CENTRAL NEW MILFORD, CT
7: HOUSATONIC RIVER BRIDGES
BOARDMAN ROAD 5. PATRIOTS WAY
EAST - WEST CONNECTOR7.
HOUSATONIC BRIDGES 8.
Should there be an additional crossing of the Housatonic River
in New Milford, to better link the east and west sides of
this geographically very large and growing Town?
This key question has been raised many times in the past,
and the need only grows. An important local and regional transportation
planning issue, the question remains with us today.
of the report on Traffic planning for Central New Milford
summarizes past thinking on new bridge proposals in an effort
to both speed the day a decision is made and improve the quality
of that decision.
There are three bridge crossings of the Housatonic River in
Central New Milford. These are the Marsh Bridge on the Grove
Street Corridor to the south, the central crossing near Downtown
provided by Veterans Bridge carrying combined Routes 67 and
202, and to the north the Boardman Bridge on Boardman Road.
All three link Route 7, which remains on the west side of
the Housatonic in this part of the Town, with the east side
of the community.
POLICY AGAINST ADDING LANES
On VETERANS MEMORIAL BRIDGE
Of the three bridge crossings, Veterans Bridge is the central
artery and by far the most heavily utilized. It was opened
to traffic in 1954 as a replacement to an earlier span. The
roadway cross-section on the bridge is limited by the bridge
design to two lanes.
residents know, traffic using the Veterans Bridge has a particularly
strong relationship with Route 7 to the south. Conn DOT data
shows that in the morning peak hour, for westbound Route 67
traffic crossing Veterans Bridge to Route 7, over 75% turns
south onto Route 7. The reverse is the case for the afternoon
this span was due for major maintenance. In an effort to examine
all alternatives, Conn DOT presented a plan to the municipality
to construct a new bridge with a four lane cross section,
immediately south of the existing bridge, after which the
aging Veterans Bridge would be removed. Rehabilitation of
the existing two lane bridge was also an option.
Local reaction was strongly in favor or rehabilitation of
the existing bridge. While the value of more capacity by adding
two additional thru lanes was recognized by citizens at the
hearing, it was felt that the presence of a wider cross section
on Veterans Bridge could lead to pressure to widen the adjacent
section of Bridge Street to the east. This in turn would risk
marring the historic character of Bridge Street and the adjacent
Also, there was considerable attachment to the informal
landmark status of the 1954 Veterans Bridge design, with
its high arching framework, entryway function and familiarity
to drivers from outside of New Milford.
Conn DOT accepted these viewpoints. The option for a wider
replacement bridge was withdrawn, and the substantial federal
funds available for either option were programmed for the
This was an important traffic capacity decision. To the extent
that more "traffic carrying capacity" for New Milford
across the Housatonic River is needed, the focus after 1995
necessarily shifted away from Veterans Bridge and towards
NEW BRIDGE TO LINK
7 WITH BENNITT STREET
about one third mile to the north of Veterans Bridge, a now
venerable concept for an additional bridge would link Bennitt
Street, running east-west at the north end of the Downtown
New Milford Green, westerly across the Housatonic River to
from the 1959 New Milford Plan of Development where the proposed
Bennitt Street Bridge connection is the northern of two crossings,
the southern crossing is existing Bridge Street.
of 1968. Conn DOT made an analysis of this potential
improvement back in 1968. Ending at Bennitt Street was seen
as a possible terminus to the Route 7 Expressway.
DOT study stated that “Another alternate river crossing,
taken under study, was based upon the 1959 New Milford plan
of development which recommended a new bridge northerly of
the existing Bridge Street structure, connecting on the east
side of the river into Bennitt Street. Such a connection would
provide additional service to New Milford Center and a connection
to existing Route 202 via Elm Street. “
traffic concept did not receive a favorable review; “However,
to accommodate anticipated traffic, it would have been necessary
to widen Bennett Street and Elm Street, resulting in a high
impact on adjoining developed properties.
