Never completed, Interstate 284 would have run about 5 miles from the I-84/CT 2 "Mixmaster" interchange north to I-291 in South Windsor. The exit 56 ramps at I-84 connect to a very short freeway (unsigned SR 500) ending at Governor Street. This was to continue north as I-284.
I-284 was cancelled in 1983 because of environmental and local impact concerns. A smaller alternative, the Prospect Street Bypass, was cancelled in 1994 for the same reasons.
A freeway paralleling the Connecticut River to the east had been planned since the 1950s. Even as the East Hartford - Glastonbury Expressway was under construction in 1951, an extension northward was proposed, passing under the Charter Oak Bridge and bypassing downtown East Hartford.
In 1963, the state unveiled a plan to relocated US 5 as a four-lane expressway from I-84 in East Hartford to I-91 in East Windsor. When the "Mixmaster" five-way interchange at I-84 and (Route 2) opened in October 1965, connecting ramps were made for this expressway, although no funds were available to continue it northward at the time. To this day, the short SR 500 expressway from Exit 56 ends unceremoniously at Governor Street. (Though one wonders what sort of ceremony would be appropriate.)
In 1967, the state legislature passed a special act providing for a "relocation of United States Route 5 from south of Governor Street to the vicinity of King Street, not exceeding two million dollars for engineering and acquisition of right of way." (King Street, north of East Hartford center, is where Main Street and US 5 diverge.) The full East Hartford to East Windsor plan was added to the Capitol Region Planning Agency's 155-mile Year 2000 expressway plan.
In April 1968, the state's plan included the freeway connector to King Street, where the four-lane divided portion of US 5 began; use of the existing four-lane divided US 5 as is; and in-place widening of the rest of US 5 to I-91 in East Windsor. The Capitol Region Planning Agency (CRPA) criticized this "temporary solution", and recommended a full freeway on new alignment, at a cost of about $50 million.
In May 1968, the CRPA amended its stance, noting a June 1972 expiration of 90/10 federal matching funds for interstate highway construction. If the proposed I-91 widening was not complete by then, the state would be responsible for 100% of funding. The new CRPA stance: work on I-91 first (90/10 matching) before US 5 (50/50 matching).
In 1969, the state legislature amended the 1967 act, increasing the amount for engineering and ROW to $5 million. The Department of Transportation adopted the plan CRPA had favored in 1968: the connection to I-291 (then called state route 291) would be an interim step for a freeway extending north to I-91.
Public hearings and studies were conducted throughout the 1970s. In general, area towns had the following positions:
- East Hartford: build full freeway to I-291 as soon as possible
- South Windsor: north of I-291 – absolutely not; south of I-291 – we don't support that either; best option is the short leg to King Street in East Hartford
- Windsor: building a freeway on the other side of the river a much better idea than widening I-91
"Just because South Windsor has open space, that's no reason to build a highway," said S. Windsor Town Manager Paul F. Talbot in 1977.
In 1975, the state's Master Transportation plan recommended constructing the 2.9-mile link from Governor Street to (the proposed) I-291, at a cost of $30.5 million. Late that year, the state found a funding source: "trade-in" funding from cancelled portions of I-86 and I-291. About $300 million in funds allocated to the cancelled plans could be applied to two new interstate projects: Route 66 in Cheshire and Meriden, and US 5 in East Hartford and South Windsor. On July 13, 1976, AASHTO approved new designations for those routes: I-691 and I-284.
With that designation, SR 500 ceased to exist, and the Governor Street freeway stub was officially I-284. Though it was never signed, and only ½ mile long, for a while part of I-284 was actually open to traffic.
By 1982 the tide was certainly turning against I-284. East Hartford still wanted the route, and preferred the viaduct option, where I-284 would be almost completely elevated. The state balked at the $124 million price tag, about three times as expensive as a ground-level solution. In December 1982, the Capitol Region Council of Government (CRCOG), a newer version of the CRPA, called the freeway to I-291 "unacceptable in its present form" and recommended studying alternatives.
CRCOG's opinion was important, because federal law required its approval for any interstate projects in the area. In January 1983, the state vowed to continue with design, even as I-284 had "almost no chance" of getting environmental approval. A few weeks later, CRCOG rejected the plan.
On September 16, 1983, the state officially cancelled I-284. The Governor Street freeway stub reverted to SR 500.
The Prospect Street Bypass
Thru traffic skirting downtown East Hartford is a problem on Prospect Street, a two-lane road leading from the Governor Street terminus north and east to Main Street.
In the wake of the I-284 cancellation, the DOT explored less ambitious traffic relief in the form of a Prospect Street Bypass, extending north from the SR 500 terminus, keeping west of Prospect Street, and ending at the Main Street/King Street (US 5) intersection. These were the same termini as in the 1967 plan.
This road was in the 1990 transportation plan, and studied in 1994, but the DOT cancelled it because of potential impacts in the area.
Another suggestion for the number
In 1980, a Hartford traffic study suggested using the I-284 designation on Route 3 and Route 2, between I-91 in Wethersfield and I-84 in East Hartford. The reasoning: a continuous interstate number would be more easy and reassuring to follow, and motorists could bypass the Charter Oak and Founders bridges.
The study's suggestion was not taken up. (At the time, the I-284 designation was still active for the US 5 relocation.)