Hailing it as “one of the most valuable and productive drivers of the Connecticut economy,” Gov. M. Jodi Rell Oct. 28 helped mark and commemorate the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Connecticut Turnpike — officially the John Davis Lodge Turnpike that, as Interstate 95, carries tens of thousands of vehicles every day.
“Creating this country’s interstate highway system was truly visionary,” Rell said during a ceremony at the Madison Historical Society, which has assembled an exhibit on the Turnpike’s conception, design, construction and opening in 1958.
“Generations of Americans have motored up and down the East Coast on 95. And the Connecticut Turnpike has been the Gateway to New England. When it was officially opened on January 2, 1958, it was then the longest urban highway built in the country. It changed the landscape from border to border.”
Deputy Connecticut Transportation Commissioner Jeff Parker noted that the Department of Transportation (DOT) spends millions every year on widening, maintenance and modernization projects every year on the Turnpike.
“We are committed to keeping the Connecticut Turnpike among the safest and best-maintained highways in the country,” Parker said. “The men and women of the DOT do a remarkable job along this route every day, year-round.”
Built in just three years at a cost of $464 million, the 111-mi. (179 km) highway between Greenwich and North Stonington was originally envisioned as the best solution to the chronically clogged Boston Post Road. Its construction had a dramatic impact on Connecticut’s shoreline towns, most of which were still dominated by farmland and small businesses at the time. Today, the Turnpike offers an economic lifeline not only locally, but for the entire state and, indeed, the Northeast.
On an average day more than 1 million vehicles use the Turnpike. In Greenwich, the average daily traffic Turnpike volume is approximately 160,000 vehicles; in Bridgeport, it’s 125,000 per day; in New Haven, 152,000; Madison, 66,100; and at the Rhode Island border, 39,200.
The Madison Historical Society (MHS) was established in 1917 to collect and preserve the memories of the town’s elder citizens, many of whom had served in the Civil War. MHS also owns and maintains the Lee Academy, located near the Madison Town Green, and the secluded Smallpox Cemetery, just off the west bank of the East River in neighboring Guilford.