Trees come down in the name of safety on the Merritt Parkway
WESTPORT — As many residents have likely noticed, a significant project is underway on the Merritt Parkway to address what the state has deemed safety concerns.
“The number of accidents and the severity of those accidents had become a concern for the department,” state Department of Transportation Project Manager Mike Cherpak said.
“We were most concerned with the run-off-the-road accidents, with people hitting road-side objects, such as trees close to the road and things of that nature,” Cherpak said. “We wanted to make sure we upgraded the road-side guide-rail to help keep people on the roadway and not going down embankments or hitting off-the-road objects.”
“We’ve been moving segment by segment improving each section of the Merritt Parkway,” DOT Communications Director Kevin Nursick said, adding the project is funded 20 percent state funded and 80 percent Federally funded.
“This is the seventh in a series of nine corridor improvement projects,” Cherpak said. “We recently completed one down in Stamford and New Canaan and previously completed projects in Greenwich, Fairfield, Trumbull and Stratford.”
Cherpak noted the project was initiated by the DOT.
“It’s part of a corridor improvements and enhancements up and down the Merritt Parkway while also maintaining the parkway’s unique character and aesthetics because it is a historically significant roadway,” Cherpak said. “Once this project is done, 82 percent of the parkway will have been upgraded.”
The project is providing both safety and aesthetic enhancements, Cherpak said. Specific changes include a new guide-rail, new pavement, a concrete curb and gutter section and landscaping improvements, according to Cherpak.
Tree removals along the parkway have been especially striking to passers-by. “For the most part, those are trees that have passed their prime. They have some issues, whether they are diseased or they have some branches or trunks that have some issues,” Cherpak said. “They’re becoming a hazard to the roadway so we’re taking those out and replanting in accordance with the Merritt Parkway’s Landscape Master Plan.”
When asked whether he was concerned about trees falling on vehicles along the parkway as has occurred in past years, Cherpak responded, “That’s always a concern. It’s part of the reason our maintenance forces have gone out and taken a look at the trees within the corridor. It’s part of our projects.”