If carried out, it could be the most ambitious public works project in Connecticut this century, a radical redesign and rebuild of infrastructure in the heart of the capital region.
But first, everyone must agree that it’s a good idea, and a key state agency has yet to be heard from.
The project, announced two years ago, is called the Hartford 400. It calls for the elimination of the massive freeway interchanges in Hartford and East Hartford, the construction of new bridges and tunnels, more green space, and the reconnection of North Hartford with downtown of the city, among others. stuff.
It’s a daunting effort: Preliminary estimates predict it will take 15 years and cost $17 billion. But part of that money is in the box.
With more than $6 million in the recently enacted Consolidated Appropriations Act, the project has attracted more than $10 million in public and private funding for economic analysis, preliminary engineering, and specific elements of the overall project.
With more federal infrastructure funding available, “this is becoming doable,” Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin said at a recent press conference where US Congressman John Larson, D-1st District, announced a federal allocation of $900,000 for the project.
In addition, the project’s breakthrough, by Hartford-native and Los Angeles-based urban designer Doug Suisman, has garnered much local acclaim and garnered two major awards this fall.
The potential benefits to the region are plentiful, said Larson, an ardent supporter, who listed them at the news conference: The project will open up large tracts of land in downtown Hartford and East Hartford for economic development and recreation; improve mobility and alleviate the worst traffic bottleneck in the State; repair dilapidated levees along the river to prevent a Katrina-like catastrophe; and improve air quality and public health.
Suisman said in a recent interview that along with funding, the keys to seeing a project off the ground are vision, leadership and a deadline.
A deadline, Suisman said, helps focus effort and makes it easier to organize work. He cited as an example the preparations for the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, in which “everyone is working like crazy”. The deadline is in the title: It would be more than a little embarrassing if the city wasn’t ready to host the 2028 Games in 2028.
The deadline for the Hartford project is 2035, the city’s 400th anniversary, hence the name of the project. It is an ambitious deadline.
On leadership, the Governor and his Commissioners of Transportation and Economic Development must agree. Governor Ned Lamont has indicated his support for the bill, as has House Speaker Matt Ritter, D-Hartford. Larson has won the support of other members of the state congressional delegation.
But since many of the current staff will leave and be replaced over the course of a long project, it may be necessary to create an agency or authority to oversee the project, Suisman said.
Tom Condon (CT Mirror)