A Beltway? For Waterbury?
Hartford is not the only city with a cancelled beltway. Waterbury joins the club, thanks to proposals in the 1963 Waterbury Area Transportation Study. This would not have been an I-291-style freeway; but the loop routes (three of them) were to be ultimately built out to four lanes divided, access controlled, with widely-spaced at-grade intersections. We'll dig into these loop routes and other proposals from the study.
The study itself used population and growth projections into the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. As expected in 1963, the recommendations were highway-centric and expected growth through the mid-20th century to continue. In the end, almost none of the new highway recommendations were adopted.
The study was digitized by Google from a copy at the Ohio State University; you can read it online at HathiTrust.
The study concluded that the freeways already proposed or under construction were adequate for the next few decades, with one small exception. These were:
- Interstate 84, still under construction; the existing portion east of downtown would need widening
- Route 8, also under construction
- Route 10, outer metro area, proposed through Cheshire, connecting to I-84
- Route 72, outer metro area, proposed through Plymouth, connecting to Route 8
- Route 73. The "stub" – the long direct ramps we see now – was already planned, but the recommendation was to extend this to Route 63 in Watertown.
A main focus of the study was an expanded system of sub-freeway routes, called Regional Highways. The hierarchy of road types would look like this, from largest to smallest:
- freeways (expressways): 41 miles in the area.
- regional highways: 76 miles. These limited-access roads would be 4 lanes divided, with 20-foot median; possibly start as just 2 lanes. Mainly for serving thru traffic.
- arterials: intra-town travel, mainly serving traffic; 155 miles.
- collectors: lower speed, more parking, driveways, etc; 396 miles.
- local streets: serving their residences and businesses only.
The three recommended loops would be regional highways. None of them would be 360-degree complete loops. No route numbers were proposed. The loops were:
- Western Loop (Oxford, Southbury, Woodbury, Watertown). Starting at Route 8 in Seymour, following Route 67 and Route 188 to Middlebury; then north to Hurds Hill Road and Tuttle Road, past Route 64; Middle Road Turnpike and Hamilton Ave to US 6 west of Watertown. Then, along Echo Lake Road to Route 8 for an east-west connector (which needed more study). The final leg is served by part of Route 262 now.
- Southwest Loop: this inner loop would be mostly composed of (Route 68) and Route 63, but with an improved westerly connection from 68 to 63 bypassing Bridge Street in Naugatuck.
- East Inner Loop: from Huntington Avenue Bridge, east and south to Meriden Avenue.
Other radial routes would also become regional highways:
- Route 47, a country road extending from Woodbury, was considered an important connector to the northwest from Waterbury. It would have been extended southeastward to terminate at the Western Loop.
- Route 69 would need major realingment and widening as Wolcott continued to, in the study's terms, urbanize. Relocated Route 69 would have crossed I-84 east of the current Hamilton Avenue interchange, with a new high-capacity interchange.
- Route 70 would need added capacity as the radial route to Cheshire.
- US 6 in Woodbury was projected to reach 14,000 vehicles a day (AADT) in 1990, which would normally require widening to 4 lanes. Even in 1963, though, planners realized the impact this would have on the town's historic center, and proposed an alternate that would be handled by the Western Loop. (The most recent published traffic log (2015) shows traffic reaching 14800 AADT in Woodbury.)
It's been 60 years; what impact has the Study had on the region? What unimplemented ideas might still be good to take up?
- The recommendation to widen I-84 was adopted; east of Route 8, it has been realigned and widened to 6 lanes.
- At the time, the Mixmaster interchange at I-84 and Route 8 was still several years in the future, so there was nothing to complain about. Today, there are significant studies about what needs to be done for repair or replace.
- The three loops never made it off the drawing board, though you could argue the Route 262 realignment from SR 855 to Route 8 follows the northernmost path of the Western Loop.
- Route 73 will not be extended as a freeway into Watertown.
- Route 69 will not be realigned at I-84 with a new interchange.
- Waterbury Area Transportation Study. Central Naugatuck Valley Regional Planning Association, December 1963.
- 2015 Traffic Volumes. Connecticut Department of Transportation.