It is the objective of expressway opponents to persuade local politicians that the majority of people oppose a new terrain
route from New Milford to Norwalk.
The fact is that 93 percent of people residing in the Route 7 corridor between Nowralk and New Milford support the construction
the Route 7 Expressway between Norwalk and Danbury and the Brookfield Bypass. Opponents represent a small group of upper-class
who put self-interests before the safety and well-being of literally millions of people that travel the Route 7 corridor each
Opponents argue that building the Route 7 Expressway will increase traffic in their towns.
Studies of the corridor may indicate that traffic volumes in the affected towns may increase, but most of the increase
will result from the expressway's usage. In the same respect, since travelers between Norwalk and Danbury will use the expressway,
traffic on local roads and the existing Route 7 will decrease. Most of the traffic in the Route 7 corridor is thru-traffic
between I-95 and I-84, which means that an expressway would best serve such needs.
Opponents argue that the traffic problem can be solved by widening the existing Route 7 from two to four lanes and upgrade
service on the Danbury Metro North Line.
Widening the existing Route 7 will actually make a bad situation worse. An expanded surface road will only attract large
retail outlets, strip malls, and housing subdivisions. It is proven in cases of other suburban areas around the country that
when a road is widened, urban sprawl soon follows. Unsightly shopping centers, fast-food restaurants, and big 'box stores'
like Walmart and Kmart soon appear along the route. Not only do these retail outlest disrupt the rural character of the towns
along Route 7, but result in additional congestion and unnecessary traffic. The increases traffic also forces the installation
of more traffic lights, and the risk of automobile accidents also increases. Between 1996 and 1998, there were 1865 traffic
accidents along the section of Route 7 between Grist Mill Road in Norwalk and Old Sugar Hollow Road in Danbury, accoriding
to the ConnDOT Traffic Accident Surveillance Report (TASR). The accident rate on Route 7 between Grist Mill Road and Danbury
Airport is two to three times the state average.
Upgrading the Danbury railroad will do little to relieve Route 7 traffic. Americans are married to their automobiles, and
it would take a greater effort to change the mentality of commuters who drive alone to and from work. Also, upgrading the
railroad will do little to reduce the tractor-trailer traffic on Route 7. Tractor trailers frequently use Route 7, as well
as Routes 25 and 34 to get from Interstate 84 to the shoreline.
In order to electrify the Danbury rail line, large steel towers will have to be erected along the railroad. These towers would
be similar to those proposed by Northeast Utilities to run between Bethel and Norwalk, which have drawn strong opposition
from residents and town officials along the route, which is in the Route 7 corridor. Additionally, in order to increase service,
a second track would have to be constructed, which would require taking more homes and businesses, and threaten wetlands,
which abut the railroad.
Opponents think that the number of vehicles traveling Route 7 is overstated.
According to the 1999 DOT Traffic Volumes Report, Route 7 between Grist Mill Road and Old Sugar Hollow Road carries between
20,000 and 40,000 vehicles per day (ADT). There are sections of Route 7 that have more vehicles per day than the nearest north-south
expressway, Route 8. Route 8 carries between 20,000 and 60,000 vehicles per day between Waterbury and Bridgeport. However,
the traffic volumes on Route 7 do not include the traffic that uses local roads as alternates to the gridlocked road.
Opponents argue that building the Route 7 Expressway will needlessly destroy hunderds of homes and 64 acres of wetlands.
The Right of Way (ROW) for the expressway was purchased by the DOT in the 1960s. In 1978 an Environmental Impact Statement
(EIS) was approved for the highway's construction, but at the time the state lacked the necessary funds to begin construction.
The section constructed in 1992 between Route 123 and Grist Mill Road included the construcion of new wetlands. Construction
of the new expressway will be done with care, such that impacts to wetlands are minimized. Additionally, new wetlands can
be created to replace those that are destroyed during the construction process.
Since the existing Route 7 between Norwalk and Danbury lies in the Norwalk River basin, as does most of the Danbury Rail line,
upgrading either of these facilities will destroy more environmentally senstive areas that the expressway on the land acquired
in the 1960s.
Opponents believe that construction of the expressway will be too costly to taxpayers.
It is estimated that the cost of the 15 mile section of Route 7 from Norwalk to Danbury will cost $1 billion. However, this
cost may be overstated, since the expressway has an approved Environmental Impact Statement since 1978, and the Right of Way
has been acquired several decades ago. Technically, the cost of design and construction remain, which will be 90 percent federally
funded and 10 percent state funded. Installing tolls on the expressway may help offset the costs of construction and maintenance.
Comparing that to the cost of upgrading the existing Route 7 and Danbury Rail line, upgrading the existing railroad (favored
by highway opponents) would cost as much as constructing a new expressway. This is because in order to make the railroad attractive
to commuters, faster trains are necessary. This means the the rail line must be electrified, a second track must be added,
and at-grade crossings must be separated by new bridge structures. Given the extensive amount of work required to upgrade
the rail, it would be as costly (if not more so) to upgrade the Danbury line than to construct Route 7. Furthermore, in order
to finance upgrading the Danbury Rail line, Metro North would likely hike train fares on the route, which would further deter
people from using the train as an alternative mode of transportation.
Opponents argue that most traffic is going east-west, not north-south.
Interstate 84 is the only expressway that serves the Greater Danbury area. Currently there is no highway linking Danbury
with shoreline cities, such as Norwalk, Bridgeport and New Haven. Instead, heavy trucks traveling between Danbury and the
shoreline have only three routes to choose from: Route 7, Route 25, and Route 34. All three routes are well over their designed
capacities, and are plagued by severe congestion, numerous accidents, and the local opposition to improvements in these corridors.
On Route 34, the bridge over Stevenson Dam is 80 years old, and is slated for replacement in the coming years. The existing
bridge and its approaches have been the site of several fatal accidents in recent years. Also the bridge's deteriorating condition
compromises its structural integrity, and ultimately the safety of those traveling over it. However, opposition from environmentalists
and residents along Route 34 have delayed the replacing of the Stevenson Dam crossing for nearly five years.
Expressways were proposed for Routes 25 and 34, but the same opposition that places the Route 7 expressway in jeopardy, effectively
killed those expressways in the early 1990s. Out of the three routes that were proposed in the 1950s, the Route 7 expressway
is still a viable option, and the increasing severity of congestion and accidents along Routes 7, 25, and 34 warrant the expressway's
construction as soon as possible.