2005 NEWS -
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Articles (including letters to editor) - pro and con are listed below.
upset by Super 7 endorsement
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By Mark Ginocchio, Staff Writer
Published December 4 2005
Wilton town officials are concerned about a proposed regional
transportation and land-use development plan that states a need for the
controversial Super 7 expressway from Norwalk to Danbury.
Lower Fairfield County
leaders are expected to vote tomorrow night to approve the South Western
Regional Planning Agency's "Fourth Plan of Conservation and Development
2005-2015," but newly elected Wilton First Selectman William Brennan
said the town is against the plan's endorsement of Super 7.
"We heard there was
some language stuck in to support Super 7, and we're very much against
that," Brennan said. "It's inappropriate. Basically, (the state
Department of Transportation's) plan for Super 7 is dead. (Gov. M. Jodi
Rell) said it's dead."
Super 7, a highway that
would run from Norwalk to Danbury and link Interstate 95 to Interstate
84, has been on the table for nearly 50 years, but Wilton officials and
environmental groups oppose the plan, keeping it in limbo.
Because the plan has
been in development for months, and Brennan took office last week, he
has asked SWRPA for more review time.
An extension also would
be fair to the newly elected leaders in Norwalk and Westport, he said.
Endorsing Super 7 came
at the request of Norwalk officials. In the Norwalk Planning
Commission's letter to SWRPA, they ask for the draft plan to be revised
to address the need for a Route 7 expressway. In the draft land-use
policy map, the commission asked to add the proposed extension of the
Route 7 expressway to Route 33 in Wilton and to Danbury as depicted on a
1995 plan map.
"This plan is very
consistent with what we have asked for in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s,
1980s, 1990s and now," said Michael Green, Norwalk Planning and Zoning
Super 7 would help
address traffic in a booming economic area and would benefit the region,
executive director of SWRPA, said the agency board will consider
Brennan's request at tomorrow's meeting.
The final draft may
reflect the language in the Southwest Region Metropolitan Planning
Organization's long-range transportation plan, which claims Super 7 is
an "unfunded need," Wilson said.
The DOT is widening
sections of Route 7 to alleviate traffic. They also have conducted a
study to help find ways to improve train service on Metro-North
Railroad's Danbury branch, which runs in the Route 7 corridor between
South Norwalk and Danbury
SWRPA URGED TO KEEP UP
SUPER 7 PRESSURE
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By ROBERT KOCH Hour Staff Writer (Norwalk Hour,
NORWALK -The Planning Commission urged the South Western Regional
Planning Agency Wednesday night not to give up on Super Route 7
expressway, nor focus affordable-housing construction exclusively in
urban areas. The regional planning agency is roughly a month away from
adopting its Fourth Plan of Conservation & Development 2005-2015.
The document will replace a
1995 plan and offer recommendations on land use, transportation,
housing, recreation, emergency planning and other issues faced by the
eight lower Fairfield County municipalities represented by SWRPA.
On Wednesday night, Robert H.
Wilson, SWRPA executive director, came to city Hall and asked planning
commissioners to comment on the 44-page draft plan. "One of the
(our) staff comments in Norwalk is the need to address the need for the
Route ' expressway... and we know Wilton doesn't want it," said Leigh
Grant, planning commissioner and Norwalk representative to. SWRPA. Grant
asked how the opposing interests will play out when SWRPA's board votes
on the final plan.
SWRPA has been working on the
2005-15 plan for two years. The agency will receive public comment
through Nov. 16. Wilson said SWRPA will incorporate those comments into
the final plan, which is slated for adoption in early December.
The Route 7 expressway, also
known as Super 7, was once envisioned as a four-lane superhighway that
would connect Norwalk and Danbury. The state Department of
Transportation purchased land to build the expressway, but the plan
ground to a halt after opposition from communities in its path.
While the 1995 SWRPA plan
backed the expressway as needed to "provide better highway access
through the region to the Danbury area," the new draft plan does not.
Wilson said the Congestion Mitigation Systems Plan, adopted in 2003, and
the Regional Long-Range Transportation Plan, adopted this year, address
"We felt that any significant
treatment of transportation in this plan would be redundant," Wilson
said. "Whether or not a recommendation for the Super 7 expressway finds
its way into this document, I don't know. Certainly; if it's sent to us
for consideration, our committee will review that. Our long range
transportation plan views (Super 7) as an unfunded need for the region;
Wilton disagrees with that." "Reality would probably dictate that
(Super 7) is probably as dead as a door nail," Wilson added.
