Tearing Down the Route 34 "Disconnector"

A slide shows one City of New Haven vision for its post-Route 34 future.

On Wednesday, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign and the New Haven Urban Design League hosted a public event, attended by approximately 150 people, in order to raise awareness of and increase support for the “tear-down” of the Route 34 Connector in New Haven and its replacement with a boulevard. President and CEO of the Congress for the New Urbanism John Norquist headlined the event and called for the immediate removal of what he labeled the “disconnector” and subsequently re-linking the street grid, adding on-street parking, and building mixed-use development along the corridor.

Mr. Norquist’s presentation did not go into specifics on how New Haven should accomplish this feat, a task he left up to the City of New Haven and its citizens. Rather, his presentation focused on the precedents for such a project, drawing on freeway-to-neighborhood conversions from San Francisco, Portland, Milwaukee, and as far away as Seoul, South Korea. By utilizing examples of successful projects throughout the country and abroad, he hoped to win over skeptics who might see the removal of a heavily trafficked highway as impractical.

ConnDOT Deputy Commissioner Albert Martin also spoke, providing an overview of ConnDOT’s transit-oriented development efforts (earlier covered in MTR here). He said that momentum for a teardown project would have to come from New Haven officials and community members because it was not currently on ConnDOT’s agenda, and that the agency would have to study such a proposal in detail before agreeing to support it.

Kelly Murphy, New Haven’s Economic Development Administrator, began the evening by summarizing the City’s ideas for the corridor (which can be viewed in more detail here). She made a point to say that the project was in the initial stages, calling the pink and orange boxes in her presentations “placeholders” for the final vision of the project, which will come from the community and city.

The common thread running through the three presentations was that teardown proposals need local energy to make headway. If New Haven officials are to garner grassroots support for such a project, they must integrate the community’s vision into the planning and implementation process. A community visioning process and/or “charette” planning process would be a good start.

3 Comments on "Tearing Down the Route 34 "Disconnector""

  1. Fantastic ideas. Let’s mobilize to come up with a design that improves the area.

  2. Ok: what kind of grassroots support does ConnDot need to see? This project is the best thing DeStefano has come up with in a while and has lots of grassroots support in the community. Does ConnDot need a massive letter-writing to prove it? Or large crowds demanding it come down a la Berlin Wall? Stop stalling and get moving!

  3. Build the new buildings atop the Route 34 freeway and extend this depressed/covered freeway several blocks westward beneath new development to then rise to merge with the existing service roads.

    Then later, extend it across the river via deep drilled tunneling much as the Harvard community proposes with the relocation of the Charles River roadways.

    This would maximize the social benefit to accommodate the new real estate development and to preserve the tranquility of the West River Memorial Park.

    Norquist is a proponent of eliminating unsightly elevated urban freeways; yet he now advocates scrapping an existing depressed freeway right of way?

    Better yet, rebuild the depressed freeways side areas with retaining walls to permit adding a below ground light or heavy rail or transit busway, as done with Cincinnati Fort Washington Way.

    Eliminating an existing depressed right of way is a total waste.

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