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The Merritt Parkway is a limited-access parkway in Fairfield County, Connecticutmarker. The parkway is known for its scenic layout, its uniquely styled signage, and the architecturally elaborate overpasses along the route. It is designated as a National Scenic Byway and is also listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Signed as part of Route 15marker, it runs from the New Yorkmarker state line in Greenwichmarker, where it serves as the continuation of the Hutchinson River Parkway, to the Housatonic River in Stratfordmarker, where the Wilbur Cross Parkway begins.

Route description

The Parkway is one of a handful of United States highways listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It is acknowledged for the beauty of the forest that it passes through, as well as the architectural design of its overpasses; at the time of its construction, each bridge was decorated in a unique fashion so that no two bridges on the parkway looked alike. However, newer overpasses used by intersecting expressways did not maintain this tradition, and as a result the highway is now spanned by several ordinary modern bridges constructed using undecorated concrete on steel I-beam.

A bridge on the parkway.
The Parkway has two lanes in each direction. Due to its age, it was originally constructed without the merge-lanes, long on-ramps, and long off-ramps that are found on modern limited-access highways. Some entrances have perilously short and/or sharp ramps; some entrances even have stop signs, with no merge lane whatsoever; this leads to some dangerous entrances onto the highway. Most have since been modernized, with the interchange of Route 111marker in Trumbullmarker featuring Connecticutmarker's first single point urban interchange (SPUI). The speed limit on the parkway ranges from 45 to 55 mph (70 to 90 km/h). A section between Westportmarker and Fairfieldmarker is a stretch, roughly five and a half miles long without a single exit, referred to by local traffic reports as "The No Exit Zone" or "No Man's Land".

Vehicles over 2.5 meters (eight feet) in height, weighing more than 3,650 kilograms (four tons), towing a trailer, or containing more than four wheels are not allowed on the parkway. (Under extenuating circumstances, however, ConnDOT may issue permits for oversize vehicles to use the Parkway.)

History

The Merritt Parkway is one of the oldest parkways in the United Statesmarker; the section from Greenwich to Norwalkmarker opened on June 29, 1938, and the section from Norwalk to the Housatonic River opened in 1940. The parkway was named for U.S. Congressman Schuyler Merritt, who was instrumental in enacting legislation allowing the parkway to be built. The Merritt Parkway is the first leg of what would later become the modern Route 15. Built between 1934 and 1940, the Merritt runs for from the New York state line in Greenwich to the Housatonic River in Stratford. It was conceived as a way to alleviate congestion on the Boston Post Road (U.S. Route 1) in Fairfield County. Four service stations, now containing Mobil gas stations and convenience stores, were also built along the parkway, so that drivers would not have to exit the parkway to refuel.

Tree canopy over the Merritt, and grassy median
The western section of the parkway opened on June 29, 1938. It was not uncommon for families to picnic in the grassy areas between the northbound and southbound lanes. In fact, vestiges of old picnic areas can still be seen along the highway.

To ease objections from county residents who feared an influx of New Yorkers on their roads, in their towns, on their beaches and through their forests, highway planners called on engineers, landscape architects and architects to create a safe and aesthetically pleasing limited access highway - one with exit and entrance ramps, but no intersections - that would not spoil the countryside.

The bridges played a prominent role in the design. Architect George L. Dunkelberger designed them all. They reflected the popularity of the Art Deco style, with touches of neo-classical and modern design.Some of these bridges were constructed by the Works Progress Administration.

Toll booth 1955
Tolls were collected on the parkway at one toll plaza in Greenwichmarker from June 21 1939 until June 27 1988. However, two additional tolls were also located on the Wilbur Cross Parkway, in Milfordmarker and Wallingfordmarker. One of the parkway's former toll plazas is now preserved in Stratford'smarker Boothe Memorial Park (name purely coincidental), near Exit 53, complete with still-flashing lights over each toll lane.

In April 2001, a complete reissuance of the parkway's signs was carried out, creating a uniform white-on-green and sawtooth border.

Safety of the parkway

In 2007, after complaints were voiced about the danger of the trees along the parkway, state officials announced they would more aggressively trim and eliminate some of them. A large, seemingly healthy tree fell on a car near Exit 42 in Westportmarker in June 2007, killing a couple from Pelham, New York. A state study of fatalities on Connecticut highways showed that from 1985 to 1992, about ten people died every three years in tree-related accidents, although no other state roadway averaged more than one in three years. The state Department of Transportation commonly sends out work crews twice a year to drive along both sides of the parkway at in search of decrepit trees. Trees that had been scheduled to be cut down in five or ten years would be removed sooner. Some more trees also would be removed, as the shoulder of the parkway is being widened to eight feet in order to give drivers room to pull over.

