Undoing the Destructive Legacy of Hartford's Interstates

A new plan would spend an estimated $17 billion to remove a huge chunk of the Interstate Highway System's footprint in Hartford, Connecticut.

March 26, 2021, 5:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Interstate 84

Interstate Highway 84 in Hartford. | Wangkun Jia / Shutterstock

Tom Condon reports on an ambitious new plan to recover some of what was lost when interstate freeways were built through the city six decades ago.

First, the historical context:

Decades ago, the construction of I-91 cut Hartford off from the Connecticut River. I-84 isolated the North End from downtown and consumed a large swath of land and many historic buildings, including the majestic Hartford Public High School campus. The interchange of the two highways laid waste to part of the central business district.

East Hartford wasn’t spared; its massive “mixmaster” interchange occupies an area the size of downtown Hartford.

Two plans have attempted to rectify the damage from these decisions in the past decade, according to Condon, but neither made much progress. But a new plan, emerging as a hybrid of the previous ideas, has emerged.

"The new plan is part of a regional planning effort called Hartford 400, initiated by the iQuilt project in Hartford. It envisions a roughly triangular ring road around the downtown, with some tunneling but much less than Larson proposed, and new connections to East Hartford," according to Condon. The project would cost an estimated $17 billion, but the results would include removing the I-84/I-91 and "mixmaster" interchanges, freeing up more than 150 acres of "prime urban land" for development. In addition, the plan would also cap I-91 through downtown Hartford.

The article includes more details about the iQuilt Partnership, the brainchild of Hartford native and Los Angeles-based urban planner, Doug Suisman.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021 in The CT Mirror

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