Connecticut: Highways to Nowhere

Featured in the Eastern Connecticut Day

Two generations have gone by since the era of big highway building in Connecticut. Fifty or more  years ago we had grandiose plans of highways criss-crossing our state, bringing with it free unfettered statewide personal travel and unrivaled economic growth due to our strategic positioning within the Northeast corridor. Unfortunately, that enviable position was not taken advantage of and Connecticut now deals with, along with its daily congestion problems, scores of unfinished highways.

Our current generation has accepted the current highway infrastructure as "the way it has always been." Yet visitors and new residents of Connecticut are baffled at times with our roadways. You can be cruising along an interstate-quality, four-lane highway, lightly-traveled and well marked, then within the span of a mile have the highway come to a complete dead end. It happens all over the state, yet we accept it as fact.

What is it about Stepney that makes it so important to rate an interstate-quality highway to its downtown (Route 25)? Who lives in Salem that deserves a four-lane highway from Hartford to their doorstep (Route 11)? Why does a parking garage in New Haven get a four-lane highway to its entry (Route 34)?

Does Forestville really need interstate access (Route 72)? Does Willimantic really need a four-lane highway (Route 6)? Does Winston need interstate access (Route 8)?

These are but a few examples of aborted, abandoned, and opposed highway construction projects in Connecticut. This state is covered in small sections and spurs of highways that just seem to pop out of nowhere and abruptly end. These "Highways to Nowhere" were all part of plans to improve Connecticut's roadway system and head off the highway congestion that we are now facing. The purpose of these web pages is to point out to new generations of Connecticut citizens and visitors that all the highway ills we complain about today had resolutions built into plans of 40 years ago, and that these solutions still exist, should we choose to accept them.

Many of these projects were victims of diversion of funds and priorities. Some projects were dropped as a result of the Mianus River Bridge collapse in 1983, when 3 people were killed and Connecticut faced the fact that its existing roads were in significant disrepair and needed maintenance long before new roads were built. The vast majority of these projects, however, were quashed as a direct result of political action by residents local to the projects that did not want highways built in their backyard, many times using "environmental concerns" as their banner. Our politicians gave in to these special interests and let the new construction projects languish without funding until they were eventually forgotten.

However, they're not all forgotten. In some cases, these solutions are vigorously being pursued by small groups of individuals, groups that would like nothing more than to "get the word out." Ironically, the majority of these groups are from the very people that opposed them 30 years ago, now realizing that the lack of these solutions is contributing to a decrease in their local standards of living (despite of their earlier "successes"). Whenever possible, I will refer the reader to those local groups that maintain web pages, as they are no doubt much more knowledgeable about their particular roads than I.

The vast majority of the information on this site deep-links into an web site called NYC Roads, maintained by Steve Anderson. The amount of knowledge on this web site is absolutely incredible, and I encourage you to visit his site and learn much, much more about the roads, bridges, crossings, and history of our highway system up here in the Tri-State area.

I also own and fly a small airplane. Given my interest in this topic of CT's highway history, I've decided to keep a digital camera handy while I fly and take photos of those areas described. Each page will offer aerial photos of the highways described as I take them. Most were taken with a Kodak DC-3400 digital camera set to its highest settings of quality and resolution, through green-tinted Plexiglas windows which explains the pervasive greenish tint to all of them. Also note that some of the photos are HUGE, maybe even more than 1/2MB each. Click on any thumbnail photo to take a look at the higher resolution photos, but having high-speed access would be optimal.

Stop by the nearest Connecticut Visitor Center and grab a state road map, take a peek at all these strange highways, and follow along. You may be surprised at what you learn...

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