From My Post Road Window / Nicholas Troilo

By political design

I often travel between Stamford and Darien. When I do, I most often take the city streets. No matter what my starting point in either direction, I find my way to West Avenue to go back and forth.

Occasionally, just occasionally, I might be at the Volvo dealership or visiting a friend in Shippan, I'll hop on I-95. Unless, of course, it is rush hour. I-95 during rush hour may be a tribute to the success now-Gov. Dan Malloy had as Mayor Malloy in developing Stamford -- but that success has led to I-95 being a road to avoid during morning and evening rush even when it means going 10 blocks out of your way.

When I do drive on I-95 between Stamford and Darien invariably, at some point, my thoughts turn to how poorly it was designed. Frequent accidents attest to that. Even with the new extra lanes the egress to the highway makes for natural congestion. I don't know why it was built that way.

More often than going between Stamford and Darien, I go between Darien and Norwalk. Using city streets to get from Darien to where I usually go in Norwalk -- an area on Main Street in East Norwalk, is a long way 'round.

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If it is rush hour, of course, taking the long way is quicker. I drive past Goodwives Shopping Center, turn onto Old Kings Highway North, check out conditions on I-95 as I cross and then continue on Flax Hill Road, Martin Luther King Boulevard and the north again towards I-95.

If it isn't rush hour, I-95 works. But I-95 doesn't work at Exit 15 where it meets up with the failed Route 7 extension. That's the exit most direct for my Norwalk destination.

To get where I am going, I first fight the traffic entering onto I-95 from the Exit 13 entrance ramp. As cars merge onto I-95, the lane fades. Traffic slows to prepare to exit for the contiguous exits 14 and 15.

The Exit 15 exit ramp becomes the entrance ramp to Route 7. But here is the challenge. I need to exit Route 7 at the first exit and I enter Route 7 from the left hand lane at the same time traffic exiting I-95 from the opposite direction enter Route 7 from the right hand lane. And we all learned the same rule in driving school: Enter a highway at highway speed.

I'd only been given about 200 hundred yards to cross three lanes of traffic -- left to right -- to make Exit 1 on Route 7. It's a daunting task. And I laugh every time I take the challenge.

I laugh? Yep. Every time I take the Route 7 Exit 1 from I-95 north Exit 15 challenge the same comic scene runs through my mind:

Commissioner of Roads of the Great State of Connecticut recruiting from MIT; visit with Dean. Commissioner enters. Shakes the Dean's hand. Dean points to chair. Commissioner sits.

Dean: What brings you to MIT today Commissioner?

Commissioner: We have several opens in the Great State of Connecticut Road Design Unit. I'm here to recruit MIT grads.

Dean: Wonderful. I can think of a number of excellent candidates from our Urban Engineering Department. I'll call Professor Guttenstein and tell him you are here. His office is just across the quad. Why don't you head over there now?

Commissioner: Thank you. I'll let you know what I find.

Commissioner exits. Dean watches him leave. Office door closes. Dean punches a few numbers into a phone.

Dean: Hey, Gutty. I got one for you. Remember those three kids you thought should be poli-sci or psych majors? I got an engineering opportunity for them. The Connecticut Road guy is headed your way. I know he'll take them.

Curtain down. Scene end. Back story: Dean of Engineering School used to work at Yale. Traveled I-95. Lived in East Norwalk. Used Exit 15 south and Route 7 Exit 1. Knows I-95 design wasn't done by engineers.

So I laugh thinking that maybe our roads were designed by grads who were better suited for psych or poli-sci. Maybe even English majors. And then I laugh again thinking that they couldn't be English majors. If English majors were doing design we would have signs that say Entrance 13 instead of Exit 13 where we enter a highway.

I laugh some more until "Oh crap! That SOB in the BMW almost sideswiped me." And I focus. And I try to be safe 'cause the road wasn't designed for with safety in mind. Entrances and exits on I-95 and Route 7 were designed with politics in mind. I think we're safe in thinking that.