Conn. governor reviving efforts to complete Route 11 highway project

By Susan Haigh
Associated Press / May 24, 2011

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HARTFORD — Governor Dannel P. Malloy announced yesterday that his administration is pushing ahead with design and engineering plans for Route 11, the southeastern Connecticut highway that has remained unfinished for three decades, in hope of finally completing the road that would link the region to Hartford.

The Democratic governor said his administration is reviving plans that were put on hold, because of cost concerns, by the administration of his predecessor, Governor M. Jodi Rell, a Republican. About $5 million in previously approved federal funding is expected to be released to help pay for the survey and environmental work, as well as to finance a cost-benefit analysis of the project. It has been estimated to cost as much as $1 billion.

“As you know, this is a system which I believe ultimately needs to be built out,’’ Malloy said. “I said that over a long period of time, over many years. We’re moving forward with the work that needs to be done.’’

Malloy estimated that the work could take as long as 2 1/2 years.

Construction of Route 11 began in the 1970s but was halted because of environmental concerns and a lack of funding. The highway, which is supposed to provide a direct route from southeastern Connecticut to Hartford by linking with Route 2, abruptly ends in Salem. Drivers are forced to turn off and take Route 85, a two-lane state road, to connect with Interstate 95. Route 85 has been the site of numerous deadly crashes.

The road is also an evacuation route in case there is an emergency at the Millstone Power Station in Waterford, where there are two operational nuclear units. Route 85 also passes by a major public water supply.

Besides completing the 8.5-mile span of Route 11 from Salem to Waterford, the project calls for building a major interchange where I-95 and Interstate 395 connect.

US Representative Joe Courtney, a Second District Democrat, said finishing the project would be “an instrumental piece of a solution in terms of unlocking the economy’’ in southeastern Connecticut.

He said residents have begun to despair that the road will never be finished.

“The obstacle that we faced in terms of completing this road is the absence of the completion of the work [Malloy] described here today,’’ Courtney said. “We need to get . . . a state-of-the-art plan on the table.’’

Local officials said they are pleased the project appears to be revived.

“I think the governor and Courtney have made progress with this,’’ said Thomas “Tony’’ Sheriden, president and chief executive of the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut and a former first selectman of Waterford, who has been frustrated by the slowness in completing the highway project. “It sounds like we have something to work with now.’’