NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – A crowd of politicians and other city and state officials crossed Martin Luther King Boulevard at Orange Street Monday morning. Why did they cross the road? To prove that you can now get to the other side.
The area that has been a highway connector for decades used to be a thriving neighborhood. Then, in the 1950s, they built Route 34 right through it, cutting off the Hill neighborhood from downtown. Now, you can get from one to the other with the touch of a button.
It’s actually the touch of two buttons. Even for the ceremonial first crossing, Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard is now just too wide to cross all at once. This is still the easiest it’s been to get across town in more than 60 years. Back then, the area was called the Oak Street Neighborhood.
“We had over 881 households and 350 businesses demolished,” explained Sixth Ward alder Carmen Rodriguez.
All those homes and businesses were paved over in the name of urban renewal.
“There was the idea that building highways through communities was actually going to address a lot of our problems,” said Mayor Justin Elicker (D – New Haven). “We’ve learned since that time that is not actually the best way to address our challenges.”
So, piece by piece, New Haven is turning the highway back into city blocks. First, by building 100 College Street office building over the highway trench. Construction for the next building over that trench is already underway. Now, the crossing at Orange Street is officially open.
“It invests in a thriving community, expands transportation options,” said U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, (D – House Appropriations Chair). “Small businesses will thrive in New haven.”
That is because folks can now walk and bike to and from the train station, Yale Hospital, and biotech buildings in the Hill. It is all designed to make the Elm City more walkable and friendly.
“Pedestrians will be inclined to ditch the car, forgo the frustration of looking for a parking space,” explained New Haven resident Thomasine Shaw.
In the future, they also plan to develop the current parking lot that used to be the New Haven Coliseum. People will live, stay, or work there with easy access to the train station across that new crossing.