Connecticut’s Statewide Transportation Improvement Program for 2021-2024 outlines several hundred million dollars for upgrades to Interstate 95, including improvements in Greenwich. ( Patrick Sikes / Hearst Connecticut Media photo)
Connecticut's roads and railroad lines are used every year by its approximately 3.6 million residents and millions more out-of-state workers and travelers. To keep up with the wear and tear, the state Department of Transportation (CDOT) is constantly working on maintenance and improvement projects.
The most important of those initiatives are outlined every four years in the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP). The CTDOT recently took public comments on the draft version of the latest STIP, to cover the years 2021 to 2024.
The 223 projects listed in the new STIP would cumulatively be funded with approximately $3.9 billion, roughly $3.2 billion in federal money, about $684 million from the state and some $17 million from municipalities.
About 60 percent of the funds would be used for highway and bridge projects, while the other 40 percent would go toward rail, bus and ride-share programs.
Connecticut's eight Metropolitan Planning Organizations and two Rural Councils of Governments contribute to the STIP's development.
"The list of projects is wide and encompassing," said state Sen. Carlo Leone, of Stamford, co-chairman of the state Legislature's Transportation Committee.
Among them are several marquee initiatives planned across the state in the next four years.
Interstate 95 Corridor
On I-95, those projects include:
- About $345 million would be earmarked for renovations of the Gold Star Memorial Bridge, which carries the freeway over the Thames River, between New London and Groton. The work would involve structural steel repairs and upgrades, as well as replacement of the deck for the older, northbound structure. Crews have already completed the southbound structure,
- $180 million for work in Greenwich and Stamford that would include pavement improvements and bridge renovations. On the southbound side of Exit 3 in Greenwich, there would be a minor widening of the roadway to increase the length of the existing deceleration lane to improve safety and alleviate congestion,
- At Exit 74 in East Lyme, $142 million will go toward improvements, including replacing the highway's bridge over Connecticut Route 161 to address its poor condition and accommodate a widening on Rt. 161,
- Another $70 million for upgrades in Norwalk and Westport. About 2 mi. of I-95 in those towns would be rebuilt between the Norwalk and Saugatuck rivers. The existing bridge over
Route 33 at Exit 17 would be replaced using "accelerated construction" and minor work would be carried out on the Westport bridges over Franklin Street and over the Saugatuck River to maintain a "state of good repair" for those structures.
Other Road and Rail Projects Part of STIP
The CTDOT also plans to make upgrades to the Merritt Parkway/Rt. 15 in Norwalk and New Canaan that would total about $53 million and include bridge improvements and resurfacing.
The state transportation agency intends to work on a key bridge along the Metro-North Railroad. Replacement of the four-track Walk Bridge in Norwalk arguably represents the most ambitious rail project supported by the STIP.
Scheduled to start in mid-2021 and take about four to five years to complete, the undertaking has an estimated total cost of $511 million.
Built in 1896, the 564-ft.-long swing bridge is one of the oldest movable bridges in the region.
"The Walk Bridge has outlived its intended lifespan and experienced repeated operational failures in recent years," reads an excerpt on the CTDOT website. "It is vulnerable to damage from storm surges and high winds and requires replacement."
The STIP also makes eight-figure allocations for improvements to several other rail bridges in Norwalk, including $60 million for the East Avenue bridge, $50 million for the Fort Point Street bridge and $15 million for the Osborne Avenue bridge.
Additional rail projects include New Haven line signal-system replacements, allotments that would total more than $140 million. In addition, there is an annual program to renovate stations on the New Haven line.
Some more major projects planned in the next four years would include $65 million for the removal of traffic signals on Rt. 9 in Middletown, about $38 million for improvements along Rt. 85 from Montville to Salem and approximately $40 million for Rt. 82 work in Norwich, as well as statewide bus replacements.
Inclusion in Connecticut's Statewide Transportation Improvement Program is necessary for a project to qualify for federal transportation funding. State and local government agencies then need to provide the necessary funding matches to allow projects to move forward.
The CTDOT submits a capital budget request to the state Office of Policy and Management for each two-year cycle, and the General Assembly acts every two years to authorize bonding for the transportation department's capital program. The State Bond Commission must also approve CTDOT requests for funding.
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