Danbury area: long-term widening plan
The one practical route through Danbury from any direction is the shared I-84/US 7 section between Exits 3 and 7. In 1997, the state and city announced planned improvements to Exit 5 (routes 37 and 39), including turning lanes at Golden Hill Road and the ramps.
The Housatonic Valley Council of Elected Officials (HVCEO) recommends widening I-84 to eight lanes between exits 3 and 8, and six lanes out to exit 10. The highway is already six lanes between exit 10 and the Housatonic River. ConnDOT Air Impact modeling for this was completed in late 1997. The cost of widening is estimated at $68 million.
In mid-2000, ConnDOT announced a $260 million, nearly 20-year plan to upgrade I-84 between the state line and the Housatonic River. However, the DOT commissioner noted that the strong local support for the improvements might help shorten the schedule to 12 years or so.
In the DOT plan, a lane will be added in each direction, leaving I-84 at eight lanes from the border to exit 7, and six lanes to the river (roughly equivalent to the HVCEO recommendation). In the short term, exit ramps and merging lanes would be lengthened. In the long term, almost every interchange would be reconfigured.
Some of the interchange modifications are:
- modify the left-hand entrance from US 7 NB to I-84 WB (exit 3) to a flyover with right-hand entrance
- modify the I-84 WB exit 4 onramp to ease access to to US 7 SB
- modify exit 5; for example, the EB offramp would empty onto Main St instead of Downs St
- make exit 6 a full interchange (probably the first project started)
- provide a flyover and access road so that US 7 SB to I-84 EB (exit 7) enters I-84 from the right,
and also allows direct access from US 7 to I-84 exit 8
- exit 9: modify I-84 WB ramps so that loop and exit intersect Route 25 directly
across from Old Hawleyville Road; increase radius of entrance loop to I-84 WB
- exit 10: remove loop ramps; make slight alignment changes to existing non-loop
ramps; add new diagonal ramps to create a diamond interchange
- dismantle the freeway interchange at exit 11 (once intended for Route 25, now
indirectly serves Route 34) and create a diamond serving an extension of Wasserman Way
(details: see Route 25
In October 2000, the state released the Final Report of the I-84 Corridor Deficiencies/Needs Study, outlining proposed improvements between the New York state line and exit 11 (Route 34). The report retained the recommendation to add a travel lane in each direction, and estimated the cost of all work at $300 million. Given the recent economic slowdown, the probability of this coming to fruition is uncertain.
What will be done first? A smaller project: lengthening some exit ramps and adding turn lanes and traffic signals. This should shorten the queues of vehicles exiting the highway, increasing safety.
In April 2004, the new federal highway funding bill included two appropriations for I-84 in the area: $3.8 million each for the Danbury - Newtown segment and the Waterbury - Southington segment.
Southbury - Waterbury: studies, widening
The segment of Interstate 84 between Exit 13 (River Road, Southbury) and Exit 18 (Chase Parkway / W. Main St, Waterbury) is four lanes wide with deficiencies at some interchanges. A joint ConnDOT/Council of Governments of Central Naugatuck Valley (COGCNV) study completed mid-2001 recommends widening to six lanes and improving interchanges and nearby roadways, especially Exit 17 (Route 63) and Exit 18. The Route 8 interchange will be studied further.
The problem with Exit 17: the partial interchange offers service only to and from the west. Traffic from Waterbury has to use Exit 18, which adds congestion to the Routes 63/64 intersection. The region has studied this problem in the past, even recommending a bypass and interchange for Route 64 at Route 63.
Public information meetings were held June 6 and 7, 2001, in Southbury and Waterbury.
On July 19, 2000, ConnDOT conducted a public information meeting for a related Transportation Needs Study for I-84 between exits 13 (Southbury) and 23 (Waterbury).
The four issues under study were: I-84 mainline operations and capacity; interchange safety; feasibility of eliminating some closely spaced interchanges; arterial street connections; and provision for future growth.
Wilbur Smith and Associates (WSA) investigated ways to solve these problems. Under particular scrutiny were bridges and interchanges, especially the junction with Route 8; in WSA's words, " The entire interchange, with multiple left side on and off ramps and limited through lanes, is operationally deficient." (See my photos and map scans of the interchange.)
Waterbury - Southington: widening
The state is widening I-84 to six lanes between Waterbury (exit 23) and Southington (exit 30). The $82 million proposal also involves modifying exits 28 and 30, and realigning the narrow, curvy section between exits 23 and 25 in Waterbury. This widening project appears more popular than others have been, notably the cancelled proposal to widen I-84 to 8 lanes in West Hartford. Work should finish in late 2005.
In 2000 and 2001 the DOT held hearings in Cheshire and Waterbury, detailing its plans. I-84 will have six 12-foot highway lanes, with additional climbing lanes where needed. A 10-foot-wide Jersey barrier will separate the lanes, except between Marion Avenue and Burritt Street, where some trees and a grassy median will remain. Inside and outside shoulders will be 12 feet.
Interchanges will be modified as well. Exit 24 will be removed, and Exit 25 (Scott Rd) will be reconfigured. Exit 25A (Austin Road) will be made complete, by adding ramps to and from the east. Exit 26 (Route 70) will be modified on the westbound side to remove the weaving caused by opposing loop ramps.
Save Exit 29!
The widening project originally called for the elimination of Exit 29, a left-hand exit from I-84 westbound to Route 10 in Southington. Eliminating the ramp bridge over the eastbound lanes would have simplified the widening operation. A groundswell of local support under the "Save Exit 29" caused the DOT to change its stance in late 1998, and now "Connecticut's most-loved exit" will stay open.
