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The Merritt Parkway:: The Road that Shaped a…
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The Merritt Parkway:: The Road that Shaped a Region (Transportation)

by Laurie Heiss, Jill Smyth (Author)

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I lived in Connecticut some years before I discovered the Merritt Parkway, a section of CT-15. I lived in the state's "Quiet Corner" in the northeast; the Merritt runs through the southwest part of the state, a place I tended not to go. I think I discovered it when Google sent me that way on a trip to New Jersey: Merritt Parkway to the Hutchinson River Parkway to the Tappan Zee Bridge to swing a wide loop around New York City and its traffic. I was, however, instantly struck by its uniqueness. The Merritt is set away from the towns it runs through by trees, so you don't see any suburban sprawl, just forest. It's only two lanes in each direction, but no trucks are allowed on it, so traffic is never that bad. And it has a number of distinctive features: cute wooden guard rails, a unique typeface and visual design for road signs, and, most importantly, the forty-something bridges that run over it, each of them entirely unique in design, most in an art deco style, but also many others. It's my favorite limited-access highway, and I was always happy to have an excuse to drive upon it.

So I was quite pleased when a friend gave me this book, a history of the Merritt from its inception in the 1930s to the present day. Heiss & Smyth chart the development and design of the Merritt, discussing the politics and other issues that impacted it over the years. Sometimes I got a little lost in the names, but overall you get a sense of the personalities and priorities that have driven it. We think about highways very differently now than we did in the 1930s, and the Merritt has gone from a cutting-edge new way of making highways to a very old one that needs to be fought for to maintain what makes it special. It's one of just a few highways on the National Register of Historic Places, and changes to the Merritt have to be approved by the state legislature, unlike any other road in Connecticut. Heiss & Smyth do a great job telling the Merritt's story, supplementing with photos, architectural drawings, newspaper clippings, and maps. A book surely aimed at a limited audience, but if you're in that audience, it's indispensable.
  Stevil2001 | Oct 28, 2017 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Laurie Heissprimary authorall editionscalculated
Smyth, JillAuthormain authorall editionsconfirmed
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Decorated with a breathtaking landscape and a treasured collection of diversely styled bridges, the Merritt Parkway runs thirty-seven and a half miles through Fairfield County. From its complicated beginnings to the present, authors Laurie Heiss and Jill Smyth navigate the hard-fought yet picturesque path of this beloved road. Meet the bridge artist, the landscapers, the politicians and the activists whose involvement in the Merritt transformed Fairfield County from farms and country estates to one of the wealthiest counties in the nation. With the dedication of preservationists and conservationists, the Merritt Parkway today remains both functional and beautiful, holding a unique place in the heart of Connecticut's drivers.… (more)

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