The state has a Merritt Parkway Advisory Committee which meets quarterly.

Welcome sign in Greenwich

The Merritt Parkway in popular culture

  • The parkway is briefly mentioned (incorrectly, at first, as the "Merrick Parkway," until another character corrects the name) in Uncle Wiggly in Connecticut, a short story by J.D. Salinger included in the Nine Stories compilation.
  • Willem de Kooning painted a large oil canvas titled "Merritt Parkway" in 1959. It is owned by the Detroit Institute of Artsmarker.
  • Richard Shindell wrote an instrumental piece entitled "Merritt Parkway, 2 AM." The song can be found on his album, Somewhere Near Patersonmarker, which was released in 2000.
  • The parkway can be seen very briefly in the remake of the movie The Stepford Wives as well as in the 1995 film Die Hard: With a Vengeance.
  • The parkway was mentioned briefly by Rob Lowe's character, Sam on the television series "The West Wing."
  • One of Denise Levertov's poems is about the parkway.
  • "The Road Taken...The Merritt Parkway" 2008 documentary film by Lisa Seidenberg


Exit list

Town Exit # Mile Destinations Notes
Merritt Parkway ends at New York state line - Road continues as the Hutchinson River Parkway
Greenwichmarker 27 0.0 New York State Route 120A (King Street) — Armonkmarker Double exit; Signed as Exit 30 on approach from New York (Connecticut did not update its exit numbers when New York added exits).
service station (both sides) Connecticut Information Center (northbound side only)
28 3.5 Round Hill Road
29 4.7 Lake Avenue
31 5.6 North Street To Greenwich business district
Stamfordmarker 33 8.9 Den Road
34 9.5 Route 104 (Long Ridge Road) To downtown Stamford and University of Connecticutmarker (Stamford campus).
35 10.7 Route 137 (High Ridge Road)
New Canaanmarker 36 13.2 Route 106 (Old Stamford Road)
37 14.1 Route 124 — New Canaan, Darienmarker
service station (both sides)
Norwalkmarker 38 15.9 Route 123 (New Canaan Avenue) To Norwalk Community College.
39 17.3 U.S. Route 7 — Norwalk, Danburymarker Northbound exit only.
Split into 39A and 39B.
40 17.6 Main Street to US 7 Split into 40A and 40B.
Unsigned SR 719.
Westportmarker 41 20.6 Route 33 — Westport, Wiltonmarker
42 21.6 Route 57 — Westport, Westonmarker
Fairfieldmarker 44 27.0 Route 58 — Fairfield, Reddingmarker To Fairfield business district and Fairfield Universitymarker.
service station (both sides)
46 28.5 Route 59 — Fairfield, Eastonmarker
Trumbullmarker 47 29.2 Park Avenue To University of Bridgeportmarker, Sacred Heart Universitymarker.
48 30.6 Route 111marker (Main Street) Single Point Urban Interchange
49 32.2 Route 25markerBridgeportmarker, Danburymarker Split northbound into 49N and 49S. Access to southbound Route 25 from northbound only.
50 32.8 Route 127 — Trumbull Southbound exit only.
51 33.7 Route 108 (Nichols Avenue) Northbound exit only.
52 34.1 Route 8marker — Bridgeport, Waterburymarker Also signed southbound for Route 108.
Stratfordmarker 53 36.9 Route 110 — Stratford, Sheltonmarker
Stratford/Milford line 37.5 Merritt Parkway ends - road continues as the Wilbur Cross Parkway
Igor I.marker

Sikorsky Memorial Bridgemarker (Housatonic River crossing)


Image:Merritt Parkway (west segment).jpg|Map (west segment)Image:Merritt Parkway (east segment).jpg|Map (east segment)File:TalmadgeHillStationBridgeOverMerrittPkwy2007.jpg|Tallmadge Hill Metro-North station over the Parkway in New Canaan

See also



References

  1. Ginocchio, Mark, "Merritt trees to face the ax", news article in The Advocate of Stamford, Connecticut, July 27, 2007, Norwalk edition, pp 1, A4


External links




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