Connecticut to look again at truck ban on Route 136

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Connecticut’s State Traffic Commission reportedly has decided to re-examine a request to ban through trucks on Route 136 in Darien after impassioned pleas from local residents and officials during a hearing. The commission turned down the request earlier this year, but the denial irritated Rowayton and Darien residents, who formed a group called Stop Thru Trucks to appeal the decision.

“I didn’t expect the passion and the concerns – and there are some legitimate concerns here,” Anthony Portanova, DMV deputy commissioner and a member of the four-person panel, told the Stamford Advocate. The commission is expected decide on the prohibition at its Dec. 19 meeting.

Portanova suggested that instead of rendering a decision at the Tuesday, Nov. 21 hearing, the panel should conduct more comprehensive traffic studies, paying attention to the size and frequency of the vehicles. Residents have complained trucks are getting bigger and more numerous, and pose a safety hazard to pedestrians trying to cross the narrow state road.

In denying the request for a through-truck prohibition in September, the commission had noted a low number of truck-related accidents. It also stated that the through-truck ban would create an unsafe situation by forcing vehicles to turn around if signs were posted at the Darien line. However, Norwalk officials said they would post notifications of the ban well before Darien on Route 136, and speak with representatives of the trucking companies.

Because through trucks do not originate or have business in a particular town, posting the ban in Darien would stop drivers from using Route 136 as a shortcut to Interstate 95, advocates said. Those who spoke also referred to a court agreement in a legal case regarding the construction of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in the 1980s, in which the city and the DOT were defendants. According to the settlement, the truck route would have to alleviate traffic along Route 136.

Randall Avery, a Rowayton resident who served as a Norwalk councilman from 1981 to 1983, told the Advocate that when construction of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive was being considered, State Traffic Commission members testified at hearings that building the road would decrease truck traffic in Rowayton. “I’m sure they were speaking in good faith,” Avery told the Advocate. “However, there was significant concern that trucks would go through Rowayton. There are numerous safety concerns put into that court case.”

Avery told the Advocate the city has done its part to encourage trucks to use Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, posting signs directing them to that route and raising the speed limit from 35 mph to 40 mph, but many businesses have chosen not to follow those requests.