CONNECTICUT'S SHORTEST EXPRESSWAY: The Westerly Bypass (RI 78) had been part of long-range planners in Rhode Island since the mid-1950's as a way to alleviate congestion along US 1 in Westerly. However, it was not until about a decade later that Connecticut officials jumped aboard to support a connection between the Westerly Bypass and the proposed extension of the CT 2 Expressway.

In 1967, the Connecticut Highway Department held a public hearing in Stonington to discuss plans for a new expressway along the CT 2 corridor. The plan called for the extension of the CT 2 Expressway past I-95 to the Pawcatuck River, where the expressway was to continue as RI 78. Two interchanges were to be constructed: a "double-trumpet" interchange with I-95, and a four-ramp partial cloverleaf at CT 2 (Liberty Street). To avoid confusion with the existing RI 2, Connecticut officials re-designated the section southeast of I-95 as CT 78; the CT 2 most likely would have left the expressway at Liberty Street.

The state held design hearings on the CT 78 Expressway in February 1970. The proposed design called for building the expressway in the following stages:

  • In the first stage, a two-lane divided highway ("super 2") was to be built from CT 2 (Liberty Street) to a new continuous steel-girder bridge over the Pawcatuck River. Ramps were to be provided for a grade-separated interchange at CT 2.

  • In the second stage, a parallel span was to be constructed over the Pawcatuck River for the second carriageway. The four-lane expressway was to be extended west (north) of Liberty Street to a partial interchange with I-95 in Stonington. Initially, only two connections were to be provided at the interchange: from I-95 northbound to CT 78 eastbound, and from CT 78 westbound to I-95 southbound.

  • In a possible third stage, additional ramps were to be built at the I-95 / CT 78 interchange (what was to be EXIT 91A on I-95) for an eventual extension of the CT 2 Expressway northwest to Norwich. However, increasing unwillingness to fund road projects and dwindling state resources forced the state to withdraw the CT 2 Expressway (Norwich-Stonington) extension plans in 1971.

The state had hoped to begin construction of the $12.8 million expressway by 1973. However, the budget crises of the time postponed construction for about two years. When construction began in 1975 (one year after work began on the Rhode Island section), only the first stage - the "super 2" from CT 2 (Liberty Street) to the Pawcatuck River Bridge - was built. Provisions were made for an eventual four-lane highway at the Liberty Street overpass, but nothing ever came of the rest of the second-stage plans. The half-mile section of CT 78 opened to traffic in 1979 as little more than a ramp from Rhode Island's Westerly Bypass.

RENAMING ROUTE 78 HONORS VETERANS: In 2002, the Westerly Town Council and the Rhode Island State Legislature adopted legislation to rename Route 78. The new name of the highway, "Veterans Way," was adopted as U.S. forces were shipped to Afghanistan after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, and is named in honor of war veterans, police officers and firefighters. The Connecticut State Legislature adopted matching legislation in 2003. New signs were erected along Route 78 in April 2004.

THE MISSING LINK TO I-95: During the early 1980's, the Connecticut Department of Transportation (ConnDOT) canceled plans to extend the CT 78 Expressway west of CT 2 (Liberty Street). It was at this time that ConnDOT built a ramp from southbound CT 2 to eastbound CT 78, utilizing the right-of-way of what was to be the four-lane CT 78 Expressway. A drive along this ramp reveals the rock cuts that hinted at a once-planned extension northwest to I-95 and beyond.

ConnDOT has no current plans to revive the CT 78 extension to I-95. However, given the ambitious development plans in southeast Connecticut since the 1990's, officials may give the extension a second look at a link between I-95, the casinos and the beaches.

This map shows a 1970 proposal to construct the CT 78 Expressway from the Connecticut-Rhode Island border west (north) to I-95, with provision for a future extension west as the CT 2 Expressway. (Map from "Construction of Route 78: Public Hearing," Connecticut Department of Transportation, 1970; supplied by Scott Oglesby.)

EXTENDING THE CT 78 EXPRESSWAY: The CT 78 Expressway should be extended northwest from its existing terminus at CT 2 (Liberty Street) in Stonington to the CT 2A Expressway in Preston. (Until completion of the route, the existing CT 2A should be re-designated CT 78.) The CT 78 Expressway, which would parallel the existing CT 2 and connect to I-95, would improve safety and alleviate congestion resulting from current and future development in southeast Connecticut.

SOURCES: "Rhode Island Roads," Rhode Island Department of Public Works (1956); "A Highway Program for Rhode Island," Rhode Island Department of Public Works (1959); "Construction of Route 78: Public Hearing," Connecticut Department of Transportation (1970); "Widening of Connecticut Route 2, Stonington, Administrative Action Draft Environmental Impact Statement, Federal Highway Administration and Connecticut Department of Transportation (1996); "It's Official: Route 78 Now Is Called Veterans Way" by Chelsea Phua, The Providence Journal (4/27/2004); Michael Kendricks; Scott Oglesby; Alexander Svirsky.

  • CT 78 shield by Barry L. Camp.
  • Lightpost by Millerbernd Manufacturing Company.





  • CT 78 Expressway

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