In the Suburbs / Traffic-pattern tapestry rolled out
Several months ago, stop lights began popping up like weeds around the new Metro train station -- in the traffic circle around the I-95 exit to Kings Highway East; near the intersection of Grasmere and Kings Highway Cutoff; near the new Whole Foods Market along the Metro North tracks.
I couldn't wait for these lights to go live so that trips from my house on Brooklawn Avenue to Fairfield Center would be less hassled.
I considered these lights the blinking beacons of an easy passage through the area around the station and Whole Foods, which just opened last week. Overnight, I thought, this section of Fairfield is going to receive the holy grail of improved traffic flow.
Instead, a few weeks ago I received my first shock about how these new lights were really going to work as I traveled home from my job at the Fairfield Museum and down my little shortcut-street just off the Post Road across from the Fairfield Motor Inn.
For years, this was a favorite route from one side of town to the other because there were no lights (only stop signs). And most of the time, there was light traffic, no matter what time of day.
That day, I was cruising along this little cutoff that runs diagonally toward Grasmere Avenue, expecting to find the blinking light. But the lights had gone live and now were part of the green-yellow-red cycle. I found myself behind seven cars waiting for a very long light to change.
The wait seemed endless. Impatient drivers were turning around. This was supposed to be a better traffic pattern. I don't think so.
I discovered there was also a bit of a jam on the Grasmere railroad bridge until the next light changed, and I turned right onto Kings Highway Cutoff and past Whole Foods. The rest of the trip was pretty easy, but after experiencing that first nightmare a few times, I changed my traffic pattern completely: Now I take Fairfield Avenue all the way to Grasmere and turn left. It has definitely speeded things up. So, one lesson learned.
I have also tried the new lights at Kings Highway East and Black Rock Turnpike; they are easing the flow onto I-95 South and into the traffic circle at Exit 24. Those lights are actually making things pretty easy. Just by eliminating that cumbersome stop sign at the intersection of Black Rock Turnpike and King's Highway, our wise town planners have improved access to the traffic circle and to I-95.
In the morning, I've had mixed feelings about the traffic light at the corner of Commerce Drive and Kings Highway Cutoff, just past the shell of the old Fitness Edge. I've learned quickly that the time at which you the intersection can make all the difference. If I reach that light at 6, the traffic line is pretty short. By 6:15, the line has generally increased by at least three cars. Go figure.
More importantly, this summer is going to be a dress rehearsal for the grand opening of the new Metro Station sometime this fall. I know that traffic will immediately become an even bigger nightmare on our side of town.
With nearly 1,500 cars filling the lot on the far side of the station, beginning to roll in as early as 5 a.m. every weekday morning, my quiet route to the Circle Diner and points like the Museum and Ludlowe High School where I often sub, will be gone. Right now, using the new lights as a guide, I'm experimenting with different routes to both places.
Given that 6:30 any morning is no good for I-95 south, I have been taking Dewey Avenue right off Brooklawn until it ends at Commerce, turning left onto Commerce Drive and making a sharp right onto Fairfield Avenue. Traffic flow is usually very good and, despite the fact that there are more lights, I've never been in a traffic jam.
At times, I've taken Kings Highway East to Chambers, where the Cumberland Farms is, and over to Commerce then made a left turn on Brewster and over to Fairfield Avenue. But with another entrance to the new train parking lot right across from the Fairfield Cinemas, that route is quickly going to bite the dust, I'm sure.
What I'm learning about this evolving traffic system, and I've seen it already with opening day at Whole Foods last week, is to be careful what you wish for.
That evening, I decided to shift my route over to Kings Highway to avoid jams on my usual cutoffs and Grasmere Avenue and ended up turning right on Grasmere, left into the Home Depot lot and maneuvering easily into the back lot of Whole Foods. What a stroke of genius, I told myself.
So get ready Fairfielders for the explosion of traffic down by the station. This summer is really a dress rehearsal for all of us non-commuters to find our best routes around the station. And wait until the first snow -- but I'm getting way ahead of myself. That's a whole other column.
Steven Gaynes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.