residents to live
in once remote small towns and villages across the state.
suburban growth came increased demand for highway and road expansion.
Connecticuts urban population continued to decline as the suburbs
flourished. In the last 40 years, as Connecticuts suburban lifestyle
evolved, weve greatly transformed how we get from place to place.
MIKE ALAN (Radio
Pilot & Traffic Reporter): In my earlier days, back in the early
eighties, traffic primarily traveled into downtown. All the insurance
companies, large businesses were located there. Since then a lot of
them have migrated to the suburbs. So the interchanges which were
primarily built and designed to handle traffic just coming into downtown
and dumping off, now have to be able to handle this traffic to continue
through. Its really provided some new and unique traffic problems.
We have seen a tremendous growth in the mobility of people. Weve
seen a tremendous growth in where they go. The old spoke and wheel
system from outlying areas into the center city to work has basically
disappeared in favor of people going from one suburb to another suburb
or traversing through various communities.
Husbands and wives now typically work at two jobs. On the way to work
were dropping off our dry cleaning, were dropping off
the kids at daycare or at school; coming home were picking up
a bite to eat the convenience store and running a lot of other errands
in midday. So what we would refer to as trip chaining, linking up
multiple trip purposes, you could see the bias it starts to lend toward
the automobile and toward a system thats able to respond to
our functional demands.
number of vehicles registered in Connecticut has steadily increased
at a rate much faster than the amount of road mileage in the state.
BRUHL (Pres. & CEO, Business Council of Southwestern CT): People
have their cars for a reason. We have two career families. We have
had for many generations land use policies favoring the single family
home. We are the oldest populated part of the nation, therefore, we
have land thats been developed forever. You dont have
a lot of choices about where youre going to put certain kinds
of facilities any longer. The cars the way the overwhelming
majority of people are going to go to work, and going to work alone
is going to be the way the overwhelming majority of people go. It
doesnt help us to call those people bad. They are merely coping
based on the choices available.
CT '56 T-BIRD
CLUB OWNER 1: "I got my car in 1962. I paid three hundred dollars
CT '56 T-BIRD
CLUB OWNER 2: "Its a lot of fun just driving the car, whenever
you can put the top down."
CT '56 T-BIRD
CLUB GROUP: "We are members of the CT area classic Thunderbird
Club, and we all love our cars."
SEN. BILL CIOTTO
(Chairman, Transportation Committee): Whats the first thing
a 16-year old kid wants? His drivers license. Go by every house
in the suburb, you tell me if you see one car, if you dont see
two or three cars. We have a love affair with our automobile. Thats
our bit of independence. We want to be able to jump into that vehicle,
drive to our place of employment, whether its an office or a
shop, a factory, and we want to be able to park as close as possible
to the front door there. And then comes 4:30 or 5 oclock, God
forbid we should have to wait to car pool with somebody and take them
1973, highway travel in the state has increased by 84% while the total
road system has increased by less than three percent. The result is
spreading congestion and more frequent delays.
(Chief, CT DOT Bureau of Policy & Planning): The state of Connecticut
has about 20,000 miles of roadways, of which about 4,000 miles of
it is state highways. And we really monitor the traffic thats
on the state highway system itself. About 20% of those miles are under
congested conditions, which primarily occur during the peak hours
or the commuting hours, either in the morning or the afternoon. We
anticipate about a 20 to 30% increase in vehicle miles of travel in
Connecticut over the next 20-year period.
roads create pollution, cause more accidents and hurt state economic
development as it takes longer for people and goods to get to their
The worst traffic
snarls and tieups in the state take place in the Connecticut Turnpike
corridor from New Haven to the New York State Line. I-95 opened in
1965 as a toll road, with the $464 million cost financed entirely
by the state.
30% of the roadways within the I-95 corridor are over capacity, with
the congestion level projected to increase up to 55% in the next few
years. I-95 itself is at 180 percent of the rush-hour capacity for
which it was designed.
CHRISTOPHER BRUHL: The congestion problems mean that we now measure distance in
Fairfield County in minutes, not miles. That more people listen to
the traffic report than the weather report. And that a typical commuter
taking a 19-mile trip, for example, from Fairfield to Stamford, will
expect to spend during rush hour from 45 to 55 minutes on a day without
rain or accident. Thats a problem.
Our studies have indicated that that peak hour problem which now extends
for 3 hours in the morning and 3 hours at night, plus or minus, by
the Year 2010 is going to extend all day long. Were going to
be looking at a 12-hour a day peak hour. Were going to be looking
at the same kind, albeit a couple years beyond that, in the Hartford
area. So what were looking at is a tremendous increase in the
in the volume of traffic that our system simply cannot adjust
to, and there is no way that we can build our way out of the problem.
We cannot build new highways to keep up with this kind of a demand.
the Capital Region, the 84 West corridor has also experienced major
growth and serious traffic problems, with about 155,000 vehicles a
day using the highway from Hartford to Waterbury.
In 1997, the
state Dept. of Transportation began a lengthy planning process involving
municipalities and agencies to determine how best to improve the overloaded
corridor. This April, in a reversal of its historic role in building
new highways as a solution to traffic congestion, the DOT ruled out
adding a 4th lane to I-84.
McMAHON (Dir. Transportation, Capitol Region Council of Govts.): The
environmental and social impacts of those major highway construction
projects just are not acceptable any more. So this is giving us an
opportunity to look at some alternative systems, to look at some light
rail, perhaps, some bus-way type of systems.
the Southeastern part of the state, the Route 2 corridor has seen
drastic increases in traffic primarily because of casino development
and tourism growth. Since the casinos have opened, traffic has increased
by up to 40,000 cars a day. Traffic congestion in the state is not
limited to major highways.
