In the early 1960s, Connecticut reorganized much of its highway system, changing where many routes were located and how many were funded. This was done in order to repair the fragmentation and disorder in a system that had evolved since 1913.

The effects of this reclassification were visible to drivers: about one-third of all publicly signed routes were added, deleted, or changed. Behind the scenes, a few hundred miles of public roads changed hands between town and state, and the system of unposted secret routes was completely revamped.

I call these changes the "Small Renumbering"; compared to the Great Renumbering of 1932, where nearly all highways were renumbered from scratch, the Small Renumbering left most major highways as is. The "Great" and "Small" terms are my own and not official. A better term for the Small Renumbering would be "Route Reclassification."

Background: the system before reclassification

The state of Connecticut started participating in road development in 1895, with the establishment of its highway department. State aid and oversight gradually increased until a statewide trunk line system, to be improved with state funds, was established in 1913. In 1931 the state started providing funding and engineering for selected town roads as well.

In 1916 the Federal Government started funding roads, adding the foundations of the U.S. route system in 1921 and the Interstate system in 1944.

In the decades leading to 1960, changes to the state highway system were usually the results of legislative acts. State funding for a highway would often end at a town line or city limit, or another arbitrary location. As the system evolved over four decades, it accumulated over 100 miles of "gaps" in state maintenance, about 30 miles of state highway segments isolated from the rest of the system, and about 150 miles of "stubs," highways where state maintenance would end shortly after the road's start.

In 1940, the state started erecting small "State Highway Begins" and "State Highway Ends" signs at those points to aid cities and towns in managing their own road maintenance. Some of these signs may still exist.

By 1960 Connecticut had five classifications of roads: US and state numbered highways, Federal Aid, Town Aid, State Trunk Line, and State Maintained roads. Highway numbering was "for the convenience of the motorist", and a continuous route number did not equate to continuous state maintenance.

A call for reclassification

In February 1957, a state commission recommended that Connecticut undergo a "complete reclassification of roads," citing discontinuities in the 3,000 mile system still based upon the 1913 legislation. In 1959, the state General Assembly ordered the reclassification. In March 1960, the state hired Edwards and Kelcey, a Newark engineering firm, to make recommendations. Their report was released in 1961.

Edwards and Kelcey cited the primary criteria for classifying roads as the state interest in travel between selected towns, the importance of said towns, and the routes available between them. The firm then proposed three classifications:

The report's recommended system was depicted on a map sheet, without new route numbers. Renumbering was left to the state.

In 1962, the state issued a Reclassification Act following the recommendations in the Edwards and Kelcey report. I believe this is when the Route Numbering and Reclassification Committee was established; a committee still in existence today. Most maps showed the new route numbers starting in 1963 (hence the URL of this document).

Some changes were contested

The state added funding for many miles of town roads, and turned over many routes back to the towns. Several towns opposed certain changes, and an arbitration procedure was established to resolve those disputes. Some changes, notably in the town of Kent, were not resolved until the 1980s.

Even as of Jan. 1, 2007 (the most recent update published by ConnDOT), the following Reclassification Road Transfers from 1961 have not yet been consummated (ConnDOT's term, not mine!):

Route numbering

I'll excuse some "road geek" types for waking up at this point. My primary interest as well was how and why route numbers changed in 1963. But the funding and classification background was necessary to establish context for the rest.

Along with publicly signposted routes (numbers less than 400), the state maintained a system of secret routes, small segments of road with route numbers, but not signposted or otherwise known to the general public.

The route numbering system for secret routes was completely overhauled. Roads belonging to the new Special Service Road classification were given numbers in the 400s. Remaining numbers in the 500s through 800s were assigned by district; for example, District 1 secret routes were numbered 500 through 599. A few pre-reclassification secret routes just happened to reside in the appropriate district afterward and kept their numbers.

Several new non-secret routes were created from formerly secret routes. Most of them were given numbers above 220. The numbers appear almost random on first glimpse: instead of 221, 222, 223, and so on, the numbers were sprinkled about, such as 254, 263, and 316. It turns out there was a method after all; most numbers were chosen to allude to their former secret routes. For example, Route 254 was formerly SR 854, and Route 316 formerly SR 816. Even some new secret route numbers recalled the old ones: SR 485 in Suffield became SR 585.

Deleted Signed Routes

These signed routes were fully reverted to town control:

New Signed Routes

These new routes were added, either from old secret routes or town roads:

Extended Routes

New state miles were added to these signed routes (not renumbered from others):

Group changes

Each row is a group of related changes. For example, if a route was deleted, the changed route or new route took over some miles. For details, however, look up the specific route with the search form at left.

Area Deleted Rerouted Added
New Fairfield 37A 39  
Southeast 119 201  
Hartford 184 178, 187  
Easton   106, 136  
Weston 103 53  
Ridgefield 35A   835
Branford 143 146  
Ellington 140A 140, 286  
Torrington   4, 25, 72, 179, 116 272
Southeast   27 117, 214
Hartford   218, 185  
Plainfield   14, 49 14A
Woodstock   171, 190, 197, 198  
Bantam   109 209
Roxbury   199  
Middletown   217  
Somers   186  
Enfield   220  
N/W Hartford   9, 189  

Original recommendations for deletion

The Edwards & Kelcey report included a map of the recommended state system after reclassification, showing several existing state routes deleted. Here's a list: