Route 319 is Orcuttville Road, sort of a northern bypass of Stafford Springs. It's one of the few state highways where an intersecting route has the name number modulo 100: 8/108 and 109/209 are others.

CT 319 History

In the 1920s, State Highway 319 followed today's Route 372 between New Britain and Route 99.

The New Route 319

In January 1961, the state announced that 5.4 miles of roads in Stafford would become state roads, including Orcuttville Road. This new route was given the "secret" designation SR 611, used for internal records and not signposted.

On Feb. 10, 1988, SR 611 was promoted to signed Route 319.

In 2002, the state proposed realigning one mile of Route 319 between Gale Drive and Furnace Avenue, straightening some curves and flattening hills to improve visibility and safety. This has not been done, though the road was resurfaced around 2004.

The Rejected Route 319

The story of Route 319 in Groton is much more intriguing. The road was never signed that way, and the public designation lasted all of 10 days before being pulled. The construction of the road itself was controversial, but the climax of the fight over the road, after it opened to traffic, was over what number it would have.

The story of Route 319, now SR 614, is also a rare public look into the state's system of "secret" unposted route numbers.

"We didn't actually oppose the tallying of a number for their designation. It already has a number, 614. We opposed the mentality of advertising it with a number as if it would lead somewhere..."
TREES President Katherine O'Beirne, January 1973, on the Route 319 designation

In 1960, the general location of future I-95 in Groton and Stonington had been decided, and planners were studying local access to and from the highway. On the east side of the Mystic River in Stonington, I-95 would have an interchange with Route 27. On the west side of the river, in Groton, access from the I-95 area to US 1 would use High Street. To better serve that traffic, the state proposed a new $1.2 million road, 24 to 40 feet wide with two traffic lanes, from Mystic Street and I-95 to US 1. The road would have cut through the Pequot Woods.

Even without the new connector, an interchange was planned at Mystic Street. Local and state officials disagreed on signing: locals wanted a "Mystic" destination, to help siphon local traffic from Route 27, while the state preferred a "West Mystic" sign, to avoid having two exits marked "Mystic."

When I-95 opened in 1964, a West Mystic interchange opened too, with a segment of Mystic Street leading from Cow Hill Road, through the interchange, to Sandy Hollow Road; and the segment of Sandy Hollow Road leading back to High Street.

In August 1969, area residents petitioned the Groton town council to favor the Allyn Street Connector. The touchdown point at US 1 would be directly across from West Mystic Avenue. A year later, however, opposition had grown, prompting the state to withdraw its plan and work on a less ambitious alternative.

In January 1971, the new Allyn Street plan was unveiled, and there was little difference from the old one. A slightly more narrow road, and elimination of sidewalks, would save some trees from being felled. The next month, the Groton Planning Board reversed its earlier stance supporting the road, and asked for a new needs study. In March 1971, most town officials opposed the road, and a flood of protest mail arrived at the State Senate. The traffic counts taken to support the road's need were questioned, as construction on nearby Route 27 might have diverted more traffic to West Mystic.

In August 1971, the state announced that Allyn Street would still be a state road. Mystic Street was already given the "secret" designation SR 614. In September 1971, construction on the connector began. On June 5, 1972, the Allyn Street Connector opened to traffic. It is two lanes wide, undivided with shoulders, and thirty years later has only a few intersecting streets and driveways. The SR 614 designation was extended along Allyn Street to US 1.

Here it gets interesting. To help relieve traffic on Route 27, the state proposed attracting more traffic to SR 614 by giving it a signed route number. On Jan. 16, 1973, the DOT announced that the connector would become Route 319. I don't know if Route 319 would have extended north to Route 184, but it certainly would have extended south to US 1. (It could have been called Route 27A.)

A local advocacy group called To Reassess Ecology Environment, Safely (TREES) denounced the plan. They were concerned the state would extend 319 south across US 1 and north to Route 2. Said TREES President Katherine O'Beirne: "We didn't actually oppose the tallying of a number for their designation. It already has a number, 614. We opposed the mentality of advertising it with a number as if it would lead somewhere... it would have increased the traffic flow, and then be used as an excuse to extend construction north and south."

Ten days later, on Jan. 26, 1973, the state withdrew the Route 319 designation, or strictly its signing as such, citing adverse publicity about the new number. A spokesman said the state would retain the number as an internal designation. If that had taken place, Route 319 would be the only number below 400 that wasn't signed, a trait of the "secret" numbers above 400. Highway logs show the Route 319 number was adopted internally in 1972; but in 1973, Route 319 reverted to SR 614.

Where I first read about this controversy was the highway logs, where the change and reversion were tersely chronicled, with no explanation. Only when the Hartford Courant archives were available could I piece together the rest.

CT 319 Sources