyclists. Police enforcement of traffic speeds and laws is important, but there’s no way the police can spend all their time monitoring traffic all over town.

So we must also insist on finding better solutions to traffic and speeding in town.  Rte. 136 and the Post Road can’t be changed without state cooperation, but that’s no excuse for not pushing hard for change. As I’ve mentioned, there are traffic calming techniques in use in other municipalities - such as textured pavement or cross-hatched painted caution lines - which should be considered for Westport. 

There are also studies which show the benefits of “extended yellows” or “four-way red” lights at intersections. We may need to relocate some crosswalks and consider adding lights to stop traffic for pedestrians. The sooner we begin assessing real solutions, the sooner we can put them in place.

As we all resolve to be better drivers, pedestrians, and bike riders, let us also resolve to be better citizens and neighbors by insisting on a municipal initiative to address both the specific spots where accidents seem likely to occur and a more general assessment of traffic safety in Westport. 

As a member of the Sate Legislature and its transportation committee, I pledge to work with the Connecticut DOT and town officials to tackle the challenge we face as a community.

State Rep. Jonathan Steinberg,136th District 

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Comments (2)

I'd suggest that ANY driver who hits a pedestrian on a local (non-highway) road is being inattentive. Of course, I've seen countless numbers of people running across the street between Shake Shack and the Walgreens lot.
I think a traffic warning of some type may ultimately be needed there. The light on Bulkley is so close that it would seem ridiculous to add another light.

1/ Yes, there is an urgent case for improving the PRE/Bulkley intersection to aid pedestrians. Please can the RTM members step up.

2/ Let's not make assumptions about the young driver in the fatal accident on Saturday. There's no suggestion from the police that the driver was inattentive. Just because of his age, let's not cast aspersions about his driving habits.