THE US 6A EXPRESSWAY: The first evidence of what would eventually become I-691 appeared in 1962, when the Tri-State Transportation Commission recommended construction of a 40-mile-long "US 6A Expressway" connecting I-84 in Southington with the proposed US 6 Expressway in the Columbia-Willimantic area. When the recommendation appeared, design work was already underway on the section between I-84 and I-91 in Meriden. The US 6 Expressway was scheduled for completion by 1975.

In its 1966 report Transportation 1985: A Regional Plan, the Commission clarified its recommendation for the US 6A Expressway, which was listed in the report as the "CT 66 Expressway." The proposed expressway was designated as a "priority project" between I-84 and I-91, and as a "long-range proposal" east of I-91. The benefits of the proposed expressway were described as follows:

This east-west route through Meriden will serve as a peripheral route between I-84 and I-91. It will distribute traffic through and between urban areas.

In 1967, the Connecticut Highway Department revised plans for the US 6A Expressway, and divided the project as follows:

  • SOUTHINGTON TO MIDDLEFIELD: From I-84 to a point just east of I-91, the four-to-six lane US 6A Expressway was to be constructed within a 350-foot-wide right-of-way, enough to provide a buffer to surrounding communities. Designed for a capacity of 30,000 vehicles per day (AADT), the US 6A Expressway was to relieve the existing US 6A about one-quarter mile to the north. In addition to providing access to I-84 and I-91, it was to provide access to CT 15 (Wilbur Cross Parkway and Berlin Turnpike) and the proposed CT 10 Expressway. The initial 8.3-mile section between I-84 and I-91, which required the relocation of 35 homes and 11 businesses, was estimated to cost $33.6 million.

  • MIDDLEFIELD TO PORTLAND: East of I-91, the US 6A Expressway was to continue to the CT 9 Expressway in downtown Middletown. At this point, the relocated US 6A route was to cross the Connecticut River over a new steel-arch bridge featuring a 750-foot-long main span. Across the river in Portland, there was to be an interchange with the proposed CT 17 Expressway extension (which was shown as a "future needs" route). The 8.7-mile, four-mile section from Middlefield to Portland was estimated to cost $60 million.

  • PORTLAND TO MARLBOROUGH: East of the interchange with the CT 17 Expressway, the US 6A Expressway was shown as a "future needs" route to the CT 2 Expressway in Marlborough. At this point, EXIT 14 on the CT 2 Expressway may have been reserved for the interchange with the US 6A Expressway.

  • MARLBOROUGH TO COLUMBIA: This controlled-access section, which was recommended in the 1962 Tri-State Transportation Commission report, did not appear in the 1967 Connecticut Highway Department study.

CONSTRUCTION OF I-691: The initial section of the US 6A Expressway opened to traffic when I-91 was completed from Hartford south to Middlefield in 1965. Extending from EXIT 8 (US 5) in Meriden to EXIT 13 (CT 66) at the Meriden-Middlefield town line, the 2.9-mile-long freeway acted as a connector to the new I-91. Initially built with four lanes, this section was widened to six lanes in subsequent years.

In 1969, the Connecticut Highway Department officially changed the designation of US 6A to CT 66. One year later, the re-christened CT 66 Expressway was extended west to EXIT 4 (CT 322) in Meriden.

In 1979, after plans for most of I-291 and I-484 were canceled, the CT 66 Expressway received the I-691 designation contingent upon completion of the expressway west to I-84. That year, the Connecticut Department of Transportation (ConnDOT) drafted plans to complete the expressway west to I-84 in Southington. In 1987, the first I-691 shields were posted along the CT 66 Expressway when it became apparent that the expressway would be completed. (Subsequently, the CT 66 designation was removed west of I-91.) The final four-lane section of I-691, which features a wide, variable median for future expansion, was completed in 1988.

According to ConnDOT, Interstate 691 carries approximately 55,000 vehicles per day (AADT). In 1998, ConnDOT increased the speed limit to 65 MPH along the length of I-691.

This 2000 photo shows the flyover ramps at the western terminus of I-691 at I-84 in Southington. (Photo by Jim K. Georges.)

EXTENDING TO MIDDLETOWN AND BEYOND: For more than 35 years, state officials have sought to improve the CT 66 corridor east of I-91 at the Meriden-Middlefield town line. When the expressway extension was first proposed in the early 1960's, it was to continue east to the Columbia-Willimantic area. A 1967 state proposal included a new four-lane arch span to replace the Arrigoni Bridge, a 3,428-foot-long span with two 600-foot main steel arch spans. In the 1970's, the state planned a considerably shorter extension of the expressway, this time ending at the CT 9 Expressway (EXIT 13) in downtown Middletown.

With the freeway extension proposals soundly defeated, more recent attention has been focused on widening four miles of CT 66 (Meriden Road and Washington Street) along the existing right-of-way from the eastern terminus of I-691 to CT 9 in downtown Middletown. In November 2003, ConnDOT began a $21.6 million widening project that will smooth out dangerous curves and limited sight lines along this section of CT 66. Special environmental clearances needed to be granted because of the road's proximity to three reservoirs that supply nearly half of the water supply for Middletown.

REVIVING THE I-691 EXTENSION? In late 2000, the Connecticut Roadbuilders Association recommended a 20-mile extension of I-691 from I-91 in Meriden east to the CT 2 Expressway in Marlborough. The I-691 extension proposal was drafted in response to the growing transportation needs of southeast Connecticut. Some community groups have recommended extending I-691 an additional 13 miles from Marlborough (along the existing CT 66) to connect with the US 6 Expressway in Willimantic, instead of extending I-384 along the US 6 (Bolton Notch-Columbia) corridor.

I-691 should be extended as a four-lane, controlled-access facility east to the CT 9 Expressway (at EXIT 13) in downtown Middletown. This project should be undertaken in conjunction with the reconstruction of CT 9 through Middletown.

From Middletown east to the CT 2 Expressway (EXIT 13) in Marlborough, CT 66 should be reconstructed as a four-lane, median-separated arterial highway.

SOURCES: Regional Highways: Status Report, Tri-State Transportation Commission (1962); "Expressway Plans," Regional Plan Association News (May 1964); Transportation 1985: A Regional Plan, Tri-State Transportation Commission (1966); "Study for the Relocation of US 6A," Connecticut Highway Department (1967); Connecticut Highway Needs, Connecticut Highway Department (1967); Planning for the Future, Connecticut Highway Department (1968); "Interstate 691: Administrative Action Final Environmental Impact Statement and Section 4(f) Statement," Federal Highway Administration and Connecticut Department of Transportation (1979); Connecticut's Historic Highway Bridges by Bruce Clouette and Matthew Roth, Connecticut Department of Transportation (1991); Mid-State Regional Planning Agency; Town of Coventry; Jay Hogan; Kevin Lagasse; Scott Oglesby; Alexander Svirsky.

  • I-691 shield by Ralph Herman.
  • CT 66 shield by Barry L. Camp.
  • Lightpost by Millerbernd Manufacturing Company.

INTERSTATE 691 AND CT 66 LINKS:

CURRENT METRO COMMUTE ROAD CONDITIONS:

OFF-SITE EXIT LISTINGS:

  • I-691 (Connecticut) exit list by Jay Hogan.

VIEW OR SUBMIT YOUR RATING TO RATETHEROADS.COM:

  • Interstate 691 (Connecticut)

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