A RELIEF ROUTE FOR DOWNTOWN DANBURY: In 1957, the Connecticut State Legislature ordered a study for a 3.5-mile-long, four-lane surface arterial connecting the then-proposed I-84 at the Danbury-Bethel border (near EXIT 8) with downtown Bethel. The proposed arterial, which was to have widely-spaced, at-grade intersections, was designed to alleviate anticipated congestion on the CT 53 (Main Street) corridor between Danbury and Bethel. However, the study determined that the proposed arterial would provide little traffic relief for the CT 53 corridor some two miles to the west.
Following two reports prepared for the city of Danbury and the Danbury Chamber of Commerce, the Connecticut State Legislature called for a new study, "Highway Planning Study of Bethel Connector to Route Interstate 84," in 1961. The new study called for the construction of the four-mile-long, four-lane CT 58 Expressway, known in the study as the "Danbury-Bethel Connector." It was to extend south from the intersection of I-84 and CT 39 (at EXIT 5) in Danbury, and end at the intersection of existing CT 58 (Putnam Park Road) and CT 302 (Greenwood Avenue) in Bethel.
A subsequent study conducted by the Connecticut Highway Department in 1963, "Highway Planning Report: Danbury-Bethel Connector to Interstate 84," presented three expressway alignments as follows:
WESTERN ALIGNMENT: Beginning at I-84, this alignment was to veer west of both downtown Danbury and the CT 53 corridor, then turn east toward the CT 58 / CT 302 intersection in Bethel.
CENTRAL ALIGNMENT: Beginning at I-84, this alignment was to veer east of downtown Danbury, but was to closely parallel the CT 53 corridor to Bethel. This recommended alternative was projected to provide the most traffic relief for the corridor.
EASTERN ALIGNMENT: Beginning at I-84, the first mile of the eastern alignment shared that of the central alignment. However, this alignment veered east of the CT 53 corridor in the vicinity of the Danbury railroad station.
During public hearings in 1970 on widening the existing CT 58 south of Danbury, a spokesman from the Connecticut Department of Transportation (ConnDOT) made reference to the CT 58 Expressway proposal as follows:
Why has our department selected to spend the funds to realign this portion of Route 58 instead of spending the funds on an I-84 connector? The Route 58 project is part of the two-lane, two-way improvement project and is not related to the expressway program, of which an I-84 connector would be considered. Several bills were introduced in the 1969 State Legislature relative to an I-84 connector. The Department's position favored an allotment to study the feasibility type location priority for such a project. None of these bills passed.
Given the then-active proposals to construct the US 7 and CT 25 expressways, both of which would have provided north-south service through Fairfield County, the state quietly shelved the CT 58 Expressway proposal.
LESS AMBITIOUS IMPROVEMENTS MADE: From the mid-1970's through the early 1980's, the city of Danbury shifted its focus from advocating an expressway spur to making street and arterial improvements. These improvements were as follows:
Patriot Drive, a new four-lane arterial route that runs from Liberty Street north to White Street (in the area of the Danbury Metro-North rail station), opened in 1975. This route parallel to Main Street (CT 53) provides improved traffic distribution in downtown Danbury, and serves to relieve congestion on Route 53. Subsequently, Liberty Street, which links Patriot Drive to Route 53, was widened to four lanes.
In 1981, Balmforth Avenue and Maple Avenue were converted to a one-way pair to expand north-south capacity for through traffic as a parallel corridor to Route 53. (Maple Avenue is used for southbound traffic, while Balmforth Avenue is used for northbound traffic.)
Additional improvements to the street and arterial network may be made as ConnDOT improves I-84 through Danbury.