MIKE ALAN: The
secondary roadways are really, really starting to take some heat.
Route 4 is one that has really, really become so heavy. I dont
know how anybody drives it on a regular basis. I can see when I announce
a major accident on a highway, particular exit ramps and roadways
just automatically starting to build up with traffic. Were driving
on roads that were cow trails, I should say, 200 years ago, now theyre
two-lane roads, theyre trying to make them into three-lane roads,
they dont have good interchanges and its become very,
very difficult to commute and its a growing problem. I dont
know what the answer is; just cant build interstates through
Simsbury and Avon.
the past, increased traffic often led to new roads or expanded existing
environmental concerns, local objections and limited finances adversely
affect the states ability to increase road mileage.
annual budget for capital projects and maintenance is about $604 million.
The reality of building brand new roads or brand new transit systems
in the state is very, very slim because of the dollar situation that
were in. We probably spend somewhere in the range of 60 to 70
percent of resources as maintenance or minor improvement oriented
and only about 30% of those resources are for expansion.
We could easily spend a lot more and certainly many of the things
that we do the people dont fully understand that are essential
to the operation are extremely expensive. We have a catenary system,
for example, on the railroad that was built in the early 1900s.
Were looking at costs like $300 million to replace that system.
Were looking at bridges at $140 million to replace.
and the affordability of transportation alternatives is a fundamental
In the Hartford
West corridor study, the Capitol Region Council of Governments is
planning for about $250 million in transportation improvements. But
experts claim that even that may not be enough.
At our first blush of alternatives thinking of the scope and the size
of the improvements that need to be made, well far exceed that.
So where do the funds come from? And thats a critical issue.
Other parts of the country are resorting to answers that Connecticut
a long time ago said that it didnt want to resort to when we
took the tolls off Interstate 95 and took the tolls off the Merritt
Parkway, as an example. Does the political system have the will to
make the tough financing decisions? I think thats probably the
critical transportation decision that were going to have in
the next decade. Can we spend the money that we need to spend?
1983 two highway tragedies riveted state residents attention
on the transportation system.
a truck slammed into three automobiles waiting at the Stratford toll
plaza, killing 7 people and injuring many others. Ten months later,
the state began to remove all tolls from the Merritt Parkway and the
Connecticut Turnpike, resulting in a loss of $69 million in annual
Then, at 1:30
am on June 1983, part of The Mianus Bridge on the CT Turnpike collapsed,
plunging four vehicles into the river. Three people died and three
more were injured.
With the collapse of the Mianus River Bridge back in 83, we
established a major infra-structure renewal program, which provided
dedicated revenues, specifically the gasoline tax, car registration,
license fees, etc., that would be specifically used to improve the
transportation system, both highway and transit within the state.
Here we are 15 years from its inception and weve spent probably
close to $10 billion on that system to do improvements to both our
roadways and our transit system. And so that improvement has to continue.
pressures have continued to increase as state roads carry ever-increasing
numbers of vehicles.
(Senior Engineer, CT DOT): Because of the climate and where were
situated in the northeast our roads deteriorate far quicker than say
some roads out in Arizona or in Florida. On the interstates, you have
a huge majority of heavy truck traffic going through there. And the
bridges take a physical pounding year after year especially through
the winter. And each year were out here especially when you
work on some of the interstates the, you never see the volume of traffic
being reduced. It always seems from year to year pumping more cars
through the projects. Theres a tremendous amount of traffic.
order to help finance its $3.5 billion maintenance program, the state
issued bonds in the mid eighties and early nineties. Today about 40%
of the DOT budget goes to debt service for these bonds, significantly
limiting its ability to do new construction.
major reconstruction project is the rebuilding of the 50-year-old
Qinnippiac River Bridge near the I-95/I-91 interchange in New Haven
-- one of the most congested areas in the state.
costs for the project range from $800 million to one-and-a-half billion
(Planner, CT DOT): It wasnt designed for the type of traffic,
the volume of traffic that its carrying today particularly an
extensive amount of truck traffic. During the commuter hours, inbound
into New Haven youre looking at an hour to two hours of traffic
congestion, and outbound in the evening about an hour to two hours
that way as well. And the traffic, if theres a breakdown, in
particular, since there are no breakdown areas on the bridge, traffic
can be backed up for miles with just a simple problem on the bridge.
transportation projects undergo a complex and time-consuming planning
process. The state DOT began a 10-year study of the Quinnippiac River
bridge in 1989.
You need a number of approvals on the federal level, on the state
level as well as coordination with local governments to insure that
what youre doing is not going to have a disastrous effect on
the on the neighborhoods. As far as number of agencies, theres
probably 50. So its the full gamut; its the federal, state
a five-year design phase, reconstruction of the Q Bridge and its surrounding
highways is likely to begin in 2004 and continue for 12 to 15 years.
Plans are being
made to cope with potentially massive traffic disruptions during construction.
The state transportation
agenda has always been greatly influenced by federal funding. Since
1992, the annual federal transportation grant to the state has averaged
about $360 million. In 1998, Congress passed a federal transportation
bill that will increase the states grant by 20% to $433 million
gas tax -- the highest in the country generated $504 million
in the last year. After a 3-cent reduction in 1997, the state legislature
further cut the unpopular tax by another 4-cents, effective later
this year. This years reduction means $53 million less a year
for the state transportation fund. Surplus state tax revenues and
the pending increased federal grant will replace the lost revenues.