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Driving on I-95 a 'Nightmare' in Fairfield County

FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. — Yalitza Hall of Norwalk is among 150,000 commuters who drive on the Connecticut Turnpike through Fairfield County every day to get to and from work.

Like most of them, she's sick of it.

But, even after exhaustive research and multiple plans studied over decades, there's not much that can be done to solve the problem.

That's because of a lack of space and the prohibitive costs to widen I-95 from three to four lanes or construct an elevated section above the turnpike.

But Hall, as most commuters, is fed up with the morning and afternoon rush hour traffic, road construction, accidents and bottlenecks that make driving on the aging, three-lane highway a daily nightmare.

Ironically, when the turnpike was built in various stages between 1940-58, it was as a result of heavy traffic and bottlenecks clogging up Boston Post Road (Route1).

For Hall, the commute time to Greenwich to her 9-5 job varies. Friday morning it took about 40 minutes, but covering the same distance Thursday evening took 90 minutes. It's best to leave early.

"It's a lot of traffic, it depends on whether it's early morning," Hall said. "I think it's hitting the point if you leave (in the afternoon) before quarter to five, you're hitting a good time. If you leave after that, you're in trouble."

Commuting on the turnpike was so much trouble after a decade that by 2003 Greg Amy and his wife moved from Milford up to Middletown.

"I moved here from Texas in the 1990's and I couldn't believe how bad the traffic was, but put up with it because my wife was from Milford," said Amy, Connecticut chapter activist for the National Motor Association.

Amy likes his daily 20-minute commute from Middletown to Hartford a lot better than the 45-minutes or longer he used to drive to jobs in Fairfield County.

"That was a nightmare," said Amy. "The problem is too many cars and too few lanes, especially along that corridor into New York."

In fact, daily traffic flow through I-95 in Fairfield County – estimated at more than 150,000 vehicles per day, is by far the worst of any section along the 128-mile turnpike that stretches from the New York border entering Greenwich to the Rhode Island Border, officials said.

Only the first 88 miles of the turnpike is considered I-95. But that portion includes a 48-mile shoreline stretch between Greenwich and New Haven that is the most heavily urbanized section of the state.

Amy and Department of Transportation officials said solutions such as widening I-95 with more lanes, or building an elevated section above it are not practical or affordable.

"We have studied those ideas and others," said Kevin Nursick, spokesman for the state DOT. "The money it would take to condemn and obtain property to widen I-95 would be in the tens of millions of dollars, and an elevated highway could be in the billions."

Nursick said the state has been trying to help traffic flow more smoothly with construction of "speed change lanes," such as a long-awaited $93 million project at the heavily congested area between exits 14 and 15 in Norwalk scheduled to begin next spring.

"We have found this provides the best bang for the buck in alleviating bottlenecks and traffic in general," Nursick said. "The lanes help merging traffic move more efficiently on and off the turnpike."

But for commuters like Hall, things are going to "get worse" before they get better.

"I don't like that," she said. "My son goes to Stamford schools, so sometimes I take the Merritt (Parkway). But (then) the Merritt is going to get crowded, too."

Can you share you experiences driving on I-95? Leave a comment below.

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