A Google Earth view of the busy — and often tied up — intersection of Post Road East with Myrtle Avenue/Imperial Avenue. Post Road East runs from left to right in the image, with Myrtle Avenue at center below and Imperial Avenue at center above.
The ever-present line of vehicles waiting to turn left from Myrtle Avenue onto Post Road East. / Photo by Thane Grauel

By Gretchen Webster

WESTPORT — Town officials want state traffic engineers to change the timing for the traffic signal at the Myrtle Avenue/Imperial Avenue intersection with Post Road East, often the site of downtown traffic bottlenecks.

Although the requested change would give motorists only a few extra seconds to make a left turn from Myrtle Avenue onto busy Post Road East, local officials believe it could make a big difference in traffic problems at that intersection.

Often, cars waiting to turn left onto Post Road East from Myrtle Avenue back up along Myrtle Avenue, sometimes stretching as far back as Avery Place or even Town Hall, Cpl. Alan D’Amura, the police public safety officer, told the Board of Selectwomen on Wednesday.

“The problem that I continuously see … when the vehicles are going to the left lane, they block the traffic that is trying to go straight or into the right lane,” he said. 

The left-turn traffic signal currently gives drivers seven seconds to make the turn onto Post Road East from Myrtle Avenue. By adding three seconds, about three to five more vehicles will be able to make that turn before the left-turn signal turns red, D’Amura said.

Those few seconds would help ease the traffic congestion at the intersection, he said.

Selectwoman Andrea Moore agreed. “I live in that neighborhood so I’m very aware of the backup,” she said.

D’Amura said that he hopes the State Traffic Administration will grant the town’s request to lengthen the left-turn green signal, but it is not guaranteed. No matter the decision, the town’s request will result in a full study of the intersection beforehand, D’Amura said.

He added that he believes the state shortened the time the signal allowed for a left turn there in the past few years, but never notified the town. 

“I thought it was longer,” he said “Now that I’ve been looking at it over the past few weeks, I think it is less.”

Selectwoman Candice Savin asked if the change being requested might affect traffic flow at other sides of the intersection, such as motorists turning right or left onto the Post Road from Imperial Avenue.

“I want to make sure that [a longer left-turn signal from Myrtle] doesn’t impact other parts of the intersection,” Savin said. “The state might have changed it to improve the flow on the Post Road — it’s a push-and-pull situation.”

The intersection is one of the problem traffic spots that residents identified in neighborhood traffic meetings organized last year by First Selectwoman Jennifer Tooker. (Read related stories on the meetings’ findings and the latest update.) 

Tooker said the traffic light request by the town to the state shows local officials are being responsive to Westporters’ concerns.

“This is just another great example of how we are listening to residents … this continues to be a lifestyle issue,” she said.

The selectwomen voted unanimously to request that the state lengthen the left-turn signal at the intersection.

Sal Liccione, a Representative Town Meeting member from District 9, thanked the selectwomen and D’Amura for responding to his constituents’ concerns.

Freelance writer Gretchen Webster, a Fairfield County journalist and journalism teacher for many years, was editor of the Fairfield Minuteman newspaper for 10 years and teaches journalism at Southern Connecticut State University.