Planning commissioners took no
chances. On a unanimous vote, they approved and forwarded to SWRPA three
pages of recommendations asking the agency to, among other things, again
endorse the Route 7 expressway; new train station construction along the
Danbury line; and using excess state land to build affordable housing.
"It looks to me like you just
sort of brushed over affordable housing. Kind of like, it's up to
Norwalk and it's up to Stamford and nobody else. I get that feeling from
your document," said Walter O. Briggs, commission chairman.
As with the 1995 plan, the new
plan encourages development in town centers, where water, sewer and
other infrastructure are in place, and discourages sprawl in green
spaces. The draft plan calls for new housing, especially low- and
moderate income housing, "along established transit corridors and in
urban town centers. On that topic, planning commissioners want the
final plan to recommend that excess state and local land be used for
Michael B. Greene, the city's
planning & zoning director noted that the 1995 plan recommended using
such land for small developments. "Route 7 right-of-way; for
example, there are little pieces of land that could fit two or three
units. Why not use that for affordable?" Greene said. "That's not in
this plan. We don't know if it was an oversight, but it's not there."
Greene urged SWRPA to hear
Norwalk's concerns, incorporate them into the final plan, and produce a
good plan rather than simply shoot for December completion.
Route 7 set to reopen this
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By Tobin A. Coleman, Staff Writer July 15, 2005
Route 7 in Ridgefield was scheduled to reopen for this morning's rush
hour after the fatal and fiery crash of a fuel tanker Tuesday that
severely weakened a bridge over the Norwalk River and forced the road's
Gov. M. Jodi Rell announced at about 5:30 p.m. yesterday that the span
will be buttressed with temporary supports and, barring any unforeseen
circumstances overnight, the road was scheduled to reopen today at 5
"As a western Connecticut resident myself, I am well aware of the
significance of getting Route 7 reopened in such a short period of
time," Rell said in a statement. Rell lives in Brookfield.
"Forty-eight hours ago, this was a devastating scene that resulted in
the closing of one of our busiest roadways," she said. "The fact that it
will be ready to reopen so soon is a true testament to the commitment of
the men and women who have been working around the clock in Ridgefield
to get the job done."
Police reported that on Tuesday afternoon an unidentified white sport
utility vehicle pulled out from a side road into the path of the truck,
forcing the driver to slam on his brakes to avoid the vehicle.
The truck, loaded with 8,000 gallons of gasoline, jackknifed, flipped
over and burst into flames.
The driver of the Island Transportation truck, Ricky Butler, 46, was
killed. Police are looking for the driver of the SUV.
Route 7 is the main route between Danbury and Norwalk and averages about
30,000 vehicle trips per day, according to the state Department of
U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Bridgeport, said he and other members of
Connecticut's congressional delegation have asked for emergency relief
funds from the federal Department of Transportation to cover repairs.
Shays is scheduled to visit the site this morning with Ridgefield First
Selectman Rudy Marconi and Federal Highway Administration official Brad
Keezer to assess the damage and discuss funding for repairs.
Free bus service has been added between Danbury and Norwalk and rail
commuters on Metro-North Railroad's Danbury branch line have had their
Northbound traffic was being detoured onto Route 35 and southbound
traffic onto Route 102.
State Sen. Robert Duff, D-Norwalk, yesterday urged the state to again
consider building so-called "Super 7," a limited access highway that
would run parallel to the existing road and ease traffic congestion
along the route. The existing road runs through the business districts
of several communities and in many spots is only two lanes wide.
Rush-hour traffic often crawls along for miles.
The state bought land for Super 7 decades ago and the parcels remain
unoccupied. Fierce opposition from residents along the route, who claim
it will ruin the rural character of their communities, has kept the
project from moving forward.
Duff said the tragedy should remind residents how fragile southwestern
Connecticut's transportation infrastructure is and how badly the area
needs Super 7.
"Unfortunately, tragedies like this point out the fact, even more so
than the usual arguments, why we need to finish that expressway," he
Duff said the expanded bus service that commuters have relied on since
Tuesday was nearly gutted in the state budget that the Legislature
passed last month.
Duff said his work, as well as that of other legislators and state
budget director Robert Genuario of Norwalk was instrumental in getting
the $4.5 million operating funds for the Route 7 bus link and some other
mass transit services restored.
