New Haven is sprinting towards gold in the Highway Removal Olympics. In his State of the City address earlier this week, New Haven Mayor John DeStefano said that 100 College Street, the initial phase of a project to replace Route 34 with development and a street grid, would be underway by late this year or early 2011. The mayor said this first phase would create 900 permanent jobs and start to reconnect downtown New Haven with the Hill neighborhood that was separated by Route 34 — also known, ironically, as the Oak Street Connector — during the city’s urban renewal phase in the 1950s and 1960s.
100 College Street, pictured above, will be built and paid for by a private developer in the Route 34 right-of-way near the Air Rights Garage. The City will complement the development by closing two highway ramps and redoing the frontage roads to add street parking, improved sidewalks, a bike lane (on North Frontage), and turning lanes. The City will use $5 million of a previous allocation from the federal government and is applying for $40 million in stimulus funds to pay for the change, with Mayor DeStefano promising to “find the resources” if stimulus money does not come in.
Tri-State has long supported the project, which envisions a mix of commercial, residential and retail uses along a boulevard-type roadway, and held an urban highway removal symposium in April 2008 to support the City’s first steps towards enactment. The drumbeat for removal and for safer streets grew louder when medical student Mila Rainof was killed near Route 34, only a month after the symposium.
While plans for the western portion of the Route 34 “disconnector” are still being discussed by the City and local neighborhood and safe streets groups, 100 College Street has more broad support among key stakeholders and hopefully will move forward quickly.