HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) – As an infrastructure bill is being worked on in Washington, Channel 3 has been looking at how it’ll impact people where they live.

first district infrastructure

Connecticut's first district is looking to revamp Hartford's highways with its share of the federal infrastructure bill.

Rep. John Larson and other officials helped explain the changes that could come to the First Congressional District. 

He said traveling through Hartford could get a different look.

“It’s the number one chokehold in the state, number one in New England, number 11 the country,” Larson said.

Hartford routinely ranks as one of the most congested points in the country. The outdated bridge system that carries Interstate 84 through Hartford, known as the viaduct, was designed to handle only a fraction of the cars that use it. The Interstate 91 interchange only adds to the problem.

Now, the Department of Transportation is getting some help with its mobility study. The $1 trillion infrastructure bill includes $16 million for a 100-year transportation plan in the Hartford area. 

“We’re going to have $5 billion for a program to rejoin communities like north Hartford with the rest of the city,” explained Rep. Peter A. Defazio, (D) Oregon, chairman House Transportation Committee.

The infrastructure bill is putting an emphasis on projects that reconnect cities. In Hartford, the elevated viaduct cuts off the north end from downtown. Larson hopes a redesigned highway system will allow the city to reconnect. He also hopes it will let the city reclaim more of its riverfront.

“Look, if we’re doing something in this nation, let’s make sure that we do it right,” Larson said.

Larson said that redesigning the highway and allowing Hartford to reconnect with itself and with the river is a key to Hartford 400, a series of projects that hope to reimagine and redesign Hartford over the next 15 years

“We’re trying to get everything and everyone moving in one direction so we can support a region,” said Jackie Mandyck, executive director, iQuilt Partnership.

The iQuilt partnership is spearheading Hartford 400 by bringing together a series of projects into one vision. The hope is a new highway system would free up space in Hartford and East Hartford for development and parks. Much of that land would be on the river.

“At the moment, we’ve got a highway system that interconnects the Connecticut River and somewhat restricts access to the river,” said Michael Zaleski, president and CEO, Riverfront Recapture.

A rendering showed what iQuilt imagined for the project. Hartford 400 projects also emphasized a broader definition of infrastructure that included parks and technology. The infrastructure bill is funding some of those, including upgrades to the levee system in Hartford and East Hartford, a new Riverfront Park, more electric vehicle charging stations, better broadband, and improvements for CT Rail and Bradley International Airport.

“The situation here fits perfectly in what we’re trying to do,” Defazio said.

Once the mobility study is done, planners can seek more federal dollars. It’s not clear how the highways will be redesigned. Larson called for tunnels in the past. However, Hartford 400 has suggested having the highways go around the capital city.

Whatever happens, supporters want to reconnect Hartford with the river in time for the city’s 400th anniversary in 2035.

“We should be able to use it, engage with it and really take advantage of that natural resource that we have,” Mandyck said.

Copyright 2021 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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