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Route 7 Corridor Improvements

Brookfield Bypass (Project 18-113)

UPDATE APRIL 27, 2007: After nine years of delays, construction is set to begin on the Brookfield Bypass. O & G Industries, the general contractor for the $87 million project will begin shifting traffic in the vicinity of the present expressway terminus at Route 202 south of Brookfield Center. This is necessary so the contractor can build the connection between the existing expressway and the Bypass. At the north end, the Bypass will tie into the existing highway at the New Milford town line and continue north as a 4-lane divided highway with at-grade intersections. Construction of the Bypass is expected to be complete in late 2009.

This project involves extending the Route 7 expressway from its current terminus at Route 202 in Brookfield to the Brookfield-New Milford town line. The 2.7 mile highway will bypass Brookfield Center to the west, carrying Route 7 traffic directly to New Milford. Route 202 will remain on the existing two-lane Federal Road through Brookfield and join with Route 7 at the New Milford town line. Federal Road between the existing expressway terminus and the Brookfield-New Milford town line will not be upgraded, but Route 7/202 in New Milford will be widened to 4 lanes. Brookfield has supported the bypass for several years, but New Milford had opposed earlier plans to extend 'Super 7' there. Most of the bypass' construction will take place on Right of Way that was purchased in the 1960s for an earlier, but dead, highway proposal.

Cost of construction is estimated at $70 million, and the cost of constructing the bypass will be 90 prercent federally funded and 10 percent state funded. The Connecticut Department of Transportation is currently preparing the final design for the bypass. Included in its final design is the study of migration patterns of animals along the path of the highway. This information will be used in the design to minimize the highway's obstruction to access to Domain Pond, from which most animals drink. Also the DOT is proceeding with Right of Way acquisitions for the bypass.

So far, about $35 million in federal funds have been allocated for the project, and additional state funds are available. However, an additional $20 million in federal money is being pursued in order to complete the bypass.

ConnDOT anticipates the project to go out to bid on September 26, 2004, with construction likely to start in Spring 2005.

Proposed Bypass Drawing on Aerial View

The proposed route (yellow) drawn on an aerial photograph of the Route 7/202 corridor through Brookfield. The existing Route 7/202 (red) will be signed as Route 202 once the Brookfield Bypass is completed. Concerns by the EPA over wetlands resulted in ConnDOT in revising and shortening the bypass (teal). Opposition for the shortened highway (and support for the original routing to the New Milford line) by local residents and politicians and Governor John Rowland pressured ConnDOT, the EPA, and the Army Corps of Engineers to approve the original routing in early 2001. The Route 7 bypass will merge with Route 202 at the New Milford town line. From there northward, Route 7/202 will continue into New Milford as a divided highway (orange).

The proposed routing of the extended Route 7 expressway around Brookfield follows the DOT's 1998 proposed routing. It was submitted before the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers (COE) for review in 1999.

The DOT misinterpreted a letter from the COE which said the "proposed route was feasible" as it being "approved." In 2000, the EPA expressed concerns over wetlends in the vicinity of the bypass' route, which prompted the DOT to scale back their proposals. In June 2000 the DOT announced a $40 million, 1.5 mile bypass that would begin along the same routing as the original proposal, the turn sharply eastward near Laurel Hill Road, and rejoin Federal Road less than 1/2 mile north of Brookfield Center.

While the revised routing would have avoided the wetlands, five homes and three businesses would have to be displaced. Additionally, the 'bypass' would be useless, since it would return to Federal Road while still in Brookfield. Since the bypass' purpose is to carry thru traffic past Brookfield, terminating it in Brookfield would defeat the purpose of constructing it.

Local support for the original 1998 proposal, as well as support from Governor Rowland and Congressman Jim Maloney pressured the DOT, COE, and EPA into approving the original proposal in 2001. The DOT is still working with the EPA and COE in the final design of the bypass to minimize its impact on wetlands along the highway's path.  The point of controversy is a flooded rock quarry which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers (USACOE) consider an "inland watercourse," despite being created when workers flooded the quarry decades ago by hitting an underground spring during excavation.

In May 2002, another design modification would shift the alignment to the east of a rock quarry and pond that were the focus of environmental issues regarding the bypass. Contrary to the modifications proposed in 2000, the most recent alternative will route the bypass to the east of the quarry and pond, but remain west of the residential areas to the east. However, residents oppose any eastward shift of the bypass' proposed alignment.  In September 2002, ConnDOT proposed constructing a bridge spanning the quarry.  This would allow the bypass to be constructed on the alignment proposed in 1998, while addressing environmental concerns with the quarry.
 
Nonetheless, it remains uncertain as to when (or if) the bypass will be constructed.  With the State of Connecticut facing a budget deficit exceeding $1 billion over the next two years, deep funding cuts will likely delay construction indefinitely.

Ironically, the existing Route 7 expressway ended short of Brookfield when it was constructed in the 1970s. Opposition from Brookfield and New Milford at that time had stopped the highway's construction at its current terminus at Federal Road (Route 202) just south of Brookfield Center. However, the severity of congestion and numerous accidents in Brookfield had drastically weakened opponents' issues against the highway's extension northward. Throughout the 1990s, most Brookfield residents came to realize that indeed, the only solution to the traffic nightmare that engulfs their stretch of Route 7 is to construct an expressway that will carry thru-traffic around their town center. This bypass will reduce congection and accidents, and improve the quality of life for Brookfield.