Editorial: Traffic nightmares, again

Traffic backs up near the exit of the Ridgefield Recreation Center on 195 Danbury Road on Thursday, Dec. 5.

Traffic backs up near the exit of the Ridgefield Recreation Center on 195 Danbury Road on Thursday, Dec. 5.

Stephen Coulter / Hearst

Horrendous traffic backups returned to Route 35 last week, with traffic slowed to less than a crawl — a dead stop, for extended periods — bringing back memories of the state bridge project that drove Ridgefielders crazy a couple of years ago.

The source of the tie-up was work going on at a new building under construction at 233 Danbury Road — on Route 35 across from the north end of the Fox Hill condominium complex.

Apparently, neither the builders nor state officials let the town know in advance what was going to be happening, which was alternating one-way traffic to accommodate construction in the highway.

“They don’t call and notify us of anything,” First Selectman Rudy Marconi said. “It would be nice if they did.“

Incredibly, the Ridgefield Police Department also appeared to be in the dark. Marconi said he’d heard part of the problem was that there was a three-car accident on Route 7 down near the Redding line by the Days Inn motel, causing Route 7 traffic to be diverted onto Route 35. When a reporter called the Ridgefield Police about this, he was told to call the Redding Police. At Thursday night’s Police Commission meeting, the traffic snarl was mentioned in passing by Chairwoman Marcie Coffin. The department’s two top leaders — Chief Jeff Kreitz and Major Stephen Brown — were both at the meeting. When a reporter asked about it after the meeting, both said they didn’t know anything about traffic being brought to a standstill earlier that day.

Maybe mind-numbing traffic snarls on Route 35 have become so routine that they don’t work their way up the chain of command. And no one is arguing that our police officials aren’t good, hardworking folks. But if all of Route 7’s traffic is being rerouted through the center of Ridgefield, that seems like something police department brass should be in on.

Wayne Addessi, a Main Street retailer and landlord, was outraged by the traffic problems and is attempting to organize village businesspeople to demand action — as he did in 2016, when he led lobbying that got the bridge work halted for December’s shopping season.

“There needs to be action taken and a coordinated one,” Addessi said last week. “A complete traffic overview, too, with a look outside of this area/region…”

He even suggested looking at how traffic is handled in Europe — where there are more roundabouts and few stop signs and stoplights.

First Selectman Marconi had what seemed like a good idea.

“We’re going to have to work with the state,” Marconi said, noting that work in a state highway like Route 35 requires a permit from the State Department of Transportation.

“With the amount of traffic on Route 35 that we experience every day, you can’t just go in the road and close it when you feel like it, because you got a permit,” Marconi said.

“...Even going to one-way traffic doesn’t work anymore. So either they’re going to come up with a way to accommodate two-way traffic, or do the work at night, when there’s the least amount of traffic.”

Doing work at night would cost the developers of whatever project needs the highways to be closed, or partially closed — workers would make overtime.

But given how busy highways like Route 35 and Route 7 are — and how vital traffic flow on them is to business in our region — requiring that work on major highways be done at night seems utterly sensible.

And it might go a way toward keeping Ridgefielders sane.