The Road to Nowhere

Connecticut Route 11 is a four-lane limited access highway in southeastern Connecticut that goes from Route 2 East in Colchester, at exit 19, and abruptly ends at its intersection with Route 82 in Salem. Photos of this intersection are shown in Figures 1 and 2 on page 1 and figures 3 through 6 on page 2. Route 2 is a four-lane limited access expressway going diagonally from Hartford to Norwich.

A limited access highway is a traffic light free highway that allows traffic to enter and exit using on-ramps and off-ramps. The existing Route 11 7.5-mile expressway opened in 1972 with four 12-foot-wide lanes, two in each direction, and two 10-foot-wide shoulders, one in each direction. There are wide grassy medians that separate the highway’s northbound and southbound lanes and 12-foot-wide climbing lanes going up steep hills. Funding constraints prevented the highway from being completed in the late 1970’s. Route 11 south traffic is forced to use Routes 82 and 85. The missing link from Salem to New London would be about 10 miles long. (Kurumi, 2003).

Route 82 provides access from Chester to Norwich. It consists of two 12-foot-wide lanes with narrow shoulders that vary in width. There are four 12-foot-wide lanes near the Route 11 intersection.

Route 85 provides access from Bolton to New London. It has similar characteristics to Route 82. The 2.5-mile section of Route 85 between Interstate 95 (I-95) and Interstate 395 (I-395) has been widened to four lanes and several sections of Route 85 have additional left-turning lanes (DOT, 1999). I-95 provides access to coastal Connecticut from Greenwich to North Stonington while I-395 provides access to eastern Connecticut from Waterford to Thompson.

The Connecticut Department of Transportation conducted a Major Investment Study in fall 1997 into the conditions of the Routes 82, 85, 11, and 161 corridor. Route 161 goes from Montville to Waterford. Figure ES-1 on page 3 shows the study area location map while Figure ES-2 on page 4 shows the corridor study area. (DOT, 1999, Figure ES-1 and Figure ES-2).

The Draft Environmental Impact Study (DEIS), completed in February 1999, found that Route 11 is “not only a missing link, but the final link in an established network of expressways linking southeastern Connecticut with central and northern Connecticut” (DOT, ES-6, 1999).

The report explains that Routes 11, 82, and 85 are all part of the National Highway System (NHS) network. NHS routes form an important link in serving commerce, defense, public safety and general transportation needs. Routes 82 and 85 are not typical of most routes that are part of the NHS network because they were built as local roads designed to handle local traffic.

Local traffic consists of traffic going to and from neighborhoods, business, and community facilities. Most NHS routes are limited access highways that are built to handle through traffic by allowing large volumes of traffic to travel at high speeds for travelers going longer distances.

As the Route 85 corridor continues to develop with businesses and residences, drivers turning in or out of these areas encounter hazardous and frustrating conditions. During periods when there is heavy traffic, there are few breaks in the traffic to allow vehicles to enter the roadway, increasing the risks of accidents (DOT, 1999). The DOT compiled accident statistics from several intersections with Route 85 in Table ES-1 on page 7 (DOT, 1999, Table ES-1).

The average daily traffic (ADT) in 1998 on the two-lane section of Route 85 between Salem and Chesterfield ranged from 12,200 to 12,800 vehicles per day.

ADT for the section of Route 85 between Chesterfield and I-395 ranged from 10,800 to 15,400 while the Route 85 section between I-95 and Cross Road ranged from 20,800 to 21,000. According to the DOT, traffic will increase between 33 and 50 percent between 1998 and 2020 (DOT, 1999).

Automatic Traffic Recorder (ATR) counts were performed at twelve locations within the corridor during the winter of 1998 between January 28 and February 3. “The purpose of the counts was to determine hourly patterns (particularly confirmation of the peak hours for analyses), determination of daily or seasonal variations and growth trends, and estimating annual traffic (used in pavement structural design calculations)” (DOT, ES-22, 1999). The DOT’s counts at several intersections in Salem, Montville, Waterford, and East Lyme are shown in table ES-4 on page 9 (DOT, 1999, Table ES-4).

