Regional Transportation Plan

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TRAFFIC PLANNING FOR
CENTRAL NEW MILFORD, CT

PART 6: EAST - WEST CONNECTOR

1. INTRO2. DOWNTOWN 3. GROVE STREET4. BOARDMAN ROAD 5. PATRIOTS WAY
6. EAST - WEST CONNECTOR7. HOUSATONIC BRIDGES 8. TRAFFIC IMPROVEMENT

Link to the New Milford Economic Development
Commission's 2005 East-West Connector Study

INTRODUCTION
The concept of the connector has deep roots in local planning. As of March 2007 the Connecticut DOT has indicated its lack of support for the concept, for reasons as listed below.

However the logic of the concept still has appeal to many officials and citizens in New Milford. The difficult geography of the Town Center Area offers few other solutions. For this reason the Connector concept should remain viable for future study.

HISTORY OF THE CONCEPT
From an historical perspective the 2.7 mile East-West Connector proposal is a combination of two different projects each with a distinct function. To distinguish them the names Western Segment (about 1.4 miles) and Eastern Segment (about 1.3 miles) are used, with Aspetuck Ridge Road used as the demarcation between the two.

The function of both segments operating together would be to better provide for east-west travel in Central New Milford, such that these traffic movements do not all need to first travel south to the Downtown prior to moving east or west.

The second function involved only the Eastern Segment, which was to be a stand alone terminus for the long planned north - south Route 7 Expressway. The Eastern Segment was recommended by Conn DOT to be constructed with state and federal funds as 52 feet wide curb to curb, allowing for four lanes of traffic for 1.3 miles.

The goal of this concept was to bypass New Milford Center and two lane Bridge Street via a new Housatonic River crossing, then distribute traffic on to the Eastern Segment of the East - West Connector and then other roads.

The Commissioner of Conn DOT wrote to Town officials on 1/29/1991 that the Department agrees that the proposed North-South Connector "will alleviate the existing traffic congestion in New Milford Center."

But the state never offered to also build the Western Segment of the East-West Connector and said in the same letter that the Town should do it with local funds. "If the Town wishes to pursue this connection as a local initiative, the Department will, during the design phase, coordinate its intersection location with the proposed North - South Connector."

The Conn DOT plan to include the Eastern Segment of the East - West Connector as part of the Route 7 construction plan would obviously have brought much more traffic to the whole East - West Connector than if it were just to serve more localized New Milford traffic.

But as it was decided in 1991 that a new Route 7 Expressway would never cross the Housatonic River to interface with any point on the East - West Connector. Existing Route 7 was to be widened instead. The cost benefit of building the Western Segment of the Connector alone then fell, as fewer trips would be served per fixed unit of construction cost.

According to the major Conn DOT policy statement of 11/26/1991. “Following extensive public discussion and study, state and local officials have agreed on a modified plan for improving highway travel in the Route 7 corridor between Brookfield and New Milford.... As well as focusing upon the upgrading of the existing two lane roadway, this plan was also to eliminate from consideration the New Milford bypass (now called the North - South Connector).”

REVIEW OF STUDIES
AND POLICY POSITIONS

1966. There have been questions over the years about how much traffic would use a stand alone (without the Route 7 Expressway connecting to it) East - West Connector. One old Conn DOT study documents a 1966 analysis of the traffic crossing Veterans Bridge.

It was found that of the total of 15,000 vehicles, only 360 were originating from Route 202 to the north, crossing the bridge, and then proceeding to or from Route 7 north. Thus the goal of connecting Route 7 to Route 202 north of the Downtown in 1966 was seen as not cost effective.

1972. After 1972 New Milford was expecting a new bridge crossing as part of the joint Route 7 Expressway/North - South Connector construction plan. Conn DOT was committed to build the Eastern Segment of the Connector, such that Expressway traffic could continue on to Route 202. (This commitment ran from 1972 to 1991).

This Conn DOT planning map indicates how the combination
of an extension of the planned Route 7 Expressway, coupled with
the Eastern Segment of the East - West Connector, would serve
as a North - South Connector to bypass Downtown New Milford.

