This 1999 photo shows the eastbound CT 2 Expressway at EXIT 20 (CT 354) in Colchester, just east of the split for the CT 11 Expressway. (Photo by Steve Anderson.)

AN EARLY AMERICAN ROAD: The path of Connecticut's Route 2 follows the paths of the Hartford-New London and Colchester-Norwich turnpikes, two early toll roads that date back to the first decade of the nineteenth century. These roads were paid for by tolls before they were converted to local authorities in the mid-1800's. By 1900, the state took over maintenance of what would eventually become Route 2.

The paving of CT 2 began in 1920. By 1922, the 120-mile-long "New England Route 17," the precursor to CT 2, opened to traffic between North Canaan in the northwest corner of the state, and Stonington, on the Connecticut-Rhode Island border. A decade later, "NE-17" was decommissioned, and CT 2 was born. (Northwest of Hartford, the remainder of "NE-17" became part of the new US 44.) The new CT 2 was to run 58 miles between East Hartford and Stonington by way of Norwich.

BECOMING AN EARLY EXPRESSWAY: Beginning in 1945, the Connecticut Highway Department conducted studies on the CT 2 Expressway. The new route was to connect the Founders Bridge (at Columbus Boulevard) in downtown Hartford with southeast Connecticut, providing to direct connection to Norwich, and eventually, to Stonington. It was also to provide a connection to New London via the CT 11 Expressway.

In 1952, three years after construction began, a 1.8-mile-long, four-lane section of the CT 2 Expressway opened in East Hartford. Part of the original Glastonbury Expressway, the road was intended to have at-grade intersections, but local concerns about auto and pedestrian safety convinced the state to construct grade separation structures along the new highway.

LEFT: The Frank Homski Bridge, which carries the CT 2 Expressway over the Yantic River in Norwich, is dedicated in this 1959 photo. RIGHT: This 1960 aerial view shows the CT 2 Expressway through East Hartford. (Photos by Connecticut Highway Department.)

DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION OF THE CT 2 EXPRESSWAY: Near its western terminus in East Hartford, the CT 2 Expressway takes on a decidedly urban flavor. Tight exit spacing and narrow, concrete "Jersey" barrier-separated medians characterize this older section of expressway. Moving southeast from East Hartford, the CT 2 Expressway takes on a different personality. The newer sections were constructed to contemporary freeway standards, complete with 12-foot-wide lanes, 12-foot-wide shoulders, variable medians and wider spacing between exits.

From 1952 to 1971, the CT 2 Expressway was constructed on the following timetable:

  • 3.1-mile-long, four-lane section from the Founders Bridge southeast to EXIT 5A (Main Street-High Street) in East Hartford, opened in 1962.

  • 1.5-mile-long, four-lane section from EXIT 5A southeast to EXIT 6 (Griswold Street) in Glastonbury, opened in 1952.

  • 12.1-mile-long, two-lane ("super 2") section from EXIT 6 east to EXIT 15 (South Main Street) in Marlborough, opened in 1964. Right-of-way was set aside for a second carriageway, which was completed in 1969.

  • 4.8-mile-long, two-lane ("super 2") section from EXIT 15 east to EXIT 17 (Old Hartford Road-Business CT 2) in Colchester, opened in 1958. Right-of-way was set aside for a second carriageway, which was completed in 1969.

  • 3.8-mile-long, two-lane ("super 2") section from EXIT 17 east to EXIT 21 (Chestnut Hill Road-Norwich Avenue) in Colchester, opened in 1967. Right-of-way was set aside for a second carriageway, which was completed in 1969.

  • 3.8-mile-long, two-lane ("super 2") section from EXIT 17 east to EXIT 21 (Chestnut Hill Road-Norwich Avenue) in Colchester, opened in 1967. Right-of-way was set aside for a second carriageway, which was completed in 1969.

  • 7.3-mile-long, four-lane section from EXIT 21 east to EXIT 23 (CT 163 / Borzah Street) in Bozrah, opened in 1971.

  • 2.4-mile-long, four-lane section from EXIT 23 east to EXIT 25 (CT 32 / Windham Turnpike) in Yantic, opened in 1961.

  • 2.8-mile-long, four-lane section from EXIT 25 east to CT 169 junction in Norwich, opened in 1959.

As the expressway was constructed throughout the 1960's, the state highway department handed over responsibility of the original CT 2 to town authorities. Where the new expressway cut off the original road, some sections of the old road were abandoned altogether.

