The purpose of this page is to provide short answers to the most commonly asked questions about the project. Other pages of this website discuss many of these topics in more detail. Please consider exploring the website or sending us your question if you seek more information on a topic.
I-84 through Hartford is largely built on bridges. These bridges were built in the 1960s to last about 50 years. At this point, they require frequent, expensive repairs to keep them safe. Between 2005 and 2012, the Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT) spent approximately $60 million to repair these bridges. Another $80 million for repairs is needed between 2013 and the beginning of construction on the replacement highway. Repairs are increasingly costly, and the condition of the bridges will continue to worsen over time. The bridges must be replaced or undergo extensive rehabilitation, rather than be repaired.
While fixing the bridges on I-84 is the main reason for this project, other project needs include improving safety and operations in the I-84 corridor, as well as increasing mobility for all travelers.
Long before there was an interstate system, various alternatives for an East-West Expressway were considered to service growing post-World War II traffic into Hartford. Interestingly, while there is a lot of traffic passing through the city, most traffic during peak travel hours begins or ends in Hartford, or points very close by.
When it is built, the I-84 Hartford Project will be the most expensive public works project in Connecticut to date. This heavily travelled highway must largely be reconstructed on its existing alignment in a tightly confined corridor, which adds challenges to both design and construction. In addition to improving the highway, the project offers many opportunities to benefit Hartford, undoing some of the damage caused when the highway was built in the 1960s. Improving how the highway fits into its urban environment will add design and construction challenges. The intent is to have a more functional and attractive urban corridor once complete.
Each alternative under consideration has its own advantages and disadvantages, but benefits generally include:
The Project Team is currently conducting an Environmental Impact Statement to analyze and disclose the impacts and benefits of each alternative under consideration.
I-84 through Hartford is the busiest section of highway in Connecticut. It was built in the 1960s to carry 50,000 vehicles per day. Now, as many as 175,000 vehicles travel this stretch of highway per day, more than three times its original anticipated volume. The high volume, along with outdated design features, contribute to high crash rates and congestion on both I-84 and city streets, especially during the rush hour commutes.
This section of I-84 was built mostly on bridges to avoid the railroad, which I-84 crosses over in two locations.
Connecticut’s bridges are evaluated once every two years. Each bridge receives a grade from 0 to 9 based on many factors. A grade of 0 means the bridge can no longer carry traffic. A rating of 9 is a newly built bridge in excellent condition. Many of the bridges in the I-84 Hartford Project study area have grades in the 4-5 range, which CTDOT describes as “fair to poor.” This means that the bridges are safe to drive on, but in need of major repairs or rehabilitation soon. Regular repairs will continue, but are not a long-term solution.
Many other cities - Milwaukee, San Francisco, Boston, Syracuse, and Providence - have either studied or are studying similar aging urban highways. Each situation is unique in terms of traffic volumes, travel needs, and corridor features. While we can learn from those cities, I-84 will require its own tailored solutions.
If you live, work or travel in central Connecticut, it’s likely that this project will affect your travel to some degree. Once construction is complete, traffic on I-84 will move more efficiently.
Not only will the viaduct be enhanced, travel on many local streets connecting to I-84 will be improved, too. However, no single project will reduce road congestion entirely.
Travel patterns will be improved for pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit riders too. We anticipate that the urban environment near I-84 will be more pleasant and useable for all due to streetscape improvements and increased emphasis on transit-oriented development.
During construction, traffic conditions will be impacted over an extended period, which will affect many travelers. Travel management during construction will be thoroughly planned and communicated before construction begins.
The basic project steps are:
The Project Team is currently conducting Steps 3 and 4.
A decision about what to build is anticipated by 2020. Construction could begin in the early 2020s, and will last several years. Many factors may affect this schedule. For example, how long construction takes will depend on the alternative and the construction method chosen. As the project progresses, the timeline will become more clear.
Replacing I-84 through Hartford is very complex. Approximately two miles of I-84 and several interchanges will be demolished and reconstructed with a totally new design. The highway may continue to carry up to 175,000 vehicles per day. At the same time, numerous local streets will be reconstructed or newly constructed. Two of the design alternatives would require the railroad to be relocated and a new passenger station constructed.
Many difficult design and construction issues must be resolved. All federal and state requirements must be met before the project breaks ground. The Project Team is taking many opportunities to listen to those who will be affected by the project. As planning and design evolves, it’s our role to help the community understand project benefits and impacts. It’s essential to finding the best solution and achieving long-term success.
Many voices have helped shape the project to date. Community involvement is a fundamental part of this project. The Connecticut Department of Transportation believes that the more people who understand the project and share their ideas and concerns, the more successful the project will be. Public participation helps ensure that the Project Team fully understands and addresses public concerns.
There are many ways to get involved. Please share your ideas! To get involved, you can attend one of the project’s frequent meetings, join the contact list, follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, and read project materials on the website. If you have questions, please ask them on the website or on social media (or even contact us by phone at 860.594.3191).
