Cutting Sandy-Damaged Trees On Merritt Slows Traffic

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Connecticut Department of Transportation crews are clearing dead or dangerous trees from the Merritt Parkway. Many of the trees became dangerous after Hurricane Sandy and other storms.

FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. – If you have noticed traffic tied up on the Merritt Parkway at times that it usually flows freely, there’s good reason for that. Connecticut Department of Transportation crews are taking down trees damaged in Hurricane Sandy and other storms. 

“Some are or will pose a safety threat,” DOT spokesman Kevin Nursick said. “They may not pose a threat today. But somewhere down the road – no pun intended – they will because they were compromised.”

Crews are working on the northbound side of the 37-mile parkway in the mornings and switching to the southbound side in the late mornings and early afternoons, Nursick said. Much of the work is being done in New Canaan and near Westport and will start in the Greenwich area next month, he said.

The trees, dead or heavily damaged after Hurricane Sandy, have become hazards that could cause traffic backups – or worse, fall on cars. The Merritt has the most problems with trees of any of the state’s limited access highways after the storm, Nursick said.

The tree cutting cannot be done during the evening, he said. So traffic is narrowed to one lane, causing backups for as far as 2 miles, Nurisick said. Although traffic tie-ups can be annoying for motorists, Nursick said the work has to be done. Hundreds of trees were damaged or ended up in precarious positions over the road after Hurricane Sandy. Many trees were also felled or became more dangerous after Hurricane Irene in August 2011 and the freak snowstorm in October 2011.

“If someone is 10 minutes late and they get there in one piece, I’ll be glad to have them mad at us then,” Nursick said. “We’re taking care of a safety concern. If you get there safely but in some cases a little late, it’s a reasonable tradeoff.”

Many motorists have been supportive of the tree-cutting efforts, even if may not love being stuck behind other motorists for as much as 20 minutes, he said.

The cut trees will either be chipped and spread back onto the road sides or collected to be sold at wholesale to companies to make mulch, Nursick said.

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