Route 7 is a powerful force in Wilton

Coastal Fairfield County has the power of Route 1 to drive its commercial enterprises but Wilton has Route 7, and that’s just as good, consultants working on the town’s Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD) told the Planning and Zoning Commission March 15.

In fact, the Route 7 corridor from Norwalk to Wolfpit Road has traffic volumes of 28,000 to 30,000 vehicles per day and has the benefit of being serviced by water and sewer infrastructure, said Patrick Gallagher, planner for Milone & MacBroom, the consultants.

There are other issues, such as some parts of Route 7 being within a 100-year flood plain, but traffic is not one of them.

“Traffic volumes on Route 7 are comparable to Route 1 and are sufficient to support retail,” Gallagher told the commissioners and an audience of 30 people gathered at the Wilton Library Brubeck Room.

The meeting was called to focus on transportation issues in town, and how they relate to the POCD.

Some important facts were brought out. It turns out that most Wiltonians with jobs, 17%, commute to New York City, which is an increase of 28% since 2005. It makes the railroad the second most common travel mode, at 12.8%, because 69% of Wilton commuters drive alone to work.

Interestingly, more than 11% of employed Wilton residents work from home, according to the data from the consultant.

The average commute time is 38 minutes, which is up 15% over the last five years. The rate of commute time increase is higher than in Fairfield County and surrounding towns, the data showed.

Other than New York City, the most common commuter destinations for Wilton residents are Stamford at 12.9%, Norwalk at 10.9%, Greenwich at 4.3%, and Westport at 3.5%.

When it comes to the town’s workforce, more of Wilton’s workers live in Norwalk, at 12.7%, than in Wilton, at 9.1%.

Many workers coming from north and east along Interstate 95 and the Route 7 corridors are most often from Norwalk, at 12.7%, Stamford, 7.9%, Fairfield, 4.9%, Danbury, 4.8% and Ridgefield, 3%.

There are also a sizable number of workers, 310, reverse-commuting to Wilton from Manhattan, according to the data.

So with all this traffic, what are the most dangerous intersections along Route 7? The highest numbers of crashes are at signalized intersections, including School Street, Sharp Hill Road/Wolfpit Road, and Kent Road/Kensett Avenue.

Unsignalized intersections and driveways along Route 7 also have crashes, the data shows.

The consultant reported more than 1,600 traffic accidents throughout Wilton between 2015 and 2017, with 307 accidents that resulted in injuries, three fatal accidents, 13 accidents involving a pedestrian, and two involving a bicyclist.

The next most traveled road in town is Route 33, between Route 7 and the Merritt Parkway.

The audience seemed to find the information very useful.

“I was very impressed to see the presentation tonight — thank you,” said resident Florence Johnson.

Resident Vicki Mavis had several questions, including a suggestion for the town to seek out or initiate a beach shuttle, to take people from Wilton Center to Compo Beach and Sherwood Island in Westport.

“I know families with children would love it,” Mavis said.

Mavis also asked about the possibility of promoting bed-and-breakfast type businesses in town.

“There has to be a destination draw. It’s a matter of branding,” Bob Nerney, the town planning director, said in response to her comment.

A few other residents commented about Route 7 bus service for workers in town and related topics.