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Tackling Unsafe Traffic Conditions in Stepney Center

The Connecticut Department of Transportation is working with town leaders to resolve problems at the Route 25 intersections at Green and Pepper streets.

When congestion at Stepney center is at its worst, a number of drivers seek alternate routes to get through the bottleneck, whether its cutting across oncoming traffic on Main Street while veering left to where Pepper Street runs by the cemetery, merging onto Route 25 in the opposite direction — or even driving over the grass of the historic green to pass lines waiting to enter 25 from Pepper and Green streets.

"Another thing people do is cut across the pizza parlor parking lot," Planning & Zoning Commissioner Karen Martin said, mentioning Country Pizza at the corner of Green and Main streets. "They get impatient."

Commissioner William Porter has often seen cars cut across four lanes of traffic to enter the shopping center where Rite-Aid pharmacy is.

Town officials are working with the Connecticut Department of Transportation to find a safer solution to the problem as the DOT continues to embark on intersection improvement projects along the state highway of Route 25 (Main Street).

The Planning & Zoning Commission discussed several options at its meeting Thursday. The issue will come up again in March and action is anticipated in either April or May.

According to P&Z Chairman Richard Zini, part of the state plan is to add a traffic light at the intersection of Green and Main streets, a place where drivers sometimes cut over the green to get past lines of vehicles waiting to make a left onto Route 25.

Town Engineer Scott Schatzlein presented several options for the P&Z to consider. All involved the extension of Pepper Street that is often used an alternate route around Stepney Green.

Zini said First Selectman Steve Vavrek, Police Chief John Salvatore and the Public Works Department have been involved in the planning, adding any road closures must be approved by the Town Council.

"I believe the commission was leaning toward having Pepper Street closed off," Schatzlein said. "I came up with a couple of options."

One potential solution is to discourage people from using it by adding a traffic table (a long ramp drivers must slow down to go over), putting in textured pavement and adding landscaping on either side so it feels confined and will slow people down.

"The police chief did not like the introduction of a speed table," Schatzlein said. "It's not used anywhere else in town and there are safety issues."

When a vehicle goes over a speed table too fast, Schatzlein said it could go airborne.

If the town opts to close off one end of Pepper Street, Schatzlein said there must be a way for vehicles to turn around. A cul-de-sac is the usual solution, but Schatzlein said that would cut into Stepney Green.

One alternative is to have a paved area along the green with shrubbery around it, which vehicles can pull into to turn around, Schatzlein said.

Another way is to install plastic cylinders or concrete open blocks and plant grass in it.

"I tried to find a way to save the aesthetic side of things for the green itself," Schatzlein said.

Another option is to make the stretch of Pepper Street that passes the cemetery one-way, only allowing traffic heading north to merge onto Main Street.

"Police and Public Works thought this was more appropriate," Schatzlein said.

"The chief of police is an expert," P&Z Commissioner Pat O’Hara said. "I'd follow his lead and go with plan number one."

Cathy Lindstrom, a commission alternate, also agreed on the option of making Pepper Street a one-way road.

If the town makes Pepper Street one-way, Schatzlein said it could always see how it works and consider adding textured pavement or a speed table at a later date if there are still problems.

Why Keep it Open?

Schatzlein said closing Pepper Street by Stepney Green impacts snow removal, the response of safety vehicles and school buses.

Police want the roadway to be open, because it is often used as a detour when there is an accident on Main Street, Schatzlein added.

Commissioner William Porter said, "My preference would be to close the street. But if we have to have a turnaround cutting into the green, that's unacceptable."

"That road should really be closed," said Lee Hossler, a Stepney resident whose granddaughter was in the car during an accident at that part of Main Street.

Joel Leneker, a Stepney resident, asked if ballards, which could be removed by police, firefighters and EMS personnel, could be placed at one end of Pepper Street. He also suggested granite posts or fencing on the green to discourage people from driving over the grass.

Mary Orsillo, a member of the Save Our Stepney Task Force along with Hossler and Leneker, is concerned over anymore loss of the green.

"It seems to have been chopped away and chopped away," she said. "We have to consider the community and aesthetic asset of Stepney Green. I'm concerned with anything that would impact the green. I also agree that the road is unsafe now and something needs to be done."

Zini said it is the P&Z Commission's goal for any solution to preserve Stepney Green. He said the commission "put its foot down" when the state tried to say it had no money to re-landscape the corners of the green.

Ronald Bunovsky, a Monroe resident of 40 years, asked the commission to hold off on adopting any solutions now. Rather, he prefers to wait and see how the new traffic light to be installed at the intersection of Green and Pepper streets affects traffic, before making any changes.

"Sit back and relax," Bunovsky said. "Give it time and see what happens."

