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From Here to There

Produced, Written & Directed by Kenneth A. Simon

Broadcast Premiere: 1998, CPTV

PROGRAM TRANSCRIPT

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OPEN

NARRATOR: In Connecticut, nearly all roads lead to the suburbs.

JAY GITLIN (Prof. American History, Yale): The car is absolutely essential for enjoying the fruits of American life. You know, in a sense a driver's license is our passport to citizenship. Without a drivers license, you’re really no one.

NARRATOR: But the rush to the suburbs has led to a slowdown on Connecticut’s roads. …

PAUL EHRHARDT (Former Chrmn., Greater Htfd. Transit District): Although our population is not growing very much at all, the number of trips that we’re taking is growing very significantly and the length of those trips are growing.

NARRATOR: More than any other state service, it’s the transportation system that most residents use on a daily basis. …

HARRY STRATE (VP., Wilbur Smith Associates): Transportation is at the heart of a state’s economy, it’s at the heart of our quality of life

DICK CARPENTER (Exec. Dir., SW Regional Planning Agency): We depend on it to get to work, we depend on it to move our goods into and out of the state, we depend on it for pleasure trips and shopping trips.

NARRATOR: Connecticut has one of the most congested road systems in the country. And things are going to get worse. …

JON COLMAN (Pres., The Rideshare Co.): I think our highway system – particularly the secondary roads will be very congested. You’ll have a lot of frustrated people who are going to be sitting in traffic much longer than they are now.NARRATOR: Experts agree that new roads are not the solution to the state’s traffic problems. …

HARRY HARRIS (Chief, CT DOT Bureau of Public Transportation): We have a good system. It’s in good shape but it simply is not able to continue to grow to meet all of the demands that are being placed upon it by our society today.

NARRATOR: Getting from here to there has always been a high-profile public issue. …

TITLE: "FROM HERE TO THERE"

HARRY STRATE: The automobile is just the latest in a long series of technology that we’ve used to let people do what they want to do. Transportation enables people to make the choices that they want to make.

OUT OF THE MUD

NARRATOR: Our love/hate relationship with the roads we use goes back more than 200 years.

Until the later 19th century, Connecticut residents depended on stagecoach and buggy travel over dirt roads. Travel was hard and mobility – at about 8 miles per hour – was limited.

In 1792, as Connecticut’s population grew to about 200,000, the State government started to franchise privately owned turnpike companies in order to promote the growth of the state’s road system. Over the next 50 years, 150 turnpike companies built and maintained 1,400 miles of private toll roads, looking to make a profit from passing traffic.

But the rise of the railroad in the last half of the 19th century and the increased use of free alternative roads led to the decline of the turnpike companies. By 1855, the toll roads were largely abandoned, with maintenance taken over by the towns.

LARRY LARNED (CT Transportation Historian): Most of Connecticut’s roads were little more than muddy paths, which connected major towns. People living in the country, particularly the farmers, were living on muddy impassable roads during springtime thaws and unplowed roads during the winter.

There were no connecting roads between the cities to speak of during 12 months of the year. This intolerable situation led to the formation of the Connecticut Highway Department in 1895 with the goal of getting the farmer out of the mud.

NARRATOR: In 1878, the Pope Manufacturing Company in Hartford manufactured the first bicycles made in the United States. Connecticut’s growing middle class quickly embraced bicycling, which provided unprecedented personal mobility. Organized by Col. Albert Pope, the state’s bicyclists soon became leading advocates of better roads.

By 1901, the need for improved state roads became a critical public issue as more people bought automobiles. That year, Connecticut enacted the first traffic law in the United States, limiting speeds to 15 miles per hour in the country and 12 miles per hour in the city. In 1903, the state began to register automobiles. In that first year, 1,353 vehicles were registered. In 1913, the state highway department established the first system of state highways. The new department began to modernize the 14 routes comprising the system.

LARRY LARNED: This involved eliminating grade crossings and railroads, reducing steep grades, eliminating site line problems, using the 14 trunk lines as Connecticut’s basic highway system of the time.

NARRATOR: During the early thirties, many of these roads were typically clogged with ever growing numbers of automobile and increasing truck traffic causing frequent delays and numerous accidents.

HERB JANICK: We had a very active road building program quite early in the ‘20s and ‘30s so that by the time of World War II, we had 3,000 miles of paved road in a state that’s only 5,000 square miles.

NARRATOR: The most heavily traveled road was Route 1 along Connecticut’s coast. Route 1 had always been a busy route, used by both state residents and long distance traffic moving between Boston and New York.

LARRY LARNED: As the traffic increased, the suburbs moved out from the urban areas. Places like Glastonbury, Manchester and Redding and the towns surrounding Bridgeport and New Haven suddenly found themselves accessible by automobile. Congestion started to enter the picture.

LARRY LARNED: As the traffic increased, the suburbs moved out from the urban areas. Places like Glastonbury and Manchester and Redding and the towns surrounding Bridgeport and New Haven suddenly found themselves accessible by automobile. Congestion started to enter the picture.

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