MOVING US 44 OUT OF HARTFORD: In 1953, the Connecticut Highway Department submitted its first proposal for an expressway relocation of US 44. Under this proposal, the US 44 Expressway was to stretch from Bloomfield to East Windsor, crossing over the Connecticut River on a new bridge. It was to connect to the CT 189 Expressway, I-91 and the (proposed) US 5 Expressway. The state never acted on this proposal.

AN EXPRESSWAY CORRIDOR NORTHWEST OF HARTFORD: Three years later, the Connecticut Highway Department submitted a second proposal for an expressway along the US 44 corridor. Unlike the earlier proposal, the new plan had the US 44 Expressway enter downtown Hartford, providing a direct connection to the city's northwest suburbs. The new proposal was part of a plan to get an Interstate designation (and the attendant 90 percent Federal funding) along the US 44 northwest of Hartford. It is possible that this Interstate highway may have continued west along US 44 toward the Poughkeepsie area. However, the Federal Bureau of Public Roads (BPR) denied this request.

In its 1962 report,
Regional Highways: Status Report, the Tri-State Transportation Commission recommended the construction of a 32-mile-long, four-to-six lane expressway from the Bloomfield-West Hartford area to the northwest corner of Connecticut. The US 44 Expressway, which was designed to improve traffic flow along the existing US 44 corridor, was to connect the proposed I-291 Hartford beltway with US 7 in North Canaan.

Five years later, the Connecticut Highway Department outlined plans for the initial section of the US 44 Expressway through Bloomfield, Avon and Simsbury. The 5.6-mile-long, six-lane section, which was to connect the proposed I-291 / US 44 interchange with CT 10 in Canton, was scheduled for completion by 1975. This section was estimated to cost $60 million.

Upon completion of the West Hartford-to-Simsbury segment, work would have commenced on an approximately 32-mile-long, four-lane segment from Simsbury west to North Canaan. An interchange was to be provided with the CT 8 Expressway in Winsted. The cost of this "future needs" project was estimated at $165 million.

By 1970, plans for the US 44 Expressway began to unravel. That year, the new Connecticut Department of Transportation (ConnDOT) decided not to construct the expressway through the reservoirs in the area of the proposed - and highly controversial - interchange with the northwest quadrant of I-291. (This quadrant of the Greater Hartford Beltway was never constructed.) One year later, ConnDOT dropped plans for tunneling the expressway through the hilly terrain near Avon. Finally, in 1973, Governor Meskill killed the US 44 Expressway proposal, deciding instead to fund mass transit along the US 44 "northwest corridor."

SOURCES: Regional Highways: Status Report, Tri-State Transportation Commission (1962); Connecticut Highway Needs, Connecticut Highway Department (1967); Planning for the Future, Connecticut Highway Department (1968); "Interstates 91 and 291: Administrative Action Final Environmental Impact Statement and Section 4(f) Statement," Federal Highway Administration and Connecticut Department of Transportation (1973); Scott Oglesby.

  • US 44 shield by Ralph Herman.


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