Gerald M. Gaynor February 20, 2012 at 12:39 PM
It’s interesting to see how many bad half "solutions" a group of people can come up with to "solve" problems created by failing, twenty years ago, to make Route 25 a four lane road...
Carol Banner February 20, 2012 at 01:50 PM
Very informative article, Bill. Good job. Mr. Gaynor, Route 25 is what it is. To complain of past perceived mistakes is irrelevant. I would like to know how you would solve the current problem. What is your plan to save Stepney Green and make the area more motorist friendly? We need to work together to solve the problem. - Carol Banner, www.EyeOnMonroe.com
Forma Bosse February 20, 2012 at 03:12 PM
No mention was made of people who use the Pepper Street side of the green, and then expect to make a left turn onto Route 59, cutting across two lanes of traffic. Talk about safety! Or they go around the Higgins Real Estate building through a parking lot in order to make the turn onto Stepney Road. I think keeping that portion one-way and only allowing right turns would be fine. Otherwise it should be closed off as originally announced several months ago. The problem causing all this is the lack of a left turn lane on Green Street by Country Pizza. If a light were installed, there would be ample opportunity to make the left hand turn. I don't know why the town decided to keep Brook Street one way. That would certainly alleviate the amount of cars needing to go the extra distance just to make the turn at the light.
Jenna February 20, 2012 at 03:26 PM
Brook Street should be one way. First off it's to narrow of a road, and second when you cut through Brook Street to turn South onto Rt.25 you can't see the cars traveling south. It causes way to many accidents
Steve Kirsch February 20, 2012 at 03:35 PM
I went to a number of meetings on all the these Route 25 changes a while back and thought the decision to close off the section of Pepper St was decided way back then. I'm surprised that it is still an issue. I'm even more surprised that an actual solution was not determined during all the years of construction delays.
Jenna February 20, 2012 at 03:38 PM
I can understand turing Pepper Street into a one way road next to the green out of all the options they seem to have come up with these seems like the most intelligent one; but they need to fix the problem of cars cutting through to turn left onto 59. Making the road seem more narrow by placing shrubs will do absolutely nothing. I don't know why anybody would ever think that would work. Cars already go flying up and down roads in this town that are narrow, it won't stop them from doing it on Pepper Street. The biggest issue with safety in this area is the issue of turing left off of Green Street, and people trying to turn out of Dr.Mike's driveway (not by the light). There needs to be a left turn lane on Green Street, lets face it everybody makes one themselves now anyway; and there needs to be a system in place for cars to actually have time to turn. I would hate to see another light on Rt.25 but either that or a three way stop needs to be put in at the intersection. Perhaps even a two way stop (I have seen quite a few in other towns) Put a stop sign on Rt.25 next to country pizza for cars traveling North, keep traffic flowing South, this way cars don't back up underneath the light for needing to stop at a stop sign. This gives the cars on Green Street the Chance to turn left when there is no traffic coming South and the cars traveling North need to stop.
Jenna February 20, 2012 at 03:49 PM
As for Dr.Mike's the driveway that is not at the light needs to clearly be marked ENTRANCE ONLY. It is way to dangerous to try and turn out of that parking lot without using the light. Just two nights ago I stopped next to the driveway, my light had just turned red; There were cars on Rt.59 turning left and right, and there was a car coming out of the plaza where the light is going straight. Another person who was trying to pull out of the plaza where there is no light saw mine turn red and turned right! Which to me if you're pulling out under a light which you can see is red, then you're blowing a red light. They then continued to go straight while cars from Rt.59 were trying to turn left and the car coming out of the plaza at the light was trying to go straight. The person who turned when they saw my red light almost caused a HUGE accident but luckily slammed on their brakes in enough time. I've seen this happen countless times and that is another traffic issue that needs to be addressed. Especially because it is directly in the middle of one of the most common intersections in town where accidents occur.
JOHN February 20, 2012 at 04:46 PM
DIDN'T THEY JUST SPEND ALL THAT MONEY OVER THE PAST YEAR TO FIX THAT PROBLEM? WHAT WAS THE POINT OF ALL THAT CONSTRUCTION OVER THERE?
jim laguardia February 20, 2012 at 05:35 PM
this is a joke right?? the only thing that i can see they improved on was lowering the hill... as a matter of fact they painted a double yellow line on rte 59 where people are supposed to turn left out of the rite aid parking lot (which would make it an illegal turn)..... they made things worse with all the work they have done!!!
Christine E. February 20, 2012 at 05:38 PM
Carol, I have to disagree with you. Mr. Gaynor has a great point. Take a look at Rt. 7 through Wilton, Ridgefield and Danbury as a great example as to what decades of not allowing expansion can do. As population and commuting increases, how can anyone expect roadways built to sustain less motorists to still be feasible?
Christine E. February 20, 2012 at 05:41 PM
Additionally, a good portion of the problems with the Dr. Mike's parking lot is that motorists are oblivious as to who has right-of-way. Just because your light turned green, doesn't make it your turn. I can't stand that.
JOHN February 20, 2012 at 05:44 PM
MILLIONS TO LOWER A HILL FOR NO GOOD REASON BUT DID NOT FIX THE TRAFFIC PROBLEM. WHEN ARE WE ALL GOING TO WAKE UP?
Jenna February 20, 2012 at 08:37 PM
