Rt. 7 Corridor Alternatives
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Rt. 7 Corridor Alternatives
Brookfield Bypass
New Milford Widening
I-84/US-7 Danbury Improvements
Building the Missing Link
Route 7/15 Interchange
New Focus on Emergency Routes
Process for Rt. 7 Completion
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Route 7 Corridor Improvements

Improving the Route 7 Gridlock...

There are several possible alternatives to relieving the gridlock on the existing Route 7 between New Milford and Norwalk. Widening the existing road, a new expressway, and upgrading rail service, or a combination of all three could help in unknotting the corridor's traffic bind. However, considering fiscal, environmental, and social impacts, an expressway is still the most effective alternative. Below are the details.

ALTERNATIVE A: New Expressway from Gristmill Road in Norwalk to current expressway terminus near Danbury Airport, Brookfield Bypass, 4-lane divided highway in New Milford.

COST: $600 million to $1.1 Billion.

FISCAL, SOCIAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS: This alternative calls for full expressway from Interstate 95 in Norwalk to current Route 7/202 at the Brookfield/New Milford town line, and continuing as a 4-lane divided highway north to Veterans Bridge in New Milford, using land acquired by the DOT in the 1960s for the expressway's construction.

While it will be necessary to fill approximately 64 acres of wetlands, the construction of new wetlands will replenish what is displaced during construction.The procedure of constructing new wetlands was successfully done during the 1992 extension of Route 7 from Route 123 to Gristmill Road in Norwalk, as well as in the construction of Route 9 through Berlin and Newington circa 1990.

As far as social and economic impacts are concerned, this alternative will be done on land allocated for such purpose, and thus no more land will need to be condemned south of Danbury; the only land acquisition necessary will be for construction of the Brookfield Bypass, and widening in New Milford. Therefore, community and economic disruption will be minimal south of Danbury.

Some local and national organizations opposing the expressway option have estimated the cost of construction to be $1.1 billion to $1.5 billion of the Norwalk to Danbury section, and $70 million for the Brookfield Bypass. The costs these groups estimate for construction of the Danbury to Norwalk section are grossly overstated, given that land acquisition would be a major part of that cost, and the DOT does not have to purchase any more land for the expressway south of Danbury if the expressway is built on the alignment for which land was acquired in the 1960s. The cost of the Brookfield Bypass is more in line with expectations, given that some land acquisition will be necessary to connect it with the existing Route 7/202 at the New Milford town line. A ticket-toll system (receive a ticket upon entry and pay a toll upon exit) may be effective for funding construction without creating traffic problems of its own. Once the construction costs are paid off, the tolls are dismantled.

ALTERNATIVE B: Upgrade Danbury Metro North Line, no expressway or upgrades to existing Route 7. This includes adding a second track, grade separations and electric train service between Norwalk and New Milford.

COST: $1 Billion or more.

FISCAL, SOCIAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS: This alternative calls for adding a second track to the single-track Danbury Metro North Line, extending Metro North service north to New Milford, separating at-grading crossings, and converting diesel-powered train service to electric powered service.

The current rail line occupies a narrow Right of Way parallel to the existing Route 7, and runs adjacent to several areas of wetlands along its route. In addition, the rail line passes through the village or town centers of South Norwalk, Nowralk, Cannondale, Branchville, Bethel, and Danbury. Northward extension would use a railroad owned by Housatonic Railroad that passes through the town centers of Brookfield and New Milford.

In order to add add a second track and separate at-grade corssings as well as provide electric service, the entire length of the rail line would have to be reconstructed. In addition to severe disrputions to current rail service and businesses in town centers along the railroad, separating grades would have an extremely negative effect on the appearance of these towns, with crossings replaced by hulking steel and concrete viaducts that are not compatible with the landscape. This is in addition to 115 kilovolt to 345 kilovolt electrical towers that will likely exceed 100 feet, which are necessary to provide electric train service on the railroad (the towers will be similar to those proposed by Northeast Untilities and are bitterly opposed by towns through which they will pass). Reconstruction will also require the expansion of the railroad's Right of Way, which will take many times more wetlands than the expressway's 64 acres. In addition, extensive blasting will necessary to clear rock outcroppings and widen existing rock cuts to expand the railroad. The railroad passes within several feet of many homes along its route, and blasting, high tension wires and high-speed trains would be litarally outside many residents' back doors.

For the amount of money that would have to be invested in reconstruction versus the revenues generated by usage, it would not be cost effective to pursue this option, or pursue a much scaled-down version.

ALTERNATIVE C: Widen Existing Route 7 Between Gristmill Road in Norwalk and Danbury Airport, as well as expressway terminus in Brookfield to Veterans Bridge in New Milford.

COST: $250 million to $500 million.

FISCAL, SOCIAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS: Widening the existing non-expressway segments of Route 7 south of New Milford may or may not relieve the gridlock nightmare in the corridor, depending on planning and design. However, this option would likely cause a lot of community disruption in the corridor, and the construction period would likely exacerbate traffic problems. This option will likely be a temporary solution, as an upgraded surface road will attract large retailers that bring withthem their own traffic headaches, as well as an increased number of traffic lights, which cause more problems than solve.

In order for widening the existing Route 7 to be effective, it should be a divided highway with two travel lanes in each direction, full shoulders, exclusive turning lanes at major intersections, and a dedicated left-turn lane in the center in areas of high cross-traffic. In addition, towns within the corridor must make it a top priority to restrict development along Route 7, particularly large retail outlets that attract large volumes of traffic. Short expressway segments may be constructed to bypass town centers, as is common with such upgrades.

The existing Route 7 between Norwalk and Danbury strattles the Norwalk River basin, with large areas of wetlands adjacent to the road. Should Route 7 be widened, these wetlands would have to be filled. In addition, numerous homes and businesses would have to be displaced prior to widening (buildings would have to be moved away from the road), as well as extensive costs for relocating public utilities (sewer lines, water lines, power lines, etc.).

With regard to social impacts, there would be increased risk to pedestrians with a wider road, as it becomes more difficut to cross. Motorists travelling at higher speeds will create the potential for disaster.