Correction, 1 p.m.: Adolph Neaderland.
NORWALK, Conn. – A tentative plan under consideration by the Connecticut Department of Transportation would put traffic signals on Norwalk’s “Super 7” as part of a new interchange with the Merritt Parkway.
This new plan for a “boulevard-type concept” was published in a Western Connecticut Council of Governments study, John Eberle of Stantec, an engineering firm hired by ConnDOT, said Monday at a meeting organized by the Coalition of Norwalk Neighborhood Associations (CNNA) and Norwalk Association of Silvermine Homeowners (NASH).
It was the 20th public meeting on the resurgent effort to revamp the Route 7/Merritt Parkway interchange, Eberle said. Previous plans were held up in 2005 by a legal challenge; once that was resolved in 2006 the funding had dried up.
In 2008, “Alternate 21” was the preferred design; as recently as the December meeting with NASH, Alternate 21c was thought to be the consensus option, Eberle said.
“The key thing I talked about was keeping open-minded,” Eberle said, unveiling the new “Alternate 26” under consideration and adding that he felt it important to be transparent.
The new idea eliminates the clover-leaf style of exit and on ramps, instead favoring a pair of long, curvy exit/entrance roads between on either side of the Merritt, connecting with Main Avenue.
This would eliminate the “nonstandard ramps” and the “weaves” on the Merritt Parkway, and the use of Creeping Hemlock Drive would be improved, Eberle said.
It would require three lanes on Route 7, probably 1000 feet north and south of the parkway, he said. There would be two traffic signals on Route 7, where the roads meet the highway.
Construction on any design is not expected until 2021, and Stantec is currently studying the traffic implications of 26 in a “fatal flaw analysis,” he said. It appears to work to work but Stantec is using existing data, which does not include the changing conditions on Glover Avenue he said.
There are 1,400 approved apartments on Glover Avenue but actually 5,000 is the total currently being planned, Eberle said, in response to a question from Adolph Neaderland.
Stantec has completed a Phase I analysis of the existing conditions, delineating wetlands and natural habitats, and investigating archaeologic impacts, he said. Traffic data collection is “pretty much done,” and the data needs to be studied.
There are 17-odd elements in the screening process and “community input is critically important as part of that,” he said.
There are precedents in Connecticut for a freeway becoming a signalized road, he said. Norwalk’s municipal government has seen this plan and so has Wilton.
One resident commented that the new idea would probably be a great thing as it would cut down the drag racing.
There are pros and cons, Eberle said; it would cost less to build, less to maintain and use less real estate, but, “Maybe the air and noise takes the place of the dragsters, I’m not sure,” he quipped, about the impact of the traffic lights.
CNNA leader Diane Cece said ConnDOT needs to consider possible side effects, suggesting that if there’s gridlock on Super 7 drivers will flee into the surrounding neighborhoods.
It has to go through a vetting process like any other design, Eberle said. Stantec has looked at “certain properties;” it doesn’t look like they’ll be subject to eminent domain but, “we haven’t done the full geometry yet,” he said.
The traffic signals might change the classification of the roadway, he said.
“Does this open up opportunities for economic development? I don’t know, maybe. It depends on how this goes,” he said, mentioning that the topography might preclude driveways.
The next step is to form an advisory committee of about 25 people, and that’s expected in February, he said.