Serious crashes, including two with fatalities, occurred at the Wheeler Road and Route 110 intersection over the years, when an optical illusion had caused some drivers heading north on Wheeler to believe the roadway continued without interruption.
Since then, improvements such as adding a flashing LED stop sign, painting “stop ahead” markings and trimming back vegetation to increase visibility were made. While it has slowed speeds and lessened the impact of accidents, the number of crashes are on the rise.
In fact, the 10 crashes the town had at the intersection in 2019 were the most in one year since the year 2000, according to statistics from the Monroe Police Department.
On Jan. 16, First Selectman Ken Kellogg wrote a letter seeking help to Joseph Guilietti, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Transportation.
“I am contacting you in regards to my ongoing concerns regarding motor vehicle accidents occurring at this intersection of Wheeler Road, a local roadway in Monroe, and State Route 110,” Kellogg wrote. “Safety concerns regarding this intersection date back several years.”
Historically, the vast majority of crashes were from vehicles heading north on Wheeler Road not stopping. But in 2019 vehicles stopped in all but two of the 10 crashes.
Those who stopped at the intersection entered the roadway without yielding to traffic on Route 110.
Another change is 40 percent of the crashes were caused by vehicles heading south on Wheeler.
Thirty-percent of drivers causing the crashes reported having the presumption that the intersection was a four-way-stop — despite a “cross traffic does not stop” sign having been installed below each stop sign.
According to police records, there was an average of three crashes per year at the intersection from 2000 through 2018, with four years having five incidents each, and six crashes in 2018.
History of improvements
In his letter, Kellogg broke down a list of the intersection improvements over the years. Among them:
Stop signs and red post delineators were realigned to oncoming traffic.
Double-wide stop lines were painted on Wheeler Road.
Improvements to the “stop ahead” warning signs were completed.
“Stop ahead” was painting on the pavement on the northbound side of Wheeler Road.
“Stop” was painted on the pavement adjacent to the stop line on the northbound side of Wheeler Road.
Tree branches on the southeast corner of the intersection were trimmed back.
A second stop sign on northbound Wheeler Road was installed.
A flashing LED stop sign that is activated by northbound traffic was installed.
Kellogg asked police to compile data on peak times for traffic with a breakdown of the 10 2019 crashes by date, day of the week, time, direction of travel and whether the driver stopped first.
After looking at the statistics, the first selectman said none of these appear to be an obvious contributing factor.
Reducing future collisions
“While it would appear that improvements to date have had the intended impact of addressing the optical illusion, other unknown factors appear to be contributing to increased collisions,” Kellogg wrote. “While these collisions are significantly less severe, the increased volume remains a concern.”
Early last year, Kellogg said he asked the Connecticut Metropolitan Council of Governments to include a project placeholder for a future Local Transportation Capital Improvement Program (LoCIP) grant to redesign the intersection.
“However, as the most recent communications from DOT Transportation Engineering advised that intersection design no longer appears to be a factor, it is unclear as to whether or not such a project would have the intended impact of increasing safety and reducing future collisions,” Kellogg wrote.
In light of the new information, Kellogg asked the DOT to do a comprehensive evaluation of the intersection and assess the viability of potential solutions.