Norwich mayor wants to add 'scenic' to Route 2 name through downtown

Norwich — Let’s say you’re driving on Route 2 East from Hartford heading to Foxwoods Resort Casino or to the Rhode Island beaches with no plan to stop in Norwich.

If you’re not familiar with the area, you might just follow Route 2 as it enters the city and wind your way through downtown along Washington Street to the city waterfront on Chelsea Harbor Drive and out again over the Viaduct and onto East Main Street, all of which still are considered Route 2.

Mayor Peter Nystrom launched an idea during his Jan. 2 State of the City address that he hopes would greatly reduce high-speed through traffic along city streets and the Norwich Harbor area. He said he discussed the new concept with federal transportation officials during his previous term as mayor from 2009 to 2013.

Under Nystrom’s idea, the same traveler would head east on Route 2, but would take Exit 28 S to get onto Interstate 395 South, which also would be designated as Route 2. The driver would take Exit 9 to get onto the Mohegan-Pequot Bridge, which instead of Route 2A would now be a continuation of Route 2.

At the end of the bridge, the driver would take a left onto Route 12/2, and a right in front of Preston Riverwalk. The driver would follow the former Route 2A all the way to the intersection with Route 2 in Preston at the former Rena’s Pizza location.

From there, the driver would take a right and continue on Route 2 toward Ledyard and Westerly.

If the driver took a left toward Norwich, the change would have the vehicle on “Scenic Route 2” from there through downtown, up Washington Street past Chelsea Parade and the William W. Backus Hospital. The “Scenic Route 2” designation would end where the highway crosses I-395 at Exit 13.

“The whole idea is to get the extra traffic that’s just pouring through our city out of the downtown,” Nystrom said. “Get rid of all the extra cars and tractor-trailer trucks.”

Reducing the high volumes of through traffic would allow the city to narrow Chelsea Harbor Drive, Nystrom said, and expand the Howard T. Brown Memorial Park at Norwich Harbor, a popular summer concert and event venue.

Chelsea Harbor Drive now is a three-lane, one-way street with large green highway signs overhead in the harbor area.

Removing thousands of high-speed vehicles, including tractor-trailer trucks, from the waterfront also would reduce wear and tear on downtown streets and make it safer for pedestrians to get to Brown Park, Nystrom said.

The new designation would need support from state and federal transportation authorities, he said, because it would include I-395 as well as state Route 2. Maps and GPS systems also would have to be updated, as they were in 2015, when exit numbers changed from sequential numbers to mile marker numbers on I-395 — Nystrom, a UPS truck driver, admitted he still hasn’t learned all the new exit numbers.

“I think it can help downtown, slow it down. Get people there who want to be there,” Nystrom said of his Route 2 proposal.

c.bessette@theday.com

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