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Hartford Facing Tough Choices About Downtown Highway

The Interstate 84 viaduct in Hartford, Connecticut, is past due for major updates, and a variety of very different possibilities are on the table.
January 15, 2020, 11am PST | Camille Fink
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Jacob Boomsma

Anthony Flint traces the path of Hartford, Connecticut, from its post-industrial decline to its bounce back from the brink of bankruptcy through redevelopment, zoning and land-use reforms, and mobility improvements.

"But in an illustration of how a mid-sized legacy city can work smart and still face existential challenges, Hartford finds another monumental task in its way: a crumbling piece of 20th-century infrastructure, a stretch of the Interstate 84 viaduct adjacent to downtown that is well past its expiration date," writes Flint.

Options include replacing the freeway, lowering it, burying it underground, and integrating it with a rail network. "All the while—and amid doubt that massive investment in infrastructure is forthcoming—momentum is growing for yet another idea: getting rid of the highway altogether and replacing it with surface boulevards—a feat accomplished in cities like Portland, San Francisco, Milwaukee, and Rochester," says Flint.

The future of the I-84 is one chapter in the longer story of regeneration in Hartford. The question is whether to pursue a megaproject or achieve longer-term goals through smaller changes. "Planners are going to have to bring their best game to study the scenarios and keep the hope alive," adds Flint.

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Published on Monday, December 23, 2019 in CityLab
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