Trying to unravel traffic light tangle around Whole Foods
Donna Story was loading groceries into her car in the parking lot of the new Whole Foods Market on Thursday morning. She loves the store, she said, but finds the network of traffic signals that have popped up at the Kings Highway East and Grasmere Avenue intersections frustrating.
"Sometimes the traffic backs up almost to Bed Bath & Beyond" on Kings Highway East, she said.
Story's complaint is not unfamiliar since the signals were activated several weeks ago, so a group of officials from the state and the town met Thursday at the corner by the large gray control box to see what kind of adjustments might be done.
There haven't been any accidents at the intersections, police Lt. James Perez said, but officials have gotten "tons and tons of complaints," he said. The new traffic lights and the sometimes lengthy wait they create for motorists was an issue that was raised a recent gathering of the Old Post Road Association, Perez said.
"This is not just a neighborhood issue," he said. "This is a town issue."
Don Halberg, from Marlin Controls, the firm that installed the traffic signals, opened the door to the control box. The engineers, he said, based calculations for the signalization on the information available at the time. "I think, with the closeness of the intersections, it was a problem to try and coordinate."
With a bit of tweaking, officials think they have settled on the right formula -- at least until the Fairfield Metro Railroad Station opens this fall off Kings Highway East and Black Rock Turnpike.
"There really is an adjustment period," said Joseph Ouellette, a supervising engineer with the state Department of Transportation, once engineering plans are implemented in the field. "We do things like this many, many times."
The traffic lights, Ouellette said, are controlled by the town, but "we're here to assist in any way we can."
After Halberg made some adjustments Thursday, Town Engineer William Hurley and Police Commission Chairman Arthur Hersh took a walk over the Grasmere Avenue bridge to see if traffic queues on the other side were any shorter. They came back satisfied.
"What we've seen is it's more efficient," Hurley said. "When the train station opens up, we'll look at it again."
What motorists have to remember, Hurley said, is now that there are traffic lights at the intersections in the immediate area, they're not going to get through as quickly.
But Ouellette said if they realize that now they won't be waiting as long at the traffic signals, perhaps they won't drive as aggressively to try to "beat the light."
Hurley and Perez were also concerned that motorists coming over the bridge from the Grasmere neighborhood and heading toward Whole Foods and Home Depot may not realize they need to shift over, because there is a new a left-turn lane in the opposite direction from Grasmere onto Kings Highway East.
Hurley suggested painting a dashed-yellow line over the span to guide motorists, an idea Ouellette said the state would support.
"This is a great example of several different entities collaborating to address an issue," Perez said.