Figure ES-5 on page 10 shows the number of Route 85 intersection accidents by type and severity (DOT, 1999, Figure ES-5). This shows that the most dangerous intersection is with I-395 where there were 85 accidents from 1994 to 1996. A full-build Route 11 expressway would run parallel to this intersection lowering the traffic count here thus decreasing the risk of accidents. Figure ES-6 on page 11 shows the Route 85 segment accidents by type and severity (DOT, 1999, Figure ES-6).

This shows the most dangerous segment being on Route 85 between Cross Road Extension and I-95 with 94 accidents. Increased accident rate here is caused by traffic going to and from the Crystal Mall and surrounding shopping area. Figure ES-7 on page 12 presents Route 161 accidents by type and severity (DOT, 1999, Figure ES-7). This shows the most dangerous area being Route 161 at Route 1 near I-95. A full-build Route 11 expressway would touchdown near here to I-95 and improvements to this intersection area are planned.

Major contributing factors to heavy traffic volumes are Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun, two of the world’s largest casinos. Approximately 100,000 patrons and employees travel to and from these casinos daily. Traffic becomes even more burdensome in the summer since southeastern Connecticut is the most popular tourist destination in the state as the result of its many attractions and beaches (Full Corridor Plan, 2002). Most people headed for coastal southeastern Connecticut use I-395 South as a direct route rather than Route 11.

Levels of Service (LOS) ratings qualitatively describe the operating conditions on a roadway under various traffic demands. Letter designations ranging from LOS A to LOS F help describe the average vehicle delay at specific locations.

LOS A describes the best operating conditions while LOS F describes the worst operating conditions. LOS D, E, or F would be barely acceptable LOS conditions. LOS conditions for several signalized and unsignalized intersections with Route 85 are shown in Table ES-2 on page 14 (DOT, 1999, Table ES-2).

The table shows that the signalized intersections with Route 85 and Grassy Hill Road as well as Route 85 and I-95 will experience the greatest amount of delays between 1998 and 2020. The ratings for both intersections will go from a B for PM traffic to an F for PM traffic.

The table also shows that the unsignalized intersections Route 85 with I-95 northbound ramps and the three-way intersection between Route 85 and Way Hill and Industrial Road are already at an F rating for PM traffic. The intersections between Route 85 and Turner Road, Route 85 and Forsyth Road, and Route 85 with Route 11 off-ramp will also earn an F rating in 2020 PM traffic.

Table ES-6 on page 16 shows the 1998 existing capacity analysis showing LOS, delay in seconds per vehicle, and volume to capacity ratio at signalized intersections. This table shows that the two signalized intersections experiencing the highest volume during the AM peak hour are the three-way intersection between Grassy Hill, Chesterfield Road, and Route 85 at 77.3% and Route 85 at Route 82 with 69.2%. The table also shows that the top two intersections with the highest delay per vehicle during the AM peak hour are Route 85 at I-95 northbound ramps with 12.3 seconds and Route 161 at Route 1 with 12.2 seconds.

The two signalized intersections experiencing the highest volume during the PM peak hour are Route 85 at I-95 southbound ramps with 86.4% and Route 85 at I-95 northbound ramps with 86.4%. The top two intersections with the highest delay per vehicle during the PM rush hour are Route 161 at Route 1 with 17.7 seconds and Cross Road Extension at Parkway North with 13.5 seconds.

Table ES-7 on page 17 has results from an analysis done at unsignalized intersections (DOT, 1999, Table ES-6). These figures are based on procedures in the Highway Capacity Manual (DOT, 1999).

The table shows that the unsignalized intersection with the highest demand during AM peak hour is the Route 1 at I-95 northbound ramps forcing 450 vehicles to move slowly through the intersection. The second highest demand is at Route 1 and I-95 southbound off-ramp forcing 300 vehicles to slowly move through the intersection. The table also shows that the two-top intersections with the highest delay are the Route 85 at I-395 northbound ramps intersection with 28.7 seconds and the three-way Route 85, Way Hill, and Industrial Road intersection with 21 seconds.

Figure ES-4 on page 19 shows the existing and future traffic volumes of segments and intersections on Routes 85 and 161 (DOT, 1999, Figure ES-4). Historical figures come from 1987, 1990, 1993, 1996, 1997, and the most recent 1998.