The official plan endorsed by Conn DOT showed an Eastern Segment of the East-West Connector construction starting at Aspetuck Ridge Road and running easterly to Route 202. The Western Segment, a 1.4 mile section from Boardman Road easterly to Aspetuck Ridge Road, would be facilitated in the design of the adjacent state project but not funded by the state.

1974. Then In 1974, as a result of Public Act 73-157, Conn DOT was required to complete a study complete a “Feasibility Study of A Boardman Road Connector”. New Milford's leaders were attempting to have the 1972 Conn DOT traffic plan for the East Segment amended to include the West Segment.

The 1974 report examined the feasibility of making the western terminus of the East - West Connector Boardman Road and not Aspetuck Ridge Road, then to proceed easterly to Route 202. The 1974 report included traffic projections to 1995. These showed average daily traffic (ADT) of 12,800 on the Expressway approaching the Connector, then 10,700 ADT on the east side of the Connector from the Expressway to Route 202 (the part Conn DOT supported), and then 3,500 ADT on the Connector from the Connector to Aspetuck Ridge Road, (the segment Conn DOT did not support).

But the 1974 report concluded that there was a lack of justification for such a longer east- west roadway, based upon projected traffic volumes served, costs and potential environmental impacts. Conn DOT stated in the 1974 report that "The Department cannot justify the impact on the environment or the expenditure of at least $3.0 million for constructing a connector that would have an average daily traffic of approximately 1,700 vehicles with only approximately 300 vehicles per day traveling between Route 7 and Route 202."

Also that an additional "connector between the vicinity of the proposed Route 202 Connector near Aspetuck Ridge Road and Route 7 near the intersection with Boardman Road would essentially take over the function of the existing town roads, and would not qualify for inclusion in the State highway system... Since the problem is local in nature and requires local road improvements, it is recommended that the town consider methods of improving local roads in the study area."

But in spite of these views local interest in the concept remained. While this low traffic volume verified Conn DOT's earlier 1966 study, in 1975 the New Milford Board of Selectmen issued a resolution declaring the construction of an East - West Connector between Routes 7 and 202 to be very much a need of the Town.

1984. HVCEO’s 1984 Planning Bulletin No. 30 entitled “Projection of Traffic Flow Improvements Needed For The Boardman Road Area In New Milford” briefly assessed the value of developing the West Segment. This would connect Boardman Road with Aspetuck Ridge Road, across from Wells Road, about one half of the distance from Route 7 at Boardman Bridge to Route 202.

The 1984 report concluded that the total traffic volume that would use the West Segment in 1995 would be less than 3,000 vehicles daily, and that "this volume is significantly below that which could be expected to be carried by a new two lane facility." However, the report also advised that a further extension beyond Wells Road to Route 202, adding the West Segment, would improve the viability of the roadway.

1990. The next milestone in the planning history for the East - West Connector came in 1990, as Conn DOT released its new policy for Route 7 Expressway construction. Coming north from the current terminus of the Expressway in neighboring Brookfield, the highway would travel along the west side of existing Route 7, intersect with existing Route 7, then continue due north as the North - South Connector bypass around New Milford Center.

The proposed Conn DOT staging was A) bypass around the commercial area in Brookfield, next B) North - South Connector Bypass around New Milford Center, and then C) the large remainder of the Route 7 Expressway connecting A and B. Conn DOT stressed to local officials on 10/5/1990 that "the two bypasses would receive first priority because the construction of these bypasses would help reduce congestion in Brookfield and New Milford Centers."

1991. The Route 7 Expressway plan was formally dropped by Conn DOT in 1991, eliminating planned state funding for the East Segment of the Connector, and at the same time reducing the cost benefit of the West Segment to link with it near Aspetuck Ridge Road.

1997. In 1997 an updated New Milford Plan of Conservation and Development was adopted. According to that Plan “While it is recognized that there is a need to access industrial areas in the vicinity of the Boardman Bridge, absent the limited access Route 7 proposal, the need for the connection with Route 202 is not a priority circulation need..."

