NORWALK, Conn. – The large number of trees being taken down along the Merritt Parkway in Norwalk will help prevent road closures after major storms and make the motoring public safer, a Connecticut Department of Transportation (CDOT) spokesman said.
The issue came to light when a NancyOnNorwalk reader wrote in to ask: Why are there so many trees being taken down in the area of Exit 38 (New Canaan Avenue).
“The Merritt Parkway is, in my view, an especially well designed and attractive roadway,” Paul Cantor wrote. “So cutting down trees alongside it is a concern. At one point I thought there was talk of running a bike path alongside it. Though that might also mean cutting down trees.”
CDOT spokesman Kevin Nursick, in answer to a query, wrote in an email:
“1) Safety of the motoring public: We are removing dead, dying, decayed, or otherwise compromised trees, including “leaners.” We are pushing back the tree line as well to allow for the standardized 30-foot clear zone which is the design standard for all highways. The clear zone is an area to the right and left of the travel portion of the roadway that should be free from immovable obstructions should an errant vehicle exit the travel portion of the highway. Having a 30-foot clear zone allows vehicles to recover safely or come to a stop without striking objects, like trees, that can kill occupants. The Merritt Parkway kills more people by “tree” than any other road in the state.
“2) Protecting the highway infrastructure from outages during/after weather events: We can’t have the highways closed for days because of trees after major weather events. The Merritt was closed for 48 hours each time for each of the last three major storms we’ve had (Irene, October 2011 snow storm, Sandy). The same goes for all our highways. We can’t lose the backbone of our state’s economy and our relief lifelines with similar storm events in the future.
“Similar work has been taking place all over the state since 2011. It will likely continue for years to come, in locations all around the state, mainly on the highway system.”