Future volume predictions are for the year 2020 (DOT, 1999). The figure shows that the highest traffic volume is currently at Route 85 near Cross Road Extension with an average of 21,000 vehicles per day and Route 85 near Route 161 with an average of 15,400 vehicles per day. It is predicted that the Route 85 intersection with Cross Road Extension will have an average of 29,400 vehicles per day, the highest traffic volume area.

As a result, the state is in the process of reconfiguring the I-95 ramps at the Cross Road exit, exit 81. The second highest traffic volume area is predicted to be Route 85 near Route 161 that will have an average of 21,600 vehicles per day in 2020.

The variation in roadway geometry, slower speeds, interrupted traffic flows, congested conditions, traffic lights, pedestrians, and cyclists are all conditions that drivers must adjust to when driving from an expressway to a two-lane road. These conditions increase the risk of fatal accidents (DOT, 1999).

Many alternatives have been suggested in the Route 11 corridor. These alternatives are shown in Figure ES-3 on page 20 (DOT, 1999, Figure ES-3). The no-build alternative would involve no new major construction but would provide for continued routine maintenance and spot improvements. The following three alternatives propose widening Route 82 from Route 11 to Route 85 and Route 85 to I-395 in Salem, Montville, and Waterford for a distance of 9.3 miles.

These alternatives would be designed as a principal rural arterial with a design speed of 60 miles per hour (mph) (DOT, 1999).

Alternative W4, a full four-lane cross-section would widen Routes 82 and 85 to conform to accepted roadway highway standards (AASHTO) by creating two 12-ft. wide lanes in each direction with 8-ft. wide shoulders. AASHTO minimum highway standards for limited access highways are shown in Figure 7 on page 22. A maximum 2:1 (horizontal: vertical) slopes will be utilized for safety reasons and the right-of-way would be widened in some areas to a maximum of 100-ft. where the existing right-of-way is narrow. The estimated construction cost is $41,000,000 (DOT, 1999).

Alternative W4M, a modified four-lane cross-section would be similar to the W4 alternative except for road size differences. The roadway would be widened to four 11-ft. wide lanes with narrow shoulders that would meet the minimum accepted under the AASHTO but would be a deviation from the desired lane width of 12-ft. The reduction in width would help protect sensitive public water supply lands.

This alternative includes shoulders of 2-ft. and a maximum of 2:1 (horizontal: vertical) slopes. Existing narrow right-of-way areas would be widened to a maximum of 84-ft. The estimated construction cost is $33,000,000 (DOT, 1999).

The alternative W2, two-lane cross-section with improvements, would improve the two-lane roadway that already exists. Existing lane widths on Route 85 are typically 11-ft. with 1-ft. to 3-ft. shoulders, except where improvements have taken place. This plan would make all lane widths 12-ft. with 8-ft. shoulders. The right-of-way would be widened to a maximum of 80-ft. in sections where there is narrow right-of-way. The estimated construction cost is $31,100,000 (DOT, 1999).

The Transportation Systems Management (TSM) Alternative will involve intersection upgrades and modifications to traffic signals to increase capacity and ease traffic. This can help resolve traffic flow problems that come because of slow movement of vehicles at intersections and road segments, but would not solve problems that come as a result of high volume. Two intersections and two segments would receive upgrades in this alternative and it would come at a cost of $1,700,000 (DOT, 1999).

This would involve the addition of more left turn lanes which would lower the frequency of rear-end and turning collisions, two of the most common types of accidents on this type of roadway (EPA, 1999).

Seven alternative alignments have been evaluated to complete Route 11 from its current point to the junction of I-95 and I-395. The Federal Highway Administration’s analysis on accidents per hundred miles when looking at types of alternatives is shown in Figure 8 on page 24 (Route 11 Project, 2003). T

he typical cross section for all the four-lane alternatives consist of two 12-ft. wide lanes in each direction, 4-ft. wide inside shoulders, and 10-ft. wide outside shoulders with a 66-ft. minimum median width between the edges of the pavement. The right-of-way width is 400-ft. except in severe terrain areas that require significant excavation (DOT, 1999).

