After traffic causes drivers to say ‘forget it,’ state to fix backups at Trumbull’s Hawley Lane

Holiday traffic negotiates the busy intersection of Nichols Avenue (Route 108) and Hawley Lane on the Stratford/Trumbull line on Sunday, December 20, 2020.

Holiday traffic negotiates the busy intersection of Nichols Avenue (Route 108) and Hawley Lane on the Stratford/Trumbull line on Sunday, December 20, 2020.

Brian A. Pounds / Hearst Connecticut Media

TRUMBULL — Trumbull and Stratford drivers may get an early Christmas gift of reduced traffic congestion near Hawley Lane.

A new traffic light placed in the area in the fall suddenly made driving through the area a nightmare.

According to state DOT supervising engineer Daniel Stafko and transportation engineer Prashant Chandra, relief may be just days away.

Adjusting the timing on the lights is a relatively simple matter, like turning the dial on a dimmer switch, Chandra said. What is less simple is coordinating state roads with the town roads in Trumbull and Stratford.

“It’s like having three owners of your car,” Stafko said. “You’re all sharing a limited resource. In this case, the resource is the time that each lane has a green light.”

“We’ve contacted public works in Stratford to coordinate with them,” Chandra said Tuesday. “Hopefully we can get out there” this week.

Last month, DOT wrapped up a road improvement project at the intersection of Nichols Avenue/Route 108, Silver Lane and Armory Road in Stratford, about 200 feet from the Trumbull border at Hawley Lane.

But the addition of a new stoplight added to other lights at Hawley Lane and about a quarter-mile from the lights at the Route 8 entrance and exit ramp has created massive backups on the heavily traveled road section.

“We went down there the other day to pick something up at Target,” said Trumbull First Selectman Vicki Tesoro, “but we took one look at the backup and it was like, ‘forget it.’”

Tesoro, the town’s public works and the police departments had all received complaints from drivers about long delays. On Trumbull-based social media sites, residents complained that it could take 20 minutes to drive from the Merritt Parkway, just a half-mile away, to Hawley Lane.

On Stratford sites, drivers also vented their anger, referring to the area as a “horror show” and “malfunction junction.”

The problem, according to Stafko, is the timing of the new light.

“The existing signals were never directly tied in to each other, but over the years they seemed to work OK given the conditions,” he said. “The new light is a little out of sync and that has made it a little tougher.”

According to Stafko, the existing lights had an 80-second cycle but the new light at Silver Lane and Armory Road operates on a 120-second cycle.

That means that when the traffic light at Hawley Lane and Route 108 turns green, drivers on Route 108 heading toward Stratford frequently have to stop again at Silver Lane. Traffic can then back up to the intersection at Hawley Lane, sometimes blocking the intersection and causing gridlock.

The complexity of the area’s traffic patterns, with vehicles entering Route 108 from Route 8, Penny Ave., Silver Lane, Armory Road and Hawley Lane within a quarter-mile, further complicates the problem, Stafko said.

“Unfortunately there are five entry points,” he said. “When you try to give more time to one signal, the others all suffer.”

The fact that Hawley Lane Mall and Target in Trumbull and the North Town Center shopping plaza in Stratford are all located on Hawley Lane less than a half-mile from the intersection with Route 108 also made the problem more noticeable as holiday shopping kicked in.

The most likely fix is to standardize the timing of all the lights in the area, likely at 60 seconds, Chandra said. That way when the traffic light at Hawley Lane turns green, drivers on Route 108 can continue through the Silver Lane intersection without stopping.

Similarly, drivers approaching Hawley Lane from Stratford that stop at Armory Road would be able to proceed past Hawley Lane toward Route 8 non-stop.

“Hopefully that remedies some of the backup,” Stafko said. “We think this will really help.”