Route 80 Promises
In the following series of letters I would like to present excerpts from news stories and correspondence regarding the Rt. 80 Widening Project, which date from 2006 to the present. These letters will present documented commentary, assurances and, indeed, promises made by local and state officials regarding the Rt. 80 Widening Project and it’s impact on the ecology, aesthetics, and historical integrity of the town of North Branford. Perhaps of greater importance is the impact of this Project on the citizens of North Branford. Some of these assurances/promises, alas, have been broken. Some promises hang in the balance as the Project moves forward. These letters cannot undo the damage already done, however, by recalling these comments and assurances as well as who made them and when, perhaps we can influence the outcome of aspects of the Project yet to be completed. Most of the following quotes are from articles published in the New Haven Register or The Sound and are, therefore, easily verified. Quotes from correspondence or other sources can be vetted upon request.
This first letter concerns the impact of the Project on the Congregational Church property. Subsequent dispatches will focus on such issues as sidewalks, speed limits, traffic “calming”, and proposals for the Wall Field/Old Town Hall site.
I will make use of extensive quotation to ensure that comments are not seen to be, “taken out of context”.
On March 24, 2006, New Haven Register reporter Robert Varley submitted an article entitled, RT. 80 Project threatens No. Branford Green containing the following comments:
The Town is looking to save the last remains of the town Green from a Route 80
widening project…that would eat away North Branford Congregational Church land…remove…cherry trees and bring traffic closer to a Civil War monument.
“This is the North Branford center, and when you put a four-lane highway through
there, it has an impact”, said Town Engineer Kurt A. Weiss, stressing that parishioners, preservationists and residents are concerned about how it will affect the area’s character. Concerned citizens and the town had contacted DOT officials, hoping they would consider a revised plan…”the Town Council has been adamant that the current design is unacceptable”, said Town Manager Karl Kilduff. “I truly object to them taking any part of the Green”, said Town Historian Janet Gregan. Town Councilman Vincent Candelora said the town must press this matter with the DOT…It comes down to appearance and safety.
Subsequently, on June 12, 2006, I received a letter from Commissioner Stephen E. Korta, II of the DOT in response to a letter I had written to then Governor M. Jodi Rell regarding my concerns about the Project’s impact on Congregational Church property, which included the following:
The Department has made design revisions to reduce the effect on Church property…In response to the continued desire to minimize and mitigate the disturbance to the Church property, the Department [DOT]…analyzed several alternatives to the current design…that will satisfy the Town’s concerns.
Less than a month later, those “alternatives to the current design” were presented to local and state officials, Church parishioners and citizens at a meeting held at the Congregational Church. Writing in The Sound on July 11, 2006, in an article entitled, D.O.T. to Address Rte. 80 Concerns, Ben Rayner reports:
…concerns over the state’s plan for Route 80 alterations has been growing for months but a recent meeting with residents, D.O.T., and local and state officials may have eased some of the worries…In response to resident and town concerns, the state D.O.T….undertook to come up with a more agreeable design. At issue was the widening of the roadway through the town’s historic district…First Congregational Church members were upset that cherry trees and town green property would…be swallowed up by the plan and that an area already considered dangerous to pedestrians would become even more hazardous. According to Town Manager Karl Kilduff, many of these concerns were addressed…”The support of Senator Ward and the attendance of he and Senator Meyer at the meeting was also helpful. The state is receptive to our concerns…” In the original proposal, road widening would proceed east on Rte. 80 past the church and the historic district, gobbling up precious space…leading to the removal of cherry trees. In the new proposals, the widening would not encroach as far eastward through the district and would not affect any trees. [emphasis added]
We will end here for this letter. It is evident that numerous state and local officials as well as concerned North Branford citizens were involved in voicing their concerns to the DOT about the impact of the widening project on Congregational Church property. The July, 2006 meeting appeared to allay many of these concerns. What happened? Who is accountable? In subsequent letters, I will continue to sketch out the course of the Project with additional assurances, which have yet to be violated. Maybe the people of North Branford will yet have a say in the fate of their town.