To attain acceptable grades for roadway, the reconstruction
of the Railroad Street-Bennett Street intersection would also
have been necessary, increasing the displacement of commercial
and residential properties."
officials in New Milford had considered this river crossing
previously as a part of the 1959 New Milford Plan of Development,
in 1968 they objected to such a crossing as a part of the
State highway system, mainly because of the high displacement
It was pointed out that the connection from the west side
of the river to Bennitt Street would add considerably more
traffic to Elm Street which has a steep grade and is fronted
by two churches, a school and the New Milford Hospital, meaning
that any proposal for the widening of Elm Street would be
very strongly objected to locally.
of Early 1970's. But then a few years later, a new
bridge to Bennitt Street was included in a seventies era Conn
DOT Route 7 Expressway construction alternative as a feeder/distributor
to the proposed Expressway, which had its own new crossing
to the north to reach the Eastern Segment of the East-West
Connector. This was the State's "two new bridges
for New Milford" option. But it did not survive further
of a potential crossing at Bennett Street then remained dormant
for many years. This is due largely to the fact that between
1972 and 1991, New Milford was expecting a new Housatonic
River bridge crossing as part of the Route 7 Expressway construction
plan. That nearby proposal took the pressure off of the Bennett
Street Bridge idea.
Bennitt Street looking west towards proposed
new bridge site over the Housatonic River
Study of 1998. The concept was revived by
the Town in the late 1990's. In 1998 New Milford requested
that HVCEO undertake a traffic study to examine the feasibility
of constructing a new Housatonic River crossing from Route
7 to Bennitt Street. The resultant study become HVCEO Bulletin
#96 completed in 1998.
past efforts this study noted that the intent of such a new
crossing would be to relieve traffic in the Downtown and especially
on the Bridge Street section of Route 202.
It was understood from the outset of the analysis that a new
parallel bridge would not result in any traffic being removed
from New Milford’s roadways. Rather, that there might
be some beneficial shifts and redistribution of traffic within
the Downtown Area.
span evaluated would cross the Housatonic easterly from Route
7 north of Bridge Street, passing over Youngs Field Road and
the railroad tracks, to terminate at the Railroad Street and
Bennitt Street intersection. This was identical to the 1959
Town Plan concept for such a parallel linkage.
would have an overall length of 1920 feet, consisting of about
800 feet over the flood plain on the west side of the Housatonic,
400 feet over the River itself and 720 feet to the east linking
up with Bennitt Street. For comparison, the existing steel
arch bridge on Bridge Street is built on abutments with a
shorter span of 350 feet.
from 1998 study of proposed Bennitt Street Bridge.
of the Bennitt Street Bridge would be 24 feet. It would carry
two lanes of traffic, with five foot side sidewalks provided
on each side. A 23 foot clearance over the railroad tracks
was part of the design.
nineties "fresh look" at the old idea found that
the greatest impact of the proposed bridge would be the creation
of a new arterial route and increased traffic along Bennitt
Street and Elm Street. Also, that due to the current relatively
low volumes there, additional traffic would be perceived as
positive side, the study did find that the overall level of
traffic service at the Route 202 and Railroad Street intersection
would improve slightly, along with some traffic reductions
on both Railroad Street and Main Street.
But overall, the study concluded that while Bridge Street
(combined Routes 67&202) volumes would be somewhat reduced,
due to the existing high volumes of traffic there, the reduction
would not result in a noticeable improvement.
projected that the morning peak hour traffic use of the new
Bennitt Street Bridge span would be 262 vehicles, all diverted
from Bridge Street. With the proposed new bridge costing at
least ten million dollars, cost benefit for this limited magnitude
of traffic diversion was not seen by the report as strongly
ROUTE 7 EXPRESSWAY AS
NEW CROSSING OF RIVER
As noted above, from 1972 to 1991 a fourth river crossing
in Central New Milford was part of the official Conn DOT traffic
plan for the Town. This was to be in the form of a the new
Route 7 Expressway, to cross the Housatonic River north of
DOT's Route 7 Expressway related Housatonic River
crossing plan of 1972- 1991, with dashed line showing two
options for the proposed Expressway to approach the new bridge.