Many sources of information, including input from stakeholders, helps shape the alternatives. The I-84 Hartford Project follows a process outlined by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). During the scoping process, the Project Team openly solicited the community’s and agencies’ input on all issues and concerns to be addressed as part of NEPA. NEPA requires that all reasonable transportation alternatives are considered, that community input plays a key role, and that project impacts are fully assessed and shared with the public. Every alternative that advances into the environmental impact process must meet the project Purpose and Need.
Alternatives start out as broad concepts. They then get refined and modified, based on feasibility and how well they meet the project Purpose and Need and other goals identified early in the planning process. As the alternatives become more refined and detailed, those that best meet the criteria will advance into the Environmental Impact Statement for more detailed assessment. At the end of the environmental process, a Record of Decision will be made, selecting which alternative to build.
The No Build and three build alternatives are currently being considered. These alternatives are distinguished by their vertical elevation relative to the ground. These include:
Each build alternative has numerous sub-options with different ramp configurations and design features. The development, evaluation, and refinement of these options is an ongoing process.
With the three build alternatives and their various ramp options, the Project Team has considered over 150 possible design scenarios to date! The team is committed to considering all reasonable options which meet the project Purpose and Need and the project goals.
Ultimately, CTDOT and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) will decide which alternative best meets the evaluation criteria. The decision will be based on many factors including stakeholder input. The decision will be documented in the Record of Decision which is the final stage of the environmental impact analysis process.
The I-84 Hartford Project is a transportation project. However, the project has many other goals, including making I-84 a better neighbor by reducing the impact of the highway’s design. Almost as soon as I-84 was completed, it was recognized by many, including CTDOT, that the highway had created significant negative impacts on some of Hartford’s neighborhoods. While the final design is not yet known, some possible features to reduce impact and create a more urban-friendly situation include:
It varies, but some of the alternatives can free up as much as 40 acres of land! Every alternative would decrease the footprint of the highway and ramps, and some designs include decking over parts of the highway to allow for development or other uses.
The potential impact to the rail corridor varies per alternative selected. Some alternatives, including the Tunnel Highway Alternative and the Lowered Highway Alternative, involve relocating the rail to the northwest near the Asylum Hill neighborhood. This would require constructing a new station and parking facility for rail travelers.
The timing could be ideal, as the Union Station rail viaduct is also in need of replacement. CTDOT recently completed a Hartford Rail Alternatives Analysis to evaluate ways to address the replacement of the aging rail viaduct. The preliminary conclusion was that moving the railroad to the northwest would best serve the railroad. Coordination with Amtrak and the City of Hartford are ongoing on this topic.
Amtrak service, freight, and the new Hartford Line service (beginning in 2018) will be minimally affected during the reconstruction of I-84.
Depending on the alternative selected, a segment of CTfastrak in Hartford east of Sigourney Street may need to be adjusted. The goal will be to maintain CTfastrak service at full (or increased) capacity during construction.
Depending on the alternative selected, if the railroad is relocated, it would affect the location of the rail passenger terminal. While the historic Union Station building will not be relocated, it may be re-purposed for transportation and/or other uses. A new passenger terminal would be constructed in a nearby location to better connect rail and transit with other modes of travel, and to provide opportunities for transit-oriented development.
The Park River, which once flowed through Bushnell Park, was prone to floods and unsanitary conditions. To prevent these costly, dangerous, and unhealthy floods, the Park River was put into a very large underground pipe (conduit) beginning in 1943. It still flows underground and is a factor in the development of alternatives, as some of the alternatives would require moving a portion of the conduit. Relocating the conduit may not be possible because of cost and regulations.
CTDOT must rebuild I-84 in Hartford because of the poor condition of the bridges and other transportation issues. A ring road does not meet this project’s Purpose and Need. Furthermore, most peak traffic on I-84 in the study area begins or ends somewhere in Hartford. A ring road would not benefit those travelers.
A beltway (I-291) was last considered in the 1970s, and was vigorously opposed by the public for environmental reasons. It is likely that strong opposition would still exist for this option.
Many have recognized that the I-84/I-91 interchange contributes to congestion. CTDOT has initiated a feasibility study to assess expanding the capacity of this interchange or relocating it to the north or south.
Accelerated construction means reducing the time needed to construct a project. One method is to use prefabricated structures, where pieces of roadway are built outside the project area, allowing the highway to remain open while they are being built. Not only can this reduce construction time, it can also minimize impacts to travelers and surrounding neighborhoods.
An extreme method involves closing some or all of the highway during construction. Although closing I-84 is an unlikely scenario, this has been done successfully in other cities. Road closures are becoming increasingly popular in communities around the country because they can greatly shorten construction time. This is also the safest construction method as it virtually eliminates accidents between drivers and construction workers or equipment.
Every project that proposes to use federal or state funding must comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and/or Connecticut Environmental Policy Act (CEPA). NEPA and CEPA require impacts to be reviewed and documented before decisions are made on a course of action. In the case of the I-84 Hartford Project, the environmental review and documentation will be in the form of an Environmental Impact Statement. During project design, there will also be many environmental permits required from various agencies.
In 1969, the U.S. Congress passed the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which promotes more informed decision-making of federally funded projects. NEPA requires an environmental document to evaluate the environmental effects of federally funded projects. In the case of the I-84 Hartford Project, NEPA requires that alternatives be evaluated.
