Introduction

Connecticut has over the past several years designated several sections of its rural two-lane highways as Scenic Roads. This designation not only encourages sightseeing along the road but helps preserve it from modifications that would detract from its appearance, such as rerouting or widening.

Scenic Roads Defined

"Public Act No. 87-280 authorizes the Commissioner of Transportation to designate state highways or portions thereof as scenic roads in consultation with the Commissioners of Environmental Protection and Economic & Community Development.

"A scenic road is defined as any state highway that: 1) passes through agricultural land or abuts land on which is located a historic building or structure listed on the National Register of Historic Places or the State Register of Historic Places; or 2) affords vistas of marshes, shorelines, forests with mature trees or notable geologic or other natural features.

"The scenic road designation means that any further alteration or improvement on that section will maintain the character of the road."

Connecticut Department of Transportation

The scenic road designation has proven a popular tool to help preserve the rural character of some highways. I do not know what effect it has on commercial or residential development, but it does restrict DOT operations on the road. In March 2001, Pomfret First Selectman David Patenaude, explaining how a proposed designation would affect Route 97 in that town, said that the state, not homeowners, were bound by the rules: namely, "[the DOT] cannot come in and take down trees or disturb stone walls."

In at least one instance (Glastonbury), people have complained that the large "Scenic Route" sign detracts from the very scenery we're supposed to be enjoying. Along Route 160, a local artist erected a bumper-sticker-size sign reading "Ugly state sign" with an arrow pointing to the state's official sign.

As of Dec. 31, 2010, Connecticut has 298.18 miles of state highway designated scenic. (This is a nearly 8% of total state road mileage, which as of 2010 is 3,733.20.)

The first highway to receive scenic designation was Route 234, on Feb. 20, 1990.

Here are the routes, with lengths and dates of designation.

The following routes were submitted, but were either declined outright (for which a date is provided if known), or we assume they were declined but we don't have information (aka "pocket veto").

Sources