NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Drivers used to taking Route 34 into New Haven from I-95 or I-91 will have to learn a new routine this morning after the Connecticut Department of Transportation closed Exit 2.
All traffic now gets off at Exit 1, which expands to five lanes when it reaches Church St.
“We’re trying to normalize the traffic on the corridor, have three lanes of through traffic, rathert than the bottleneck that was being caused by the temporary signal at the bottom of Exit 2,” Doug Hausladen, director of Transportation, Traffic & Parking for the City of New Haven, said on Good Morning Connecticut.
On Thursday, Commuters were bracing for gridlock and chaos. So how bad was it?
“I was expecting a big back up, but luckily I just came in quickly,” said Gina Morrow of Hamden. “It’s shorter than normal.”
News 8 tried it at the height of the rush hour and had no trouble at all. The orange barrels on the left, that’s the old Route 34. Now you get off at Church Street on a newly widened 5 lane ramp. This is what progress looks like.
They had to close down exit two because the construction you see going on over here is going to keep going. They’re going to build a new high tech office building on this spot, much like the building they’re already putting up over here that caused exit 3 to close.”
According to New Haven Transportation Director Doug Hausladen, “The end result is we’re trying to roll back the highway and create more developable in the heart of our downtown, reconnecting the Hill to the downtown. We have thousands of jobs at the medical center and thousands of jobs in the downtown and we need to stitch the two together.”
The changes had some avoiding the area altogether.
“Well, we decided to take an alternative route today. We got off at Exit 4 instead because we wanted to bypass in case there was a lot of traffic,” said one driver.
That’s exactly what the city’s transportation director is encouraging drivers to do.
“Thank you for your patience first and foremost and we have got many alternate ways to get into New Haven. Exit 45, Kimberly Avenue, exit 46 coming across the Church Street South Bridge,” Hausladen said.
And if you get off at I-91’s exit three, you’ll find Trumbull Street clear of parked cars every morning, and you’re encouraged to use the parking spots as a second travel lane. So you can get around…but there’s no getting around the feeling that all the construction will never end.
“I’m really tired of all the construction in Connecticut every highway is covered,” said Julie Pond of East Haven, who took another route.
“I had to. I had no choice,” she said.
Officials say they are still working on the timing of the lights and things like that. News 8 was told two traffic engineers were up in the Knights of Columbus building watching the traffic patterns to try to make improvements in the days to come.
— Doug Hausladen (@doughausladen) July 17, 2014
At Exit 1, motorists have the option of turning right on Orange Street or continue on MLK Boulevard to the intersection with Church Street. At the intersection, motorists may turn right or left on Church Street or continue further straight on MLK Boulevard.
The work is part of a long-term plan to reconnect downtown New Haven with the Hill neighborhood by closing Route 34.
“We’ve been trying to roll back the highway and create more developable parcels, bring new companies downtown, and create jobs in our city,” Hausladen said.
The work had been scheduled for Tuesday morning, but was delayed because of weather conditions. ConnDOT says there will be signs posted to guide commuters. If you’re looking for alternate routes into Downtown New Haven, the DOT suggests:
- Take Exit 3 (Trumbull St.) off I-91 South, then turn left onto Orange St, or go farther to Temple St., or even farther to Prospect St. An extra travel lane has been opened. VIDEO
- Take Exit 44 (Kimberly Ave.) off I-95 North, turn right onto Kimberly Ave. and then left onto Ella Grasso Blvd. Take the fourth right onto Legion Ave., and left onto Church St. VIDEO
- Take Exit 46 (Long Wharf) off I-95 North, right onto Long Wharf Drive, under the highway onto Sargent Drive, go three blocks to Church St. Ext., continue onto Church or turn right onto Union Ave. VIDEO