Congestion Mitigation Systems Plan “Vision 2020”

The Congestion Mitigation Systems Plan “Vision 2020” prepared by Wilbur Smith Associates and a team of consultants for the South Western Regional Planning Agency in February 2003 developed a vision for southwestern Connecticut (focusing on the I-95 corridor) that seeked to reduce congestion, improve air quality and promote economic growth. The vision built upon the existing transportation assets and tried to improve overall system efficiency by offering transportation users, choices. In particular, the vision looked to promote transit options and reduce the continued reliance on the automobile.

To generate a set if strategies to mitigate traffic congestion in the study area, the plan utilized an intensive public involvement/outreach program that collected input from a wide section of customers (elected officials, business owners, commuters, transit passengers and operators, etc.), market research that tested a variety of factors (e.g. public perception of traffic congestion, willingness to pay for improvements) on the public and other groups, the development of focused goals and objectives (reduced congestion, improved mobility, improved accessibility, economic growth), the development of performance metrics to compare the impacts resulting from a set of transportation improvements to the Base Scenario (travel time, vehicle miles traveled, mode shifts, accessibility, and safety, and the identification of constraints that would be applied to each strategy (analysis is focused on trips starting and ending in study area, analysis is focused on peak period work trips, expansion of Merritt Parkway not considered, analysis of land use strategies assumes maintenance of local jurisdiction land use regulation).

After a through analysis of the existing transportation system in the study area, and its problems, a long list of transportation strategies were developed. These strategies were evaluated in terms of costs and benefits, and based on the process and criteria defined above advanced into the plan as recommendations.

A brief summary of the recommendations which were grouped into four categories; immediate actions (foundation), short term actions (incremental), long-term actions (Vision), and support for other strategies, is detailed below:

Immediate Actions (Incremental)

Public Education – Education must be an ongoing process to inform the public and decision makers of the benefits and costs of transportation strategies. In addition, the importance of the transportation and land use connection needs to be emphasized to local and state officials. Implementation needs to be consensus driven and broad-based support needs to be attained. SWRPA should continue to engage various media outlets to keep awareness of transportation issues on the forefront, and continue to work with state and local officials to gain addition support and funding.

Land Use Review – Local land use boards should begin to review master plans and plans of conservation and development to identify how transportation is supported by local zoning regulation. Municipalities should coordinate with the regional planning organizations to discuss how changes can be made to local policy to support elements of the vision. SWRPA should conduct a detailed land use study to evaluate potential for additional transportation corridor and transit-oriented development in the study area.

Expand Travel Demand Management Programs (TDM) – TDM programs should be expanded to help reduce the number of single occupant automobile trips in the study are. Examples of programs that can have an impact on peak period trips include:

  • Telecommuting
  • Flexible work weeks
  • Staggered work hours
  • Organized vanpools
  • Voluntary distance based pricing

SWRPA – in partnership with ConnDOT and transportation management organizations – should study the performance of existing TDM programs.

Short-Term Actions (Incremental)

Transit Operational Improvements

  • Provide additional parking at Metro-North Stations (South Norwalk, Noroton Heights, Stamford, and Greenwich).
  • Utilize Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) to improve efficiency and operation of bus service in the corridor
  • Reduce rail fare and parking costs for intrastate customers to make rail trips more affordable
  • Implement universal commuter pass, such as SmartCard, to make transit trips more convenient from a convenience perspective.
  • Establish intermodal hubs (New Haven State Street Train Station, Bridgeport Train Station, South Norwalk Train Station, Stamford Train Station, Danbury Train Station, Derby Train Station) with strong bicycle and pedestrian connectivity to strengthen urban revitalization.

I-95 Operational Improvements (focusing on Interchange 6 to Interchange 16)

  • Safety and operational improvements at specific interchanges
  • Additional operational lanes
  • Geometric modifications of entrance and exit ramps
  • Consolidation of interchanges
  • Horizontal and vertical alignment modifications
  • Ramp metering or peak period ramp closures
  • Increased ramp spacing
  • Deployment of additional ITS technology

Traffic Systems Management (TSM) – Improvements (operations and safety) to major arterial roads in the study area

  • Signal timing and coordination
  • Access Management
  • Operational improvements (i.e. turn lanes, shoulders, geometric modification)

Truck Parking at Rest Area – Expand truck parking at rest areas.

Changes to Zoning Regulations – SWRPA should work with municipalities to structure zoning regulations to embrace transit friendly development, walkable communities, increased density and mixing of land uses, reduced parking requirements, and access management along transportation corridors and in town centers.

Long-Term Actions (Vision)

Transit Capacity Expansion

  • Improve Metro-North service for intrastate customers to serve a market that is largely unmet. Concepts include a hub express and New Haven Line local service.
  • BRT opportunities should be explored to offer high end bus service that is both flexible and fast. Specifically, BRT should be explored along the Route 1 corridor.
  • Danbury Branch service should be further evaluated to determine the feasibility of enhanced rail service along the corridor..
  • Inland BRT services should be evaluated once the successful implementation of the Route 1 service is attained.

I-95 Capacity Expansion – Two additional lanes should be considered a strategy to help alleviate congestion along the corridor

Support for Other Strategies

Interstate Rail – Improvements should be made to fleet configuration, infrastructure and service to obtain optimum system performance.
Freight – Opportunities for improved freight service are tied to the following issues

  • Need for another lower Hudson River crossing to access New York City and CT.
  • A rail capacity study similar to the Mid-Atlantic Rail Study to determine the actual track capacity to passenger and freight rail services and schedules, and
  • Market analysis of the viability of Feeder Barge Service from intermodal ports in New Jersey to a deep water port in CT.

Ferry – SWRPA should continue to monitor the results of the Long Island Sound Waterborne Transportation Plan and other studies of potential passenger ferry services.
Airport Connections – Opportunities for improving transit connections between southwestern Connecticut and regional airports should be examined.
Route 7 – Plans to widen Route 7 to a four-lane arterial with full roadside access from Wilton to Danbury should be supported.
Interstate 84 – Plans to widen I-84 from Danbury to Southington should be supported.
Merritt Parkway – SWRPA should evaluate the Merritt Parkway and its interchanges for safety and operational deficiencies.

Study Sections

Route 7 Corridor Travel Options Implementation Plan
Danbury Branch Line Shuttle Feasibility Study
Rail Transit Development Program
Danbury Branch Line Service Study
The Untapped Market for Rail Passenger Service
Action Plan for Restoring Passenger Rail Service to New Milford
Congestion Mitigation Systems Plan “Vision 2020”