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State DOT Commissioner Redeker: All Options Still Open on I-84 Project

State of Connecticut
I-84 through Hartford.
Credit Chion Wolf / WNPR
DoT Commissioner James Redeker

Connecticut’s Transportation Commissioner said that no decision has been made about how work will proceed on the I-84 viaduct in Hartford. 

Some engineers in the department have suggested simply shutting the highway while the replacement is carried out. But Commissioner James Redeker stressed that all ideas are still being considered.

“We’re way early in the dialogue, and what people are being presented are many options,” Redeker told WNPR.

Apparently one of those options, floated in a newsletter issued by the department, is to close the highway completely in the city, diverting traffic onto local roads. Engineers suggest while a complete closure would bring short term pain, it might be a way to expedite the work. The two-mile stretch of highway under consideration is due for a new solution — it’s frequently congested and an accident hotspot. It also carves up the city and isolates its neighborhoods.

But Redeker said that how the project is carried out is just as important as the end result. “One of our significant business practices is to really take a look at building projects with the least possible impact,” he said.

The community newsletter from the I-84 Hartford Project team outlines two different methods. The first is constructing a new, temporary roadway beside the viaduct to take traffic while construction is carried out. This is the conventional method, but the team says it presents problems in Hartford because the corridor is so narrow.

The second option is the road closure, which, the newsletter said, "may sound crazy... in fact, road closures are becoming increasingly popular from the community perspective because they offer significant reduction in construction time. The shorter the construction duration, the sooner residents, commuters, and business owners can return to their everyday lives. ...This is also the safest method of construction because it removes the conflict between construction workers and road users."

But the commissioner stressed there will be plenty of listening before any plan is finally adopted.

“I think it’s great actually that people are as engaged as they are and asking as many questions as they are," said Redeker. "Neighborhood participation, business participation and trucker participation — all that’s going to make it for a better project in the end.”

While it will probably be many years before a completely new I-84 corridor opens to traffic, a final recommendation on a design may come within 18 months.

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