In 1995, Reader’s Digest named a segment of the Connecticut’s Route 6 the second most dangerous road in the country. Before widened shoulders and turn lanes were introduced in the early 2000’s, the road was commonly referred to as Suicide 6. The heavily-traveled corridor between Hartford, Connecticut and Providence, Rhode Island was once envisaged as an interstate highway. Segments of the interstate were built, but their connections never finished due to the intra-governmental nature of the project and local concerns for private property and wetlands.
Noncontiguous segments of interstate-quality roads were grafted onto US Route 6, making for irregular travel across the state. The journey between Hartford and Providence can be treacherous, due to the number of interchanges and the abundance of automated traffic controls to manage the patchwork roadway. This is not to mention the sometimes-shoddy road quality, and the driver on your bumper.
“Visitors and new residents of Connecticut are baffled at times with our roadways. You can be cruising along an interstate-quality, four-lane highway, lightly-traveled and well-marked, then within the span of a mile have the highway come to a complete dead end. It happens all over the state, yet we accept it as fact.” Connecticut: Highways to Nowhere
The history of Connecticut’s roads; finished and unfinished, interstate and rural, are well documented.
- In 1963, the state announced plans for a 46-mile US 6 expressway, beginning in Hartford and passing through Willimantic and Killingly.
- In 1968, the Federal Highway Administration approved a 64-mile interstate route connecting Hartford to Providence along US 6.
- In 1970 and 1971, Connecticut built two isolated sections of the future interstate in Manchester and Willimantic; shortly thereafter, another section was built in Killingly.
- In 1978, estimated completion costs were about $470 million in Connecticut and $125 million in Rhode Island.
- In 1980, the US Council on Environmental Quality said it could not approve building the interstate in Rhode Island, due to concerns over the Scituate Reservoir.
- In 1982, Rhode Island cancelled its part of the highway.
- In 1983, the Governor of Connecticut conceded that the state was unlikely to get congressional approval for the interstate, but recommended other road improvements.
The "other improvements" developed into the awkward mishmash that we now call Route 6.
Inefficiencies exist along the route and are especially noticeable when entering and exiting the interstate segments. After a few miles of interstate speeds, interchanges force vehicles to queue. In many two lane portions of Route 6, the results yield heavy traffic.
Like Connecticut, Rhode Island also has a Readers-Digest-ranked Suicide 6. In 1992, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation determined that a Route 6 upgrade could be constructed without harm to the Scituate Reservoir. Currently, Connectucut is revamping impact attenuators along segments of the route and recently finished adding rumble strips to the parts of the roadway shoulder and center. Sidewalk projects are also due to begin this spring along congested sections in Brooklyn. The unfinished interstate receives mention every few years, but other, "shovel-ready" highway projects bump it down the list of priorities. While an interstate might not be the solution, the route needs much more than rumble-strips: these and state of the art safety attenuators would see less use with a safer road.
Are there any unfinished interstates in your city? How has an unfinished interstate affected you? Share your stories and thoughts in the comments area below.
Credits: Images 2 and 3 by Dan Malo. Image 1 and data linked to sources.