I have to disagree but to each their own. I find that the cars coming off of Rt.59 seem to have a bigger problem knowing who has the right of way. If a car is coming out of the plaza with a green light they have the right of way to go straight and the right of way to turn right and I find the most of the cars coming off of Rt.59 feel like they have they don't have to stop for the car coming out of the plaza. Most of the cars turing left off of Rt.59 barrel through the intersection like that don't have to stop for the person who is coming out of the plaza but they do have to stop if that person is going straight or turing right. No matter where you are if you're light turns green and you're going straight or you're turing right you have the right of way.
Christine E. February 20, 2012 at 09:16 PM
I was talking about the intersection as a whole - it goes both ways, Jenna. I'm very much aware of how right-of-way works, but thanks for the clarification.
jim laguardia February 20, 2012 at 09:20 PM
Jenna i am probably wrong but i think i remember from when i took my driving test ( a long long time ago) that any car coming out of a parking lot has to yield to a car on a roadway
Christine E. February 20, 2012 at 09:21 PM
Jim, I believe that only applies if the parking lot does not have a traffic signal.
Richard Riedel February 20, 2012 at 09:53 PM
I sincerely hope that if DOT is going to put in a light at Green Street that they at least synchronize it with the light at the rt 59 intersection so that both are green at the same time which would improve the flow on 25. In fact, if lights were synchronized from the end of the highway all the way, it would improve the flow of traffic immensely. Unfortunately, in this state the DOT seems to care little about this and lights are put all over with no thought on what the ramifications are for traffic. We seem to be in the 19th century with regard to this.
john roberge February 20, 2012 at 11:07 PM
Where is our great Repupulican leadership? I guess Hovey and Vavrek don't drive? This town is a mess and it's only getting worse! Anybody concerned about blasting, dirt and dust on Cambridge Drive? What a disgrace!!! Fire Marshall says he can't do anything about it, or won't!
Jenna February 20, 2012 at 11:19 PM
You're correct Christine it does go both ways and fyi I wasn't stating that you didn't know how right of way worked. I was simply trying to clarify what I was saying because god knows that if I didn't, my throat would have been jumped down for someone thinking that I was stating a car turning left had the right of way. Also just because you know how right of way works, doesn't meant that everyone else does, which based on your first comment about motorists being oblivious, you should know. Perhaps instead of thinking I was trying to clarify it for you, maybe you should realize that there are other people on here who might read my comment and misunderstand what I wrote if I didn't state why I feel that the people on Rt. 59 have a bigger problem yielding right of way. Sometimes you need to paint a picture for people to know what you're saying.
Christine E. February 21, 2012 at 01:09 AM
Yes Jenna, you certainly do a great job with painting pictures...
John F. February 21, 2012 at 05:05 AM
Speaking of the lights not being synchronized, does anyone else find it odd that those traveling north on Rt 25 get the green light first at the Spring Hill Road light? They have no left turn lane like the southbound lane, yet they get the green light?
jim laguardia February 21, 2012 at 01:13 PM
John f i have noticed that and wondered the same thing but then wondered what kind of headache it would cause if they tried to fix it... better the evil you know??
John F. February 21, 2012 at 02:51 PM
It is dumb and just slows down the flow of southbound traffic. Why not just have them both change at the same time?
Forma Bosse February 22, 2012 at 11:02 PM
The Dr. Mike's traffic light issue could be solved by sequencing the light so that it is green for only one direction at a time. Although I hate any solution that delays a light any more than it has to, because people coming out of that lot are few and far between compared to those making the left from Route 59, you're not used to having to yield to them. A trip could be installed to only rotate to green for that position if a car was actually there.
Christine E. February 22, 2012 at 11:11 PM
How much of a headache is it to change it? There's no purpose to having the Northbound lane go 10 seconds before Southbound when there is no possible left turn. Southbound, however, has a left turn lane and no opportunity to make that turn without having to wait for traffic. Whomever set it up set it up backwards, in my opinion.
Jenna February 23, 2012 at 01:03 AM
Not being used to yielding right of way at that location doesn't negate the fact that you do have to yield. Yielding the right of way is driving 101, if you don't yield during your driving test you fail. It's basic knowledge to know who has the right of way at a light and if you don't you shouldn't be driving. Not being used to other cars there isn't an excuse.
jim laguardia February 23, 2012 at 02:56 AM
the headache would be if they tried to fix it like they tried to fix the 59/25 intersection....
Paul G. Littlefield February 24, 2012 at 12:18 AM
For all the years that I have lived in CT, I have found the DOT's reputation to be very poor in road/hiway design. My question is the same as John's-what in the world was the purpose of spending the millions and only compounding the problem? I used to travel through that intersection multiple times a day. But, since the economic downturn put my small service business out of business, I guess it's an unintended blessing that it has been 3 years since I have had the daily aggravation. I miss going to the Rustic Grill.
Oldblooeyz March 08, 2012 at 04:49 AM
Residents in Stepney are complaining, AGAIN!? Hard to believe. Both 25 and 111 should be at least 4 lanes everywhere. The lights aren't timed correctly on either road. Bad drivers compound problems

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