Similar to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Connecticut legislature passed the Connecticut Environmental Policy Act (CEPA) in 1971 for projects using state funding. Many other states have similar legislation. If a project involves both federal and state funding, it must comply with both NEPA and CEPA.
The Purpose and Need Statement explains why a project is necessary. It defines the transportation problem to be solved and outlines other goals and objectives. The Purpose and Need Statement also defines the expected results of the project and guides the development and evaluation of alternatives.
Scoping is the first official step of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)/Connecticut Environmental Policy Act (CEPA) environmental documentation process. During the scoping period, agencies and the public are asked to provide input on:
By providing input during the scoping phase, regulatory agencies and the public help develop the scope of the environmental document so that the process is thorough, comprehensive and focuses on concerns. At the end of the scoping period, all comments will be summarized and responded to in a Scoping Summary Report. The material in the Scoping Summary Report helps guide the development of project alternatives.
The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) considers the full range of potential impacts to the natural and built environment. The natural environment includes resources such as wetlands, surface and groundwater resources, endangered and threatened species, geology, topography, soils, farmlands, contaminated sites, energy consumption, air quality, noise and vibration and others. The built environment includes resources such as land use and neighborhoods, buildings, historic structures and districts, archaeological resources, parks and recreational areas, community resources, relocation of impacted buildings, utility impacts, and visual and aesthetic impacts. The EIS will also examine the cumulative, secondary and growth-inducing impacts that the proposed action can have on the community, as well as short-term impacts related to construction activities. Where significant impacts may occur, the EIS will propose mitigation to compensate accordingly.
Mitigation means making up for unavoidable impacts that result from the project. For example, after the CTfastrak busway was built, new wetlands were created along Flatbush Avenue in Hartford to mitigate for wetlands lost for busway construction. If property is taken to complete a project, the property owner must be paid to compensate for the taking. If an important historic resource is impacted or taken, that resource must be documented so that its memory is not lost. Many other types of mitigation are regularly carried out.
The number of buildings affected differs substantially with each alternative, although all build alternatives would cause some building impacts. Building impacts associated with the Elevated Alternative are less than those associated with the Lowered and Tunnel Alternatives, because the Elevated Alternative does not involve the relocation of the railroad. Building impacts range anywhere from nine buildings for the Elevated Alternative, up to 19 buildings for the Lowered Alternative and up to 22 buildings for the Tunnel Alternative. As any alternative is further developed, all measures will be taken to reduce the number of building impacts.
To make I-84 safer and more efficient for all users, CTDOT may have to purchase some buildings. Although the owners of all taken property will be compensated for their real losses, the Project Team understands that many residents and business owners in potentially impacted buildings rent or lease their homes or business space. Tenants may be eligible to receive relocation assistance from CTDOT, and the Project Team hopes they will remain in Hartford with minimal disruption to their lives.
When completed, the project itself may free up tens of acres of land for open space or new development, including residential or commercial property. CTDOT may utilize some of this land for other transportation facilities or infrastructure, but a significant amount will likely be made available for private or public development independent of CTDOT or the Project Team.
This is the alternative, after analysis and comments, that CTDOT believes best satisfies the overall public interest based upon a balanced consideration of a broad range of issues. Designation of a preferred alternative is not a final decision, but is an indication that one alternative seems to be the best solution. Additional effort is put into assessing the impacts of that alternative.
The Record of Decision (ROD) is issued by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). It is made following consideration of all comments and the completion of the Final Environmental Impact Statement. The ROD provides the final decision on which alternative will be constructed and includes the basis for the decision. After the ROD, CTDOT may proceed with final design, property acquisition, and construction based on the availability of funds.
Preliminary estimates, from August 2015, indicate that cost for the various alternatives will be in the following range:
These estimates include the planning, design, property acquisition and construction costs of each alternative. They do not include the maintenance of the structure once it is built. They will continue to be refined in the coming years as design details are better known.
Project funding is currently available for planning, conceptual design, and environmental review. Once the ROD is issued, funding for final design, property acquisition, and construction will be sought and programmed.
It has not yet been determined how improvements to I-84 will be paid for. The State of Connecticut is responsible for maintaining its interstate highways with some assistance from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).
The federal government usually pays about 80-90% of reconstruction costs, and the state pays the other 10-20%. However, it is unlikely that there will be sufficient federal funding available to complete the project. Many states, including Connecticut, are exploring new ways to pay for these large projects.
The I-84 Hartford Project, as currently defined, stops just west of the existing downtown tunnel and the I-84/I-91 interchange. However, a new study has been authorized by CTDOT to look at possible solutions to the heavy congestion through that interchange.
A new conceptual planning study is underway to investigate options for the I-84/I-91 interchange. In this study, the Project Team will evaluate options to either reconstruct the interchange in its current location or replace it with a new interchange north or south of its current location.
I-84 carries three lanes in each direction both east and west of the I-84/I-91 interchange. The road narrows to carry only two lanes in each direction on the bridge across the Connecticut River, causing congestion and delay, especially during peak rush hour.