Exit 29, known to the state as SR 597, was to be the north end of a Route 10 freeway to New Haven.
Plainville-New Britain: interchange revision
Connecticut received $2.8 million in TEA-21 funding to revise the left-hand exit ramp from I-84 east to Route 72 west (exit 33) in Plainville. I-84 is six lanes south of Route 72, but only four lanes through the exit 33 interchange. The left lane on I-84 eastbound becomes an "exit only lane", a nasty surprise for unfamiliar drivers. The project would provide six lanes through the interchange, removing lane drops in each direction. The $20 million project was advertised for bid in August 1999, started Nov. 22, 1999, and should finish in fall 2000.
On Oct. 5, 1999, ConnDOT announced it will add an entrance ramp from Crooked Street to I-84 eastbound in Plainville, pleasing many residents who don't have a reasonable way to get on otherwise. The choices currently are: backtrack to Route 177 and get on Route 72; go forward on Route 372 to Route 72 in New Britain and backtrack; or take local streets to the Slater Rd connector at exit 36.
In January 2002, the state let to bid a project to add a third lane on I-84 westbound through the Route 72 overlap (both interchanges), to provide lane continuity (only two lanes go through currently). The project should take about 14 months.
In April 1998, the state decided against widening I-84 west of Hartford to 8 general-purpose lanes, in favor of one of the following: HOV lanes; light rail in the median; light rail along other rail lines; bus-only roads. The problem area is between Hartford and Plainville, where about 105,000 vehicles use I-84 each day.
In late 1998, the DOT proposed a busway -- a separate roadway for bus-only traffic, like light rail but with rubber-tired buses. The busway would be cheaper than light rail, and much cheaper than adding lanes to I-84. It would be more flexible than rail as well, since buses could leave the busway and enter city streets. Thirteen stops are planned on the route, which would follow existing rail lines from Union Station in Hartford to New Britain.
In March 1999, the Capitol Region Council of Governments voted to start a $233 million transportation improvement plan. The Hartford West Major Investment Study proposes improving several I-84 interchanges (Routes 4, 6, and 9), adding auxiliary lanes near Route 173, and adding the aforementioned busway.
In August 1999, the state completed the Final Report for the Hartford West Major Investment Study. Among the proposals were the busway, and improvements to several I-84 interchanges.
Other road improvements planned include: eliminate left exit and entrance ramps at Route 4; provide for direct access between Routes 4 and 9; make exit 45 (Flatbush Ave, SR 504) a full interchange and move left exit ramps to the right; and add auxiliary lanes at several locations in West Hartford.
In late 2000 and early 2001, the state was conducting a study of the interchanges at Prospect Street, Flatbush Avenue, Sisson Avenue, and Sigourney Street. The goals were to increase access, decrease the "footprint" of the interchanges, and improve safety.
The preferred alternatives: creating a modified full diamond interchange at Flatbush (exit 45, SR 504), which would change from a cancelled freeway stub to a surface arterial; and a Single-Point Urban Interchange (SPUI) at Sisson Ave (exit 46, SR 503), after tearing down the three-level interchange there. Left exits would be eliminated, and access to area streets made easier.
Hartford - East Hartford
Improvements are planned to the "Mixmaster" interchange with Route 2. They'll add a lane on I-84 east from the Bulkeley Bridge to Route 2, close the loop ramp from US 5 north (Main St) to I-84 west, and close the East River Drive on-ramp to I-84/Route 2. This is to lower complexity and increase safety.
In summer 1999, work began on the HOV lane extension (see above) and other improvements near Route 2. I-84 westbound would get an extra lane between exit 54 (Route 2 west, Founders Bridge) and the Bulkeley Bridge, and the exit 53 ramp would be revised. Work on the HOV lane extension completed in June 2001.
Silver Lane and Roberts Street
Exit 58, for Silver Lane (SR 502) and Roberts Street (SR 518), serves the Pratt & Whitney complex as well as retail and entertainment venues. Traffic has always been heavy there; even with the decline in Pratt & Whitney employment, the new UConn football stadium has prompted planners to dust off old plans for a grade separation at Roberts St and Silver Lane. A new addition is a proposed flyover ramp from I-84 above Silver Lane to the stadium site at the former Rentschler Airport.
East Hartford city officials generally concede the stadium alone won't generate enough traffic to justify the flyover, but future office and retail development could.
Manchester - Vernon
In March 2002, the state proposed adding an operational lane, about 3100 feet long, on I-84 eastbound between the Route 30/83 interchanges. The highway would then have five eastbound lanes (one HOV, three general-purpose, one auxiliary) between exits 63 and 64/65. Also, eastbound exit 63 would be widened and lengthened. A public information meeting was held in Manchester on March 27.
Area Man proposes "Little Dig" for Hartford
Boston underwent a huge "Big Dig" project to move a section of urban elevated highway underground. Hartford did something like this in the 1990s, lowering I-91 southbound two levels and building a promenade for unblocked, unshadowed pedestrian access to the river and East Hartford.
Musician Bill Mocarsky of Manchester saw the tangle of ramps at I-84 exit 48 (Capitol Ave) and envisioned the potential of linking Bushnell Park back to the neighborhoods north of I-84. In a conversation with the Hartford Courant, he described how I-84 eastbound, which was elevated only to accommodate a proposed interchange with never-built I-484, could be moved back beneath Broad Street, and pedestrian walkways placed above.
DOT officials note that such a project would be a long way off: even approved projects, such as modifying exits 45 and 46 on I-84, don't have funding yet.