"These services are extremely important and we must always continue to
put funding in this part of mass transit," Duff said.
Fatal crash closes Route 7
By James Lomuscio, Special Correspondent July 13, 2005
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RIDGEFIELD -- A tanker truck carrying 8,000 gallons of gasoline,
jackknifed, flipped and exploded on a Route 7 bridge in Ridgefield
yesterday afternoon, killing the driver, melting pavement, scorching
trees and shutting down rush hour traffic on the major roadway between
Norwalk and Danbury.
Route 7 may be closed until Saturday between Route 102 in Branchville
and Route 35 in Ridgefield, state Department of Transportation officials
The fire damaged a bridge over the Norwalk River on the major
north-south highway in western Connecticut, and authorities said
gasoline spilled into the river.
"It looks like a scene from Vietnam with a napalm attack," Ridgefield
First Selectman Rudy Marconi over his cell phone from the scene
yesterday afternoon where he said the charred remains of the truck were
sitting on the bridge.
"The whole area is scorched," said Marconi. "It extends 75 yards over
the railing down to the Norwalk River, and the leaves and bark are
completely burned from the trees. It's an environmental nightmare."
Ridgefield Police Capt. Stephen Brown said the accident happened at
about 3:25 p.m. when, according to an eyewitness, a white sport-utility
vehicle pulled out of Simpaug Turnpike and cut in front of the
northbound gasoline truck in order to head south on Route 7. The tanker
driver swerved, and his truck jackknifed, fell on its side and exploded,
killing the driver.
All that remained of the truck last night were its rails and engine
block. The tank and cab were incinerated.
Brown did not release the truck driver's identity, but said the man was
from Connecticut and that his family had been notified. Brown said the
accident remains under investigation. The driver of the sport utility
vehicle has yet to be found.
Firefighters from Ridgefield, Redding, West Redding, Danbury and Wilton
responded to the accident scene. No businesses or residences were
damaged from the explosion, Marconi said.
Rush hour traffic in Georgetown came to a halt as Redding and Ridgefield
police put up stanchions blocking Route 7 northbound traffic,
redirecting vehicles onto Route 107. Electronic display signs identified
the road as closed and traffic cones marked the detour.
The state DOT is hoping to restore traffic on Route 7 by Saturday
Until then, motorists will have to take detours around the bridge on
Routes 35 and 102, said state DOT Spokesman Chris Cooper.
Cooper said bridge and engineering inspectors will survey the damage
today. At the scene last night, DOT Chief Engineer Art Gruhne, said it
would be two or three days before Route 7 would be reopened, and that
detour routes on state roads would be announced soon.
Gruhne said the fire weakened the bridge.
"Because of the heat, the concrete has lost some of its strength," he
Gruhne said the DOT was waiting last night for the state Department of
Environmental Protection to finish cleaning up the river and adjacent
wetlands before installing temporary pilings to shore up the bridge.
The DOT is planning to install a temporary bridge similar to the one
used after the Howard Avenue overpass on Interstate 95 in Bridgeport was
destroyed by a oil tanker truck explosion in March 2004. That accident
seriously damaged an overpass, leaving the highway shut down in both
directions for several days and causing major traffic problems.
"We're hoping after a full evaluation to design a temporary support,"
Cooper said. 'We're looking to do either timber or steel beam supports
to get it open to traffic hopefully by the weekend."
-- Assistant City Editor Jonathan Lucas and The Associated Press
contributed to this story.
Tragedy refreshes 'Super 7'
By Mark Ginocchio, Staff Writer July 14, 2005
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The fiery fatal truck crash that has closed down Route 7 until at
least tomorrow is another reminder that Fairfield County's
transportation infrastructure is in desperate need of better north-south
passageways, elected officials and transportation advocates said
The state needs to improve Metro-North Railroad's little-used Danbury
branch line and the time may be right to rekindle talks of the
long-stalled, controversial "Super 7" highway between Norwalk and
Danbury, some officials said.
"We really don't have a north-south thoroughfare until you get to Route
8," connecting Bridgeport to Waterbury, said Westport First Selectwoman
Diane Farrell, chairwoman of the South Western Region's Metropolitan
Planning Organization. "The disabling of Route 7 may be a wake-up call.
