MADE NECESSARY BY A RELOCATED I-91: The East Rock Connector was born out of a 1957 decision by the Connecticut Highway Department to relocate I-91 from its original alignment through East Rock Park to a new alignment along the east bank of the Quinnipiac River. To provide access to the area, the state decided to build a four-lane connector from I-91 to Whitney Avenue (secret CT 707 and former CT 10A) on the New Haven-Hamden border.
In public hearings held in August 1959, the state maintained that plans for the four-lane East Rock Connector were "generally acceptable." This view was buttressed by a study conducted the Quinnipiac Valley Development Corporation, which held that the connector was essential for traffic service to and from I-91.
THROUGH EAST ROCK PARK: In 1961, the Connecticut Highway Department announced more definitive plans for an expressway spur extending from I-91 at EXIT 6 in New Haven with Whitney Avenue. The four-lane spur was to run along the banks of a relocated Mill River, and along a small section, run through a tunnel in East Rock Park. The East Rock Connector did not have an official route designation, but may have received the CT 10A designation upon completion.
The announcement of the CT 10A Expressway infuriated New Haven residents, who protested the proposed takings within East Rock Park. The New Haven Register, historically a supporter of new area highways, opposed the connector. In 1964, State Representative Lawrence O'Brien lent his voice to the opposition, stating that the connector would exacerbate traffic along Whitney Avenue.
Responding to these protests, the Connecticut General Assembly enacted legislation that prohibited the state from taking municipal parkland for highway construction without a majority vote from local legislative boards. The 1965 state legislation came one year before similar "4(f)" legislation restricting the use of parkland for highways was enacted on the Federal level.
Nevertheless, the East Rock Connector continued to appear on state highway plans. In 1968, the Connecticut Highway Department proposed that the 1.2-mile-long expressway, which was to follow the same route from I-91 to Whitney Avenue, be completed by 1971. (By this date, the CT 10A designation had been removed from Whitney Avenue. Perhaps coincidentally, the project was designated "B-10" on the Planning for the Future report.) Without much fanfare, the Connecticut Department of Transportation (ConnDOT) eventually shelved plans for the $6 million expressway spur.
Today, elaborate entrance and exit ramps along I-91 at EXIT 6 (Willow Street and Blatchley Avenue) in New Haven provide evidence of plans for the long-abandoned East Rock Connector.