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ConnDOT consultant reveals new idea for Merritt Parkway/Route 7 interchange

A new concept for the

A new concept for the Route 7/Merritt Parkway interchange.

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.

 

 

 

8 comments

Adolph Neaderland January 31, 2017 at 10:54 am

Bases on my understanding of the presentation, the proposed plan (adding traffic lights on 7 and Main Ave, does not solve the south-bound Merritt/Main Ave exit problem,, nor the Glover Ave/Main Ave intersection jamming due to the 1000 unit Glover Ave development.

Unless further discussion dispels these concerns, the benefits of the land swap are not worth the downsides.

Patrick Cooper January 31, 2017 at 12:44 pm

@Adolph Neiderland, I believe your essential commentary points are correct – but there’s more here that Norwalk should be fighting for – and making better planning decisions. Note this quote:

“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 Neiderer”.

Did they quote your name wrong – or different Adolph? Because it’s your points – plus 4,000 more Apartment Units.

The sheer myopia of this town just baffles me daily, and sends the subtle message of “anywhere else but here” down my spine. Let’s see if I got this right – two major traffic arterial intersections crossing this town at its lower southern half (I-95/Main/ Rt. 7) and upper northern half (Merritt Parkway/ Rt.7 /Main). What bones! And we have a harbor? And a downtown with a working rail system? What a town that could be designed, planned, and operated.

But what does our ultra-political, attorney & union controlled town do with this opportunity?

The I-95 intersection is already one of the worst daily traffic bottlenecks in all of New England, the new off-ramps construction doing little to alleviate the congestion, and we plan to add a 300,000 Sq. Ft – already obsolete Mall – right on top of it. What?

Now we take the Merritt Parkway intersection – west /southbound traffic already at a crawl at 7:10am, east / northbound no later than 4:20pm – and we allow – 1 at a time – developers to put in 1400 current and a total 5000 future apartments? Don’t forget the BJ’s? So by design we are now going to choke the northern artery to a standstill? WHY? The point made by Diane Cece is ALREADY a reality – everyday Belden Hill fills with southbound cars avoiding Route 7, and West Rocks for those avoiding main street, to name but two unintended ancillary thoroughfares.

Given this – should we simply allow the DOT to put in a half assed construction fix to save the dollars needed for a true flowing cloverleaf? To further interrupt / delay / and bottleneck flow by adding – of all things – traffic lights on the 7 connector – insane. These design changes really feels like an inside job by the devious Toni Boucher to short circuit and prevent a “Super 7” from ever happening.

We need a different leader for this town / city. That individual will need to be bold, able to articulate a rational development vision that works for the entire city, is progressive and financially sound, surrounds themselves with experienced professional staff, and is privately well funded – because those who have the money hooks in now aren’t going to give up the pig trough that Norwalk is without a fight. Sadly I don’t think the Republican Party is up for it. So our future is Tea Party, or Independent.

I hear Denver is nice.

Gordon Tully January 31, 2017 at 1:57 pm

This design is the best news I have seen coming out of DOT in a long while. It shows that the extension of the connector is at least remote in their thinking, and it shows more respect for the character of the Merritt than the other scheme.

Support this scheme! The only better plan would be to do nothing, but I suspect that is off the table.

Mr. Cooper, more highways and cloverleafs is an idea left over from the 1950’s. What has been found throughout the world is that if you build it, they will jam it. If you are worried about traffic jams, get the damned cars off the road.

Mike Mushak February 1, 2017 at 11:45 am

I support this plan. It is less disruptive than the free-flowing plan is to the environment and to surrounding neighborhoods. I do think sound barriers are essential facing the neighbors on Perry Ave on that exisdtong long ramp to the Meritt Southbound that is high up in the air relative to the neighborhood. But the amount of traffic on that ramp shouldn’t be any heavier than it is now.

The Norwalk River Valley Trail (NRVT) and Merritt Parkway Trail (MPT) both must be a part of this plan. The future of bicycle commuting includes higher numbers with the revolution in e-bikes that will make commuting easier for folks of more limited physical ability and older folks who may not be in the best of shape but want to ride to work, especially on more hilly terrain like we will see on the MPT in particular. There where also be those who want to walk or jog to work, and locker rooms to shower and store office wear are more common in offices now than they used to be.

Every bike commuter is one less car on the road.

Alan Kibbe March 16, 2017 at 2:21 pm

Patrick Cooper is right on with his assessment of this plan. The goal of this project must continue to be the smooth flow of traffic making all connections between Routes 7 and 15. And it should not impede future construction of the through route to Danbury. This is not an outdated idea from the 50’s. We know that stop-and-go traffic increases noise and pollution. Once again, with this plan, Norwalk would lose with increased congestion.

Taking Patrick’s points further, what is to be gained by making Super 7 into a boulevard? Looking at the plan, it would free a substantial parcel of real estate, from Exit 2 to Grist Mill Rd, for apartment and commercial development. The terrain is a bit hostile, but I didn’t think the Diageo headquarters could be built when it was proposed, but there it stands. The State of Connecticut can then realize a short-term benefit by selling this boulevard-facing property.

Creating a Boulevard from Route 7 eliminates the possibility of an express route to Danbury. That means that the state-owned right-of-way from Norwalk to Danbury can be sold for development. Although Wiltonites would be pleased that Route 7 might never continue to Danbury, the disposition of all that property remains unknown. Another short-term gain for state government.

In my opinion, this is a developer-friendly plan which benefits our developers and their political cronies at the expense of Connecticut citizens’ needs and quality of life. From the 2005 halt of construction of this interchange, politics and developers have controlled this project. We need to stand up for what will improve traffic flow both locally and regionally with the least impact on the neighborhood. This plan doesn’t come close.

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