Continuing, "Based upon 1990 Census data there are only about 1,600 persons living in the area west of the Housatonic River and north of Candlewood Lake Road. The demand for east-west local access generated by this population does not support a major connector as envisioned in the 1986 Plan.”

2003. But opposition to the negative position of the Town Plan as to the Connector was considerable after the 1997 Plan was adopted. In 2003 the Town Plan was amended to reverse this position. The 1997 text was removed and the following inserted in its place:

“Increased population growth, combined with traffic congestion, the need for access to industrial land and changing traffic patterns have made it a priority for the Town to develop a connector between Routes 7 and 202 in the Boardman Bridge Area.”

Continuing, “The Town should move rapidly to develop and implement plans to create this connector initially to open the industrial area and ultimately to provide a through connection between Route 7 and 202.”

Also in 2003 the staff of the New Milford Public Works Department provided a concept plan of how the entire East-West Connector, both West and East Segments, might be laid out. This initial plan balances concerns over topography, wetlands, river crossings and population density. A generalized version of this 2003 Plan is reproduced below:

The Connector would be about 2.7 miles in total length. Two phases of construction would be utilized. The first or West Segment would be from the vicinity of Boardman Bridge easterly over the hilltop to Aspetuck Ridge Road.

This first segment standing by itself could 1) avoid the approximately $5.25 million investment of bypassing the low railroad overpass on Boardman Road to its south, 2) provide access into the 350 acre vacant industrially zoned tract to its north, and provide the traffic access needed for the Century Enterprise Center on Aspetuck Ridge Road.

2005. The New Milford Economic Development Commission undertook a traffic study of the connector. It was found that for construction 39 properties may require partial acquisition and 9 properties may require full acquisition.

Preliminary cost estimates were summarized as $15.8 million for the segment from Route 7 easterly to Aspetuck Ridge Road, $9.6 million for the segment from Aspetuck Ridge Road easterly to Merryall Road, and $6.1 million for the segment from Merryall Road to Route 202.

Alternate concepts included a 500 foot extension from Route 202 easterly to Route 109 at $1.1 million, and a 1.95 mile reconstruction of Paper Mill Road easterly to Route 202 at $7.9 million.

As for traffic diversions, morning peak hour traffic on Route 7 north of Bridge Street would climb by 31%, and traffic on Bridge Street over Veterans Bridge would decrease by 31%.

2007. In March of 2007 Conn DOT’s Chief of Policy and Planning Charles Barone provided New Milford Mayor Patricia Murphy with the state DOT viewpoint on the merits of the Town’s 1970’s East – West Connector roadway concept. All perspectives were negative, the following points taken from the DOT letter:

“The probability of constructing a new connector road from Route 7 in the vicinity of Boardman Bridge easterly to Route 202 is highly unlikely given the realities that exist in today’s transportation climate. The following issues exemplify why pursuing such an endeavor would be problematic:

The terrain that would be crossed by a new connector roadway is rugged and would be challenging to traverse in a reasonable and safe manner; wetlands and floodplains associated with both branches of the Aspetuck River would be impacted, making it difficult to secure federal and state wetland permits.”

Continuing, “substantial rights of way would be required for a new road in the new location; the cost of constructing a new road through this corridor would be significant and no current funding source exists to fund the project.”

However as noted above the logic of the concept still has appeal to many officials and citizens in New Milford. The difficult geography of the Town Center Area offers few other solutions. For this reason the Connector concept should remain viable for future study by the Town and HVCEO.

Proceed to section seven, a discussion of proposed new Housatonic River Bridges, that would in effect serve as a North - South Connector.

1. INTRO2. DOWNTOWN 3. GROVE STREET4. BOARDMAN ROAD 5. PATRIOTS WAY
6. EAST - WEST CONNECTOR7. HOUSATONIC BRIDGES 8. TRAFFIC IMPROVEMENT

 
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