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Route 53 could be considered a scenic alternative to US 7, which also visits Norwalk and Danbury. A 2.03-mile segment, from the Redding/Weston Town line north to Route 107 in Redding, was made a scenic road in 1992. This portion, alongside the Saugatuck Reservoir, is part of a 19th-century turnpike.

Jon Persky writes:

"CT 53 roughly follows the path of the old Newtown Turnpike, famed for a spectacular pillage-filled march by British troops in April 1777. CT 53 and Newtown Turnpike are still one and the same from the northern split with CT 57 at Weston Road, to Redding near CT 107. The road still exists (although as Newtown Ave. in Norwalk) from CT 53 just north of its terminus at US 1, all the way to CT 58 near the Redding/Bethel line."

Despite all this, the Merritt Parkway (Route 15) crosses Route 53 without an interchange.

"So you take Route 53 eastbound..."

Since US 1 is north-south nationwide but travels mainly east-west in Connecticut, residents are used to variations in directional signs for that road.

In Norwalk, however, a sign on US 1 northbound tells drivers to turn left for Route 53 east, as if the road to Danbury, about as straight north as it gets, was sucked into US 1's compass-spinning vortex. What might have happened: a contractor mistakenly switched the "EAST" and "NORTH" meant for US 1 and Route 53 respectively. Anyway, see for yourself:

Route 53 East sign goof
CT 53 'east' sign goof photoUS 1 going east-west is understandable in Fairfield County. Route 53 does nothing of the sort, despite the sign assembly above. Photo taken by Kurumi in August 2012.

CT 53 Turnpikes

The Newtown and Norwalk Turnpike, signposted locally as the Newtown Turnpike, began along today's Route 53 in Norwalk, heading north-northeast toward Newtown. A charter was granted in 1829, and the turnpike operated for about 2 decades. The portion north of the Northfield Turnpike (near the Saugatuck River) became free in 1841, and the remainder was free in 1851.

Route 57 followed part of the Newtown and Norwalk Turnpike for 22 years, and now Route 53 does.

CT 53 History

Commissioned in 1932, Route 53 originally extended from Route 57 in Weston to US 202 (now Route 302) in Bethel, for a length of 13.96 miles. Its original route, from south to north:

Here are the older highways that later formed today's Route 53:

Swap with Route 57

In 1954, Route 53 and Route 57 were redefined. The Georgetown Road segment was taken from Route 53 and given to Route 57. Route 53 now started at US 7 in Georgetown, and then followed Redding Road to the north as before. Route 53 was now 10.25 miles long.

Bigger plans for Route 103

In 1963, as a result of the statewide Route Reclassification, Route 53 was relocated again. However, short-lived changes in 1962 made the area look, for a short time, quite different. Here's what happened in 1962:

In 1963, Route 53 was extended south as we see today, Route 103 was replaced, and Route 106 was extended to Route 53.

Takes over part of US 202

On May 1, 1974, US 202 was moved north to its current alignment through New Milford and Torrington. Route 53 was extended north over old US 202 to its current terminus at I-84 in Danbury.

All-American Road? No thanks

A 2.3-mile stretch of the Route 53, between Route 107 and the Weston town line, was nominated in September 1997 by the Housatonic Valley Tourism District for the All-American Road and National Scenic Byways Program, sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration. Locals attribute the road's beauty to strict land-use regulations and tracts of open space (portions owned by The Nature Conservancy and the Redding Land Trust, among others).

Two other Connecticut highways -- the Merritt Parkway and Route 169 -- are likewise honored. Some federal funding is available for maintaining such roads.

However, the Redding Planning Commission declined the nomination in October 1997, reasoning that national recognition would lead to increased traffic and road widening, eventually detracting from the town's rural charm. Said chairman Diane Taylor: "We do not desire to be recognized on a national scale."

CT 53 Sources