All four-lane alternatives would include additional exits. Exit 3 would be located at Route 161 in Chesterfield (, 2003). A full cloverleaf interchange would be built at this exit. A cloverleaf interchange allows traffic to enter the expressway in either direction and allows highway traffic in both directions to exit the expressway (DOT, 1999). Exit 2 would connect with I-395 north while exit 1 would connect with I-95 north and south. I-395 north leads traffic to Norwich and Plainfield. I-95 north leads traffic to New London and Rhode Island. I-95 south leads traffic to Essex and New Haven.

Several options have been considered for this intersection since it would be close to Exit 75, which leads to US 1, on I-95 (, 2003). This project may allow I-395 south to connect to I-95 north. Currently I-395 south traffic is forced onto I-95 south.

Alternative 92PD is a 1992 refinement of Alternatives C and D, both four-lane limited access highway extensions, introduced in prior studies (DOT, 1999).

Alternative C’s original plan would allow land previously condemned by the Connecticut Highway Department in the 1960’s to be used for the Route 11 extension. The road would continue past I-395 and end at I-95 between exit 81 and exit 82 in Waterford. Alternative D’s original plan would extend the highway to the I-95 and I-395 interchange (Nycroads, 2003).

Alternative E4 is a modification of alternative 92PD with the same alignment but minimizes property and natural resource impacts. However, federal regulatory agency representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) suggest alternative F4 as an alternative that would reduce environmental impacts that would be made with the 92PD alignment. This alternative would shift the alignment to the west by 3000 ft.

Alternative G4, a variation of alternate F4, was an alternative also suggested by the EPA and FWS that could reduce environmental impacts (DOT, 1999).

The typical cross-section for the three two-lane alternatives consist of one 12-ft. lane in each direction with Jersey barrier, 4-ft. inside shoulders, and 10-ft. outside shoulders. Both the four-lane and two-lane alignments would include a 12-ft. climbing lane and fill slopes would be graded to a maximum of 2:1 (horizontal: vertical).

A new roadway on a new location would be constructed as a limited access roadway and would be grade separated from local roads. This means that motorists will not be able to enter the new roadway from side streets or driveways (DOT, 1999).

Alternative E2 would be a modification to the 92PD alternative two-lane option. This alternative uses the southbound lanes that were proposed for alternative E4 (DOT, 1999).

Partial build alternatives were developed that would have Route 11 touchdown at a midway point and not continue to I-95/I-395. Alternative H4 would include a limited access expressway and an upgraded segment as described by Alternative W4. Alternative H2 would include a two-lane limited access expressway and an upgraded segment as described by Alternative W2 (DOT, 1999).

An innovative design alternative is also an alternative allowing the roadway to be built to preserve open space and act as an arterial roadway. This alternative would have lower design speeds than a limited access highway and a reduced cross section that would be the dominant factor in reducing impacts (DOT, 1999).

This is a possibility that would require future research to determine road specifications and costs.

The Route 11 Greenway Authority Commission, formerly the Route 11 Greenway Committee, has proposed a “greenway” design similar to the DEIS innovative design alternative. A map of the greenway is shown in Figure 9 on page 27 (Route 11 Project, 2003, Potential Greenway).

A greenway would allow hiking, biking, and recreational opportunities in the highway’s right-of-way and prevent suburban sprawl from damaging open space environments in the corridor. Other features of the greenway include wetlands, protected forest blocks, and spectacular views of the diverse wildlife (Route 11 Project, 2003).

They propose an 8.5-mile expressway extension similar to alternative E4 that would take a central alignment at least 1,000 feet from residential areas. It would have 100-foot-wide footprint to accommodate four 12-foot-wide lanes, 10-foot-wide right
shoulders, 4-foot-wide left shoulders, and a concrete Jersey barrier to separate northbound traffic from southbound traffic.

This compares to the 300-foot to 400-foot right-of-way width for a conventional freeway. It would have a design speed of 60 mph, five-percent grades, and 1,115 -foot curve radii as compared to conventional freeway design standards that feature a 70 mph design speed, four percent grades, and 1,850-foot curve radii.