This 1999 photo shows the westbound CT 2 Expressway in Norwich, just west of I-395. This section of the CT 2 Expressway, which is dually signed with CT 32, was to connect with the unbuilt CT 32 Expressway in Yantic. (Photo by Steve Anderson.)

RECENT IMPROVEMENTS: Over the years, the Connecticut Department of Transportation (ConnDOT) has made the following interchange improvements to improve safety and traffic flow:

  • In 1987, the interchange between the CT 2 and CT 3 expressways in Glastonbury opened to traffic, providing a direct link with the Putnam Bridge for the first time.

  • In 1994, ConnDOT reconfigured the I-84 / CT 2 "mixmaster" interchange in East Hartford to improve sight distances and safety.

  • In 1998, ConnDOT completed the rebuilding of the Founders Bridge as part of the I-84 / I-91 / CT 2 interchange reconstruction and Riverfront Plaza project. To widen the bridge, engineers modified the two existing column pier bents using post-tensioned cantilevered "wings," and restyled the frame to an arched configuration in order to provide visual compatibility. Engineers also incorporated a pedestrian and bicycle path into the redesigned roadway. Decorative lighting was installed to blend with the fixtures in nearby Riverfront Plaza, the landscaped deck that spans I-91.

  • In 2001, ConnDOT completed a five-year-long project to reconstruct the CT 2 Expressway between EXIT 24 (Norwich-Colchester Turnpike) and EXIT 27 (Otrobando Avenue) in the Yantic area. The two carriageways were rebuilt to current design standards.

According to the Connecticut Department of Transportation (ConnDOT), the CT 2 Expressway carries approximately 65,000 vehicles per day (AADT) through the East Hartford-Glastonbury area, dropping to approximately 25,000 vehicles per day in the Norwich area. In 1998, ConnDOT increased the speed limit to 65 MPH from EXIT 7 (CT 17 Expressway) in Glastonbury to EXIT 26 (CT 32) in Yantic.

THE MISSING EXIT 14: Just southeast of EXIT 13 (CT 66 / Hebron Road) in Malborough, the Connecticut Highway Department (the predecessor to ConnDOT) and the Tri-State Transportation Commission had long-range plans for the CT 66 Expressway (originally the US 6A Expressway) to connect with the CT 2 Expressway at the unbuilt EXIT 14. Originally scheduled for completion by 1975, the CT 66 Expressway extension to CT 2 and US 6 had been canceled by that time.

This 2001 photo shows the westbound CT 2 Expressway over the Founders Bridge approaching downtown Hartford. The Founders Bridge was rebuilt during the 1990's. (Photo by Jim K. Georges.)

EXTENDING TO RHODE ISLAND: In 1962, the Tri-State Transportation Commission and the Connecticut Highway Department recommended a 21-mile-long, four-lane extension of the CT 2 Expressway from the Connecticut Turnpike (I-395) southeast to the RI 78 Expressway (Westerly Bypass), terminating in Westerly, Rhode Island.

The CT 2 Expressway extension, which was estimated to cost between $60 million and $80 million, was to provide a missing link between east-central Connecticut and Block Island Sound resorts. In 1967, the Connecticut Highway Department recommended this route as a long-range project for completion after 1975.

In 1970, the newly created ConnDOT announced design plans for the southernmost reaches of the CT 2 Expressway in Stonington. (To avoid confusion with the existing CT 2, the expressway section south of I-95 was to be designated CT 78.) Under these plans, the four-lane expressway was to intersect with I-95 at a "double-trumpet" interchange, and with existing CT 2 (Liberty Street) at a four-ramp "partial cloverleaf" interchange. However, increasing unwillingness to fund road projects and dwindling state resources forced the state to withdraw the Norwich-Stonington extension plans in 1971.

Toward the end of the 1970's, ConnDOT opened a 0.4-mile-long, two-lane ("super 2") connection to the RI 78 Expressway (Westerly Bypass). In 1983, ConnDOT opened a ramp from southbound CT 2 to the eastbound Westerly Bypass, utilizing the overpass and right-of-way of (what was to be the four-lane) CT 78 Expressway. Rock cuts at the western terminus of the CT 78 Expressway hint at a possible extension northwest to I-95 and beyond.

