East Haddam Bridge (CT 82), from east bank of Connecticut River. The span to the right swings open for tall ship traffic. Photo taken Sept. 2002 by Kurumi.
The East Haddam Bridge
The East Haddam is one of Connecticut's more charming bridges, even though it has stranded motorists on one side or the other from time to time.
In the 19th century, the crossing was served by a ferry. In 1909, a commission was created to study building a bridge there; on October 1, 1912, work began on the superstructure. The swing bridge opened on May 29, 1913. At the time, the 889-foot bridge, with 461-foot swing span, was one of the largest swing bridges in the world. On June 14, 1913, a grand opening celebration was held, with fife and drum parade.
Originally an open-deck steel surface, like the original Sikorsky Bridge carrying the Merritt Parkway over the Housatonic, the structure was retrofitted and the roadway covered with concrete in 1986. However, the added weight caused undue stress to the pivot bearing, causing the bridge to stick open in February 1999, snarling traffic on both banks. In response, the state removed the concrete, replaced the bearing, and otherwise rehabilitated the bridge.
Early state long-range plans, circa 1965, called for a new Route 82 bridge to the south, as part of a planned expressway. This never came about, and the East Haddam Bridge is the only crossing between the Arrigoni Bridge (routes 17 and 66, Portland - Middletown) and the Route 148 ferry in Chester. The next bridge to the south is the Baldwin Bridge carrying US 1 and I-95.
Alignment and Numbering
Before 1932, Route 82 was known as state highway 153. Its alignment hasn't changed much over the years, except for the limited-access approach to Route 9 (1971) and the revamped intersection in Norwich (late 1980s).
In 1937, Route 82 was identified, along with Route 80 and Route 165, as part of an important statewide system of roads to tie in to the Merritt Parkway and other planned highways.
Route 82 Freeway (proposed) and Route 9 Connector
In the late 1960s, the state proposed building a Route 82 freeway between Chester and Norwich, including a new "large, high" bridge over the Connecticut River; however, this was in the "future needs" department and was never advanced.
In 1969, the Mid-State Regional Planning Association stated:
A second connector, from Route 9 to Route 82 and the East Haddam Bridge, is scheduled for construction shortly; and the preliminary transportation plan suggests a new East Haddam Bridge to replace the present structure. This would be part of a new Route 82 to be relocated from Haddam to Norwich, which would provide an important east-west connection across that section of the state.
The freeway proposal was cancelled in the early 1970s.
The connector to Route 9 in Haddam and Chester would likely have become part of the freeway. It was conceived in 1961 or earlier, but appears to be an addition to previously existing Route 9 plans. A 1964 article describes "an East Haddam connector and two Rt. 9 interchanges to be constructed at an undetermined future date"; no funding was available at the time. The connector, with one trumpet interchange at Route 9, opened on Sept. 15, 1971.
Widening in western Norwich
When the Connecticut Turnpike (now I-395 in the area) opened in 1958, Route 82 became a primary route into downtown Norwich. Retail and other business sprouted along the two-lane road, which was no longer sufficient for its traffic. In 1969, plans to improve the route included widening to four lanes with a 16 foot median from I-395 to Asylum Street. The median was never built, but the widening to four lanes was done in the 1980s.
In 1974, the state was planning enhancements at the eastern end of Route 82. Originally, the eastbound lanes of West Main Street carried both directions of Route 82 over the Quinebaug River. The proposal called for a new westbound viaduct and the partial interchange (connector to Route 32) we see today; that opened in the late 1980s.
Some state's route 82 starred in Bill Griffith's 2001 strip titled "Power Vortex on Route 82." Nothing about the artwork rules Connecticut out. Griffith has also visited other sites in the state, including Willimantic's Frog Bridge
Almost lost its number to Interstate 82
In 1968, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) approved a new interstate link from Hartford to Providence. The number for it: Interstate 82. Had this gone forward as planned, state route 82 would have required another number.
Instead, the route was renumbered to be part of a realigned I-84, with I-86 taking over for the former I-84. I-86 lasted for about 13 years, until the eastern I-84 proposal was scrapped, and I-86 reverted to being part of I-84. Route 82 stayed out of the fray and kept its designation.
I-395 / Route 82 interchange redesign
The 6-ramp interchange at I-395, built in 1958, was modified in late 2009 as part of a $7 million project. Route 82 was widened to five lanes in the area, an extent of 3,400 feet from west of Montville Road to east of Old Salem Road.
The northeast loop ramp (to Route 82 westbound) was removed, and the remaining ramps on the east side of I-395 realigned. Maplewood Court, which used to intersect Route 82 seemingly a few feet east of the I-395 offramp, was relocated to a new signalized intersection further east.
"Route 82 Needs Work"
The four-lane Route 82 section in Norwich still has congestion and safety problems. Local officials are pushing for improvements along the section of road nicknamed "Crash Alley", where 569 accidents were recorded between 2000 and 2002.
In May 2004, two state representatives, the Norwich City Council, and the City Manager wrote to Congress asking for $9.2 million in federal funds to help improve the road. A fifth lane would be added between I-395 and the 32/82 split.
Another nickname for that section of Route 82: "Sweeney's Speedway", after State Rep. Thomas F. Sweeney, who led efforts from 1967 to 1985 to widen the highway.
Proposed realignment near Opera House
In 1994, a realignment of Route 82 east of the swing bridge was proposed, to move traffic away from Goodspeed Opera House. Instead of the sharp right turn it takes now, Route 82 eastbound would turn slightly left, and rejoin the old alignment at the intersection with Route 149. Doing this would require demolition of the town garage and attached town office annex, as well as moving a generator for the bridge. Cost was estimated at $1.5 million to $2 million. To date, no construction has been done here.