Malloy and lawmakers spotlight I-95 bottlenecks
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Dannel Malloy said Sunday a long-awaited project to ease congestion on Interstate 95 between exits 14 and 15 needs to be pushed to completion to end the backups that are stifling commerce along Route 1.
Speaking on the southbound exit interchange of Exit 14 adjacent to Swanky Franks, Malloy called the stretch of highway the No. 1 bottleneck on Interstate 95 and promised to find funding for the stalled $78.1 million project.
"Right now traffic is backed up for a mile and a half, which is even more unusual this being a Sunday," Malloy said. "...The design may have been acceptable when the road system was built but it is clearly not OK when we have one million more cars in Connecticut than we did 25 years ago."
The project, which would be mostly funded by the federal government, would add speed change lanes between exits 14 and 15 in both directions, and require the replacement of three overpass bridges at Cedar Street, as well as Fairfield and Taylor avenues.
Interchanges onto Route 1 in Norwalk would be reconfigured for better traffic flow, adding sidewalks on both sides from Exit 14 northward to near Clinton Avenue.
Malloy said projects that would improve traffic flow in the state should be bid aggressively in the near future because of a continued pattern of lower-than-projected bids for many big-ticket DOT projects.
Last week, the State Department of Transportation opened bids for the final phase of the Pearl Harbor Memorial/Q Bridge and found the low bid was $200 million less than expected -- money that could be diverted to build speed change lanes and other needed projects, Malloy said.
"We should be bidding every project we can reasonably foresee completing," Malloy said.
Sen. Bob Duff and Reps. Bruce Morris and Christopher Perone, all Norwalk Democrats, said the DOT should include the project, which was initially scheduled to begin this year, on a list of funded initiatives.
"I asked Dan Malloy to be here today as a show of his commitment to finish this project once and for all," Duff said. "Economically this situation is a big loser for businesses in the area."
Morris said there is a large loss of business due to gridlock in the area, which discourages shoppers from patronizing Norwalk businesses.
"Consumer access is central to this project," Morris said. "There are a number of people deciding not to go shopping and I thank Dan Malloy for raising awareness of this project."
Sen. Donald DeFronzo, D-Rocky Hill, chairman of the state legislature's Transportation Committee, said he thought Malloy would help guarantee there would be more discussion with the legislature before changes were made to spending priorities.
DeFronzo said the deferral of the exits 14 and 15 project was a surprise to legislators who worked hard to prepare it.
"Hopefully a new administration would give us a more reasonable process," DeFronzo said.
Malloy said similar projects to add speed change lanes in Stamford, Darien, and other interchanges in Norwalk on I-95 in the past decade resulted in quicker commutes and a better business climate.
Tom Foley, Malloy's Republican opponent, said he also considers congestion-relief projects on Interstate 95 to be important priorities to creating a more business friendly state.
"The state doesn't really have a coherent transportation strategy and I don't know how you are going to prioritize anything," Foley said. "But one of the very highest priorities in the state is to reduce congestion and I-95 is a big bottleneck for businesses and commuters and is driving jobs out of Connecticut."
Malloy said Connecticut should rededicate proceeds of the state's petroleum gross receipts tax to fund highway and transit projects. Foley and Malloy said they disapprove of the proceeds of the tax being diverted in many budget years to the General Fund to cover state operating costs.
"There is $78 million for this project that was previously appropriated but not bonded to do the project," Malloy said. "I came today to say I think this project needs to move up."
Staff Writer Martin B. Cassidy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 203-964-2264.