Collision course? Wrong-way traffic is common on busy downtown street
Updated 3:38 pm, Friday, May 3, 2013
In the span of just about one hour on a recent Friday, six motorists drove down Miller Street -- a short, one-way street downtown -- the wrong way for most its length.
It's a violation of the red-and-white "Do Not Enter" traffic warnings posted for about two-thirds the length of the busy street that runs from the Post Road to Carter Henry Drive, the street that flanks the eastbound depot of the Fairfield Railroad Station.
Miller Street is one-way north from the Post Road toward the depot, until 55 Degrees restaurant. At that point, it becomes a two-way street for a short distance, and that, apparently is where many drivers turning down Miller from Carter Henry Drive get confused.
Drivers entering Miller Street from the Carter Henry end are supposed to turn left into a pass-through that serves as an entrance into a parking area for employees of downtown businesses.
One problem, however, is that the pass-through lane is usually blocked by illegally parked cars.
Drivers who realize their mistake often pull into the nearest business parking lot and turn around.
Others apparently never quite notice they are driving the wrong way, even when they drive all the way out to the Post Road intersection.
Some, of course, appear to be well aware that they are driving wrong way, but apparently find it quicker than circling the block or dealing with Post Road traffic to get to the parking lot of the Colony Grill restaurant or the lot shared by the Pantry and 55 Degrees.
Knowingly or unknowing, those wrong-way drivers are all breaking the law and posing dangers to vehicles headed the right way on Miller Street, according to police Lt. James Perez.
In 2011, Perez proposed a traffic-control plan for the area that he felt would help relieve problems on Carter Henry Drive, increase parking and improve safety.
His proposal included making Sanford Street one-way heading south to the Post Road, from Carter Henry, and creating a drop-off lane on Carter Henry to ease congestion caused by people waiting for rail passengers.
A large parking lot island and tree would be removed to replace parking spaces taken by the drop-off lane, under the Perez plan.
Miller could then be designated one-way northbound for its entire length, Perez said, and the pass-through lane would formally be set aside as parking instead of its currently illegal -- but frequent -- use for that purpose.
Perez said the existing set-up is hazardous for motorists and pedestrians.
The proposal, however, failed to win approval from the Police Commission.
Chief Gary MacNamara said the Police Department still plans to pursue plans to improve traffic flow and safety on the eastbound side of the railroad station.
He said plans were put on hold when it was learned that the state Department of Transportation may own some of the property involved in the proposal.
"It became much more of a complicated issue," MacNamara said, "but it is our intent to have the Police Commission look at the whole area to make it a little more easier to maneuver."
In the meantime, MacNamara said the department's traffic-enforcement unit will look at the issue of wrong-way drivers and the illegal parking. He said one temporary solution would be better markings to keep the pass-through lane to the parking lot open.
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