ALLEVIATING CASINO AND BEACH TRAFFIC: Since the early 1990's, the economy of southeast Connecticut has shifted from one based on defense electronics to one based on tourism. Specifically, the 1992 opening of the Foxwoods casino-resort in Ledyard, followed by the 1996 opening of the Mohegan Sun casino-resort in Montville, have caused traffic volume on CT 2 and other major highways in the area to double. Current and future development in this region is expected to aggravate existing congestion along the CT 2 corridor, the main route to coastal beaches.

Existing two-lane roads such as CT 2 are ill equipped to deal with current and expected volumes. Along the CT 2 corridor, traffic volume is expected to exceed 40,000 vehicles per day (AADT) by 2020, a 50 to 75 percent increase over current levels. Limited sight distances and driveways, combined with ever increasing traffic congestion, compromise safety.

During the late 1990's, the Connecticut Department of Transportation (ConnDOT), along with a number of local and tribal officials, met to devise a major investment study (MIS) for CT 2 and other area roadways. The state explored the following alternatives:

  • ALTERNATIVE A: This "no-action" alternative assumes no further construction by ConnDOT other than those projects already approved for the area, including the 2.4-mile-long (four-lane) widening of CT 2 from CT 164 in Preston to CT 214 in Ledyard, and the 1.5-mile-long (four-lane) widening of CT 2 from I-95 to the CT 78 Expressway in Stonington.

  • ALTERNATIVE E: This alternative involves widening CT 2 from the proposed limited-access CT 2A Bypass in Preston southeast to I-95 in Stonington. The four-lane CT 2 would feature 12-foot-wide lanes and a 16-foot-wide median, but would have at-grade intersections with local streets. In addition, the existing CT 2 / CT 184 rotary would be redesigned as a signalized intersection. The cost of implementing this alternative would be $94 million.

  • ALTERNATIVE F: In addition to all the provisions of "alternative E," this alternative would add a 6.8-mile-long, four-lane, limited-access CT 2 bypass between CT 214 in Ledyard and I-95 in Stonington. Between the two points, there would only be grade separations, no interchanges. The cost of implementing this alternative would be $131 million.

In March 2001, the Route 2 / Route 2A Advisory Committee recommended the implementation of the preferred alternative - "Alternative E" - before a two-hour meeting in Preston. While ConnDOT officials insisted that the widening is being done for safety reasons, residents have voiced that their concerns were not being addressed. Although Governor John Rowland gave the go-ahead for "alternative E" in May 2003, the proposed extension of the CT 2A Expressway will be sure to provoke tensions in the area.

In this 2000 aerial photo, the terminus of the CT 2 Expressway is shown at a conventional intersection in Norwich. Over the years, plans have been devised to extend CT 2 on a new four-lane alignment. (Photo by Greg Amy.)

The existing CT 2 Expressway should be widened from four to six lanes between I-84 in East Hartford and the CT 11 Expressway in Colchester.

A new CT 78 Expressway should be built to parallel CT 2 from the end of the existing CT 2A Expressway (which would thence be re-designated CT 78) in Preston to the end of the existing CT 78 Expressway in Stonington. The four-lane CT 78 Expressway would alleviate congestion on the existing CT 2.

SOURCES: Regional Highways: Status Report, Tri-State Transportation Commission (1962); Connecticut Highways (1959-1963), Connecticut Highway Department (1963); Connecticut Highway Needs, Connecticut Highway Department (1967); "Study for the Relocation of US 6A," Connecticut Highway Department (1967); Planning for the Future, Connecticut Highway Department (1968); "Routes 2-2A-32 Transportation Improvement Study," Connecticut Department of Transportation (1999); "East Hartford Officials Want Road Improvements in Return for Stadium Site," The Associated Press (1/25/2000); "Truck Stop and Rest Area Parking Study," Connecticut Department of Transportation (2000); "The Road Worrier," The Norwich Bulletin (2/12/2001); "Residents Dismayed Group Advises Route 2 Widening" by Megan Bard, The Norwich Bulletin (3/20/2001); "Inventory of Comparative Decking Projects," Parsons, Brinckerhoff, Quade and Douglas (2001); "State Asks Feds for $76 Million for Route 2A Bypass," WFSB-TV (5/16/2003); Jay Hogan; Michael Kendricks; Kevin Lagasse; Scott Oglesby; Alexander Svirsky; William F. Yurasko.

  • CT 2, CT 78 and RI 78 shields by Barry L. Camp.
  • Lightposts by Millerbernd Manufacturing Company.

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