Replacing the state’s busiest stretch of highway

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HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Governor Malloy continued to push for his massive, 30-year transportation rebuild Monday, visiting what is expected to be the most expensive highway rebuilding project in state history.

The Aetna Viaduct, the three-mile elevated highway that carries I-84 from Hartford’s west side to downtown and passes by the Aetna World Headquarters, was designed and built in the 1960’s. It’s now way over capacity, and commuters face daily backups during every morning and evening commute. The viaduct is the busiest section of interstate highway in Connecticut, carrying 175,000 cars and trucks a day. For comparison, the busiest part of I-95 carries 155,000 per day.

The Governor toured underneath the aging elevated roadway Monday in what is expected to be the most expensive road replacement program in state history: $5 billion if it is replaced and $10 billion if it is put underground. The Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge over the Quinnipiac River in New Haven cost $2 billion. The Governor says that the state must face the reality that the time for replacing this has come. 

“Connecticut’s history of under investment over the last 40 years in transportation has got to be dealt with,” he said.

The 50-year-old structure is reaching the end of its life expectancy. It was designed to carry less than half the amount of daily traffic that’s now passing on it, and the corrosion of years of road salt are jeopardizing it. The consulting engineer on the project says the time for the stop gap repairs that have been going on for decades is over.  

“It’s like an old car you keep on spending money on,” said Dave Stahnke of TranSystems in Meriden. “It just gets very cost ineffective and not really the best way to handle it, you really need to replace it after a while.”

The Governor has included funding for the design study to replace the Aetna Viaduct in his new budget, but how to pay for this mammoth project is still to be decided.

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