A highway meeting these specifications is called a four-lane rural arterial. DOT received a $1 million Federal grant to study this option and they are in the process of securing permits to construct it (, 2003).

The DOT explained at a Route 11 Advisory Board meeting in February 2003 that it proposes a 70-foot-high three-level interchange allowing movement of traffic between I-95, I-395, Route 11, and US Route 1.

The interchange would be built near the current I-395 split at the Waterford/East Lyme border. The interchange alone would come at a cost of $150 million. In September 2003, the United States Appropriations Committee reserved $3 million in the 2004 transportation-spending bill for Route 11.

The money can be used for planning and engineering before the EPA finishes its study. It is likely that the $240 million greenway alternative completion and the $150 million connecting interchange will not happen before 2010 (, 2003).

Projected construction schedule for the alternatives is shown in Table ES-3 on page 38 (DOT, 1999, Table ES-3). A comparison of costs for each alternative is shown in Figure 10 on page 30 (DOT, 1999).

Volume comparisons of projected volume in 2020 have been done by the DOT. Table ES-16 on page 31 (DOT, 1999, Table ES-16) compares the four-lane widening alternative versus the no build alternative. Table ES-17 on page 32 (DOT, 1999, Table ES-17) compares the full build expressway alternative versus the no build alternative. Table ES-18 on page 33 (DOT, 1999, Table ES-18) compares the partial build expressway alternative versus the no build alternative. Table ES-19 on page 34 (DOT, 1999, Table ES-19) shows projected Route 11 traffic volumes for 2020 for all of the alternatives at Route 11 north of Route 82, Route 11 south of Route 82, and Route 11 south of Route 161.

Those arguing against the expressway cite environmental concerns. More wetlands would be destroyed using the full build expressway than the other options while the least amount of wetlands would be destroyed using the widening options. Each alternative’s impact to wetlands is shown in Table ES-27 on page 36 (DOT, 1999, Table ES-27).

The most amount of property would be affected if a full build expressway were built compared with other options while the least amount would be affected using the widening options. Each alternative’s impact to property is shown in Table ES-29 on page 37 (DOT, 1999, Table ES-29). Although the DEIS concludes that Routes 82 and 85 would be safer with a Route 11 expressway, it is not clear whether this increase in safety would be offset by the expected accident rates on the new expressway (EPA, 1999).

Whatever one’s opinion is on this issue, mathematics can be used to back up that opinion. Advocates for full-build expressways use accident rates, increased volume, and projected increase volume to defend their side. Advocates for partial-build expressways show how safety would be increased, how it would be less expensive than a full-build expressway, how it would do less damage to wetlands, and how current traffic counts on Route 11 are not high enough to warrant a full-build expressway.

Advocates for Routes 82 and 85 to be widened point to the large environmental impacts of any new expressway and the high cost of an expressway. Advocates for the TSM alternative and the no build alternative use math to show that simple modifications to the current roadway would dramatically improve safety.

Figure 10: Construction Costs
Alternative Cost of Construction
No Changes
No Build $0
Avg Cost $0

Safety Changes to Routes 82 and 85
TSM Alternative $1,700,000
Avg Cost $1,700,000

Expanding Routes 82 and 85
Alternative W2 $31,100,000
Alternative W4M $33,000,000
Alternative W4 $41,000,000
Avg Cost $35,033,333

Partially Finishing Route 11
Alternative H2 (2-lane) $81,900,000
Alternative H4 (4-lane) $113,600,000
Avg Cost $97,750,000

Finishing Route 11 to I-95/I-395
Alternative E2 (2-lane) $154,700,000
Alternative F2 (2-lane) $213,100,000
Alternative G2 (2-lane) $224,600,000
Alternative E4 (4-lane) $255,200,000
Greenway Alt (4-lane; E4 modified) $240,000,000
92PD Alternative (4-lane) $255,600,000
Alternative F4 (4-lane) $329,700,000
Alternative G4 (4-lane) $344,800,000
Avg Cost $252,212,500

Intersection Upgrades
Direct Rte 11/I-95/I-395/Route 1 access and Route 85 improvements for Greenway Alternative $150,000,000
Avg Cost $150,000,000

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