They designed a road that would be mostly straightaways, connected by relatively gentle curves (with the exception of the Greenwich portion, which, if you draw a straight line across the portion which we all drive a couple of extra miles to protect, turns out to be the Round Hill Club and surrounding estates). This made for safer driving, and also was sound design from another point of view.
They wisely acquired a right of way wide enough to accommodate not just the two pairs of lanes initially needed, but wide enough to accommodate four pairs of lanes.
When they placed the first two pairs of lanes on that right of way, they did it in such a way that the two additional pairs of lanes could be placed next to them, without moving the initial pairs (though of course interchanges would need to be reconfigured). The first two pairs of lanes sit in the northern half of the right of way.
They knew that, sooner or later, the capacity of the initial four lanes would be exceeded, and that the option to add more capacity would be a fine thing, and they designed accordingly.
Today, as legislators from lower Fairfield County travel to Hartford in the morning, they pass thousands of commuters who are viewing the beauty of the Merritt at a speed where they can truly appreciate the beauty of the bridges and the plantings. The joy in that, however, diminishes when one gets to do it ten times a week at 25 mph, and must allow an hour to get from Trumbull to Stamford.
But the lower Fairfield County legislators who see these thousands of cars, morning and afternoon, have the satisfaction of knowing that it is not THEIR constituents they are seeing, but someone else's. THEIR constituents are driving the other direction, toward NYC, on the redesigned Hutch, or taking Metro North.
But the people whose cars are crawling on the Merritt at slow speeds 10 times a week are our neighbors, and their children will be our children's neighbors, and we have a responsibility to provide for the future and for our neighbors.
There are those who will say "not in my lifetime!" -- and that might include our local legislators, whose reverse commute to Hartford would be inconvenienced by construction work, as well as those who use the roads which cross over and under the Merritt which will need new bridges built, and those who bought houses along the south side of the right of way, believing the additional lanes would never be built, who generally are heartily in favor of walkways and bike paths on that land, for Sunday walkers and bikers.
There is room for four more lanes. We ought to be beginning to plan for how to use that right of way, and we must not let the bikepath folks tie our hands, or the "Conserve the Parkway" group, who lilely don't drive the Merritt at rush hour more than occasionally, at least in the direction of rush hour traffic.
On Chicago's north side, Lake Shore Drive has for 50 or more years had lanes that reverse at rush hour.
It seems to me that some or all of the remaining right of way might be devoted to lanes which reverse at rush hour. Perhaps one pair becomes an HOV road, accepting only vehicles with more than two occupants, or those plus hybrids. Perhaps another pair of lanes is a toll road, with pricing set to keep the traffic moving. Perhaps two lanes become express lanes of some sort, moving traffic which is bound for points well north of Stamford to its destination more directly. Perhaps part of the right of way could provide some sort of bus, van, even light rail capability. I look at the number of vans meeting Metro North trains, from various office complexes, and could see something similar at High Ridge and Long Ridge Roads.
I don't pretend to know all the ways in which this piece of wise planning by the 1930s designers of the Merritt could be put to good use.
But it appears to me that the time has come for it to be used, and used well, and that we simply have no right to say "not while I'm using it" or "not in my lifetime" or "not in my backyard."
If your concern is the bridges, well, maybe they should be put in a bridge museum. Drive down the Hutch, and try to pick out which bridges there are original and which must have been redone when the road was redesigned, and then decide whether it was worth the redesign. (Do you remember what it was like to drive that road before the work, particularly in the rain? I do. And even driving the resulting road once a week at rush hour, I am grateful to the taxpayers who financed the work.)
The Merritt's bridges are magnificent, but so was Stamford Town Hall, and we don't still use Stamford Town Hall as our city's main building. Sometimes the old must simply give way to the new.
I suspect that many of the bridges can be kept, and new ones placed beside them for the new lanes; perhaps not of the same beauty, but appealing nonetheless.
Utilizing this public right of way effectively to meet human needs ought to be a priority.