The 1959 Town Plan saw growth and congestion coming and concluded
that “A new bridge is therefore necessary and should
be built sometime within the next 5 to 10 year period when
traffic is expected to experience a definite bottleneck at
the existing bridge.”
has already been provided that Conn DOT worked creatively
with alternatives for this idea. By 1962 a Conn DOT Route
7 planning report had proposed new Housatonic River crossings.
But all were south of Bridge Street, touching down near the
intersection of West Street and South Avenue, to then proceed
north to end at the intersection of Routes 67 and 202. These
were not accepted and all proposals for new crossing have
been north of Bridge Street since that time.
Conn DOT traffic study noted that “The third alternate
river crossing would bypass the center of New Milford and
continue to the north along the Aspetuck River Valley. The
expressway would terminate at a proposed East
- West Connector Road between existing Route 202 on the
east and Aspetuck Ridge Road on the west."
Conn DOT report concluded; “Although this alternate
would bypass the center of the Town, it still would provided
satisfactory service to this area, because the Bridge Street
crossing would be relieved by the diversion of Route 202 traffic,
and the traffic flow through the existing Route 7- Bridge
Street intersection would be further reduced by the interchange
northerly of this intersection which would allow direct service
to existing Route 7 north.
Therefore, the northerly river crossing was considered the
favorable location both by the Highway Department as well
as by New Milford officials.”
public hearings in New Milford in 1968 and 1972, Conn DOT
recommended that at the terminus of the Route 7 Expressway,
a Route 202 Connector from Aspetuck Ridge Road easterly to
Route 202, be an integral part of the Route 7 Expressway plan.
This then remained the consistent Conn DOT plan for almost
twenty years, until it was dropped in 1991.
happened was that the planning for the Expressway, and the
new Housatonic River crossing we are discussing here, continued
for so long that much residential development appeared in
the path of the proposed roadway. To proceed would have meant
massive relocations. Elected officials in 1991 reluctantly
agreed with Conn DOT that the potential disruption from Expressway
construction was too great to proceed.
policy for Route 7 improvement in New Milford was announced
by Conn DOT on 11/26/1991. It stated that “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” (italics
added). This meant the new bridge over the Housatonic River as well as and state construction of the 1.1 mile Eastern
Segment of the East - West Connector.
PROPOSED BRIDGE CROSSING FROM
ROUTE 7 TO ASPETUCK RIDGE ROAD
Would the addition of an new crossing of the Housatonic River
serve enough traffic to have an acceptable benefit to cost
question remains to be explored before a circulation plan
for Central New Milford can be finalized.
remembered locally that a location on the Housatonic's east
bank on Housatonic Avenue several hundred feet west of the
West Aspetuck River is the point where the Route 7 Expressway
was originally planned to pass northward after crossing the
A similar new crossing point, perhaps just west of this location,
to align directly north - south with Aspetuck Ridge Road,
has in recent years been raised as a potential bridge crossing
According to the 2004 EDC consultant study "Another alignment
that has been in discussion locally is the North - South connector
Road concept which requires the construction of a new bridge
over the housatonic River, but will be shorter in mileage
between Route 7 and Route 202 in comparison to the East -
West Connector Road.
has been discussed in conjunction with the East - West Connector
Road and the Boardman Road concepts. However, it also requires
a substantial amount of roadway investment to construct a
new bridge on the Housatonic River.
However, from a traffic analysis standpoint this alternative
may potentially divert more traffic from Bridge Street than
the East - West Connector Road due to its length."
would nicely serve the proposed Century Enterprise Center.
However it would duplicate to some extent the roadway investment
planned to reach that Center via the Western Segment of the
East - West Connector and Boardman Road. These
issues will need review before a final plan can be formulated.
to section eight, Directions
for Traffic Improvement.
BOARDMAN ROAD 5. PATRIOTS WAY
EAST - WEST CONNECTOR7.
HOUSATONIC BRIDGES 8.