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The Merritt Parkway was designed by in house staff at the Connecticut Highway Department to provide relief to a highly congested section of the Post Road (Route 1). In July 1934 construction commenced, and by June 1938 the first 17.5 miles of the parkway were opened to the public.

Merritt Parkway 1938

Photo: Connecticut State Library, State Archives, Weld Thayer Chase Collection

Perhaps the most distinguishable feature of the Merritt Parkway are the uniquely designed bridges. Exterior design of the 69 bridges was done by George Dunkelberger, holding the position of Highway Architect.

Madison Avenue Bridge - Merritt Parkway

Photo: Connecticut Highway Department

Landscape Architecture designed by W. Thayer Chase (chief landscape architect for the Merritt Parkway) and supervisor A. Earl Wood (Engineer of Roadside Development, eventual Commissioner of CTDOT).

Merritt Parkway

Photo: Connecticut Highway Department

The Merritt Parkway was designed with a variable width median absent of barriers and guiderail.  A large majority of the Parkway was comprised of long tangent sections.  Maximum grades approached 8% through the rolling hills that the Parkway spanned, and the curves were designed for approximately 45 mph.

Merritt Parkway

Photo: Bernard Hoffman/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images Jul 01, 1948

The design of the parkway has been celebrated because of the manner in which the road blends with the natural topography of the surrounding area.

Merritt Parkway Lanscape Architechture

Photo: Connecticut Highway Department

Over the years the Merritt Parkway has received the following designations:

1991 - National Register of Historic Places

1993 - State Scenic Road

1996 - National Scenic Byway (U.S. Department of Transportation)