Accidents drop with Route 7 expansion

The number of traffic accidents on the Wilton stretch of Route 7 has dropped by 25% since the road expanded into four lanes in 2010, but not every section of the road has experienced increased safety equally. Some neighborhoods have seen their Route 7 intersections become far more dangerous than before.

B y analyzing Department of Transportation data compiled by the University of Connecticut before the expansion of Route 7 — from 2004 to 2006 — and after the expansion — from 2010 to 2012 — The Bulletin staff determined that the number of accidents dropped from 974 to 726 during those respective time periods.

Additionally, the number of accidents resulting in injuries dropped from 259 to 176 — a 32% overall decrease.

Data for dates later than 2012 are not yet available.

A representative of the Connecticut Department of Transportation, Kevin Nursick, said Wednesday the reduction in accidents does not surprise his department.

Mr. Nursick noted that many changes during Route 7’s expansion were primarily meant to improve traffic flow, but were also effective at reducing the incidence of traffic accidents.

“It was a solid project for increasing efficiency and reducing congestion. By doing so in a thoughtful manner it resulted in a reduction in the number of crashes,” he said.

A number of improvements went into the Route 7 project, including turning-lane installations and geometric improvements, Mr. Nursick added.

“It was a pretty big project and there was a lot of work involving geometric improvements. These reduce the horizontal and vertical roadway curvatures, which improves sight lines for folks on the road, and for folks intersecting with those roads,” he said.

One intersection that seems to have become much safer since the major road was expanded is the intersection at Kensett Road, where accidents dropped by 59% compared to data from 2004 to 2006. Accidents resulting in injuries dropped even more dramatically at the intersection, falling 69%.

Similarly, intersections at Cannon and Sharp Hill roads saw a more than 40% decrease in the number of accidents.

Lt. Don Wakeman of the Wilton police said Tuesday that the “obvious objective of the expnsion was to not only alleviate traffic backup but to improve intersection safety. The DOT added traffic lights, and with the widening there was always hope it would increase safety.”

Though the expansion has helped police officers better utilize Route 7 in emergencies where traffic was once an issue, Lt. Wakeman said, the force still uses the same patrol zones as before.

“We still have normal patrol sectors. The actually widening didn’t change anything regarding where we have our patrol areas. Before the widening, when there was only one lane, backed-up traffic potentially made it that much more difficult” for officers to access emergencies.

Not all intersections in town mirrored the trend for the entirety of the Route 7 stretch.

Old Highway Road saw a 42% increase in the number of accidents, and Westport Road saw an increase of 36%.

Even Grumman Hill, which has seen an overall decrease of 13% in the past three years, saw the number of accidents causing injuries rise.

Process

All data was drawn from Department of Transportation records maintained by the Connecticut Crash Data Repository, which is part of the University of Connecticut system. Any traffic accident occurring on Route 7 within .05 miles north or south of an intersection was counted as an accident at that intersection.

According to the repository website, “The purpose of the CTCDR is to provide members of the traffic-safety community with timely, accurate, complete, and uniform crash data. The CTCDR allows for complex queries of both data sets, such as by date, route, route class, collision type, injury severity, etc. For further analysis, this data can be summarized by user-defined categories to help identify trends or patterns in the crash data.”