I hope the state takes a closer look at ways to improve" the
Route 7 was closed Tuesday between Route 102 in Branchville and Route 35
in Ridgefield after a tanker truck overturned and burst into flames,
killing the driver and damaging a bridge overlooking the Norwalk River
State Department of Transportation officials said the bridge was
weakened from the fire and a temporary structure will have to be built.
Gov. M. Jodi Rell said yesterday she hopes the road could be reopened by
More than 30,000 people a day use Route 7 between Norwalk and Danbury,
according to the DOT. The limited transportation alternatives in a
region that is experiencing population growth in the north and business
growth in the south could make Fairfield County a cul-de-sac, Norwalk
Mayor Alex Knopp said.
"We need to be cautious drawing lessons out of a tragic death on this
highway, but there is an obvious inadequacy of north-south routes in our
region," he said.
Growth means new jobs and new employees, he said. "That's why we've
always been supportive of a Norwalk to Danbury 'Super 7' and the
electrification of the Danbury branch line."
One of those options may not materialize. The "Super 7," a superhighway
that would run from Norwalk to Danbury and link to Interstate 84, has
been an idea on the table for nearly 50 years, but some municipalities
and environmental groups oppose the plan, keeping it in limbo.
The highway would be between four and six lanes in different sections.
Despite the opposition, the South Western Regional Planning Agency has
always proposed a better north-south road as part of its long-term
plans, said executive director Robert Wilson.
Route 7 is "clearly inadequate for the volumes it carries," he said.
"This is the risk you run when you maintain an inadequate facility."
State Rep. Antoinetta "Toni" Boucher, R-Wilton, one of the "Super 7's"
most vocal legislative opponents, who proposed a bill this year to sell
the land and invest it in the Danbury branch line, said lamenting the
superhighway is not the answer.
"I don't think it changes the issues because (an accident closing the
highway) could have happened on a 'Super 7,'" Boucher said. "But it does
draw attention to the Danbury branch line."
The single-track Danbury branch line carries about 200 passengers a day
between Danbury and South Norwalk and is being reviewed by the DOT for
To encourage commuters to take mass transit during the road closure,
Rell said rail commuters would have their fares refunded until the road
reopens and bus fares will not be collected on Norwalk Transit's Route 7
link. Additional trains on the branch line also will be put into
More has to be done with the branch line in the long-term, Boucher said.
"The Danbury branch line is an underutilized resource and it needs to be
upgraded," she said.
But some transportation advocates said rail line expansion can't come at
the expense of the proposed highway.
"We've always supported the 'Super 7' and it's ridiculous that it hasn't
been done over the years," said Michael Riley, president of the
Connecticut Motor Transport Association. "Our highway network is
critical. I don't care how many barges (the state) uses or if they use
rail traffic. There's going to be more trucks" to contend with.
State Sen. Robert Duff, D-Norwalk, said the state is "past the time to
have a debate on whether the Super 7 should be finished," but improving
the transportation system should never be simplified as roads vs. rails.
"It should never be either/or because every part is integral to our
system," Duff said. "We have to get more people moving north-south,
that's why we should be spending more money on transportation in this
DOT plans to demolish Route 7
wall: State cites safety concern as work begins on new design
By Alison Damast
and Matt Breslow Staff Writers July 11, 2005
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NORWALK -- The state Department of Transportation is preparing to tear
down the wall of rock at the end of the Route 7 connector, where several
people have died in accidents and suicides in recent years.
The rock will be replaced with a ramp-like slope landscaped with
DOT spokesman Kevin Nursic said a contractor will begin removing rock in
two to three weeks.
To improve safety, the rock is being scaled back along the side of the
road, Nursic said. A barrier may be placed there once the rock is removed.
Norwalk Police Chief Harry Rilling said it is a "seriously flawed
"If they can knock that wall out of there and put shrubbery, that will
slow a vehicle down and be less likely to cause injury or death," Rilling
State DOT Officials two years ago installed sand barrels and reflective
chevrons after a series of accidents, including two deaths in fall 2002.
Last week, DOT employees reviewed the site, moving earth around to
determine how far back the rock extends and how much should be removed,
"Once they do that, they will let the contractor know," Nursic said.
Heavy earth-moving machinery was operating at the site last week. The
contractor will remove the rock by drilling and blasting, DOT engineers
said. It will be replaced by a 100-foot-wide slope stretching 40 to 50
feet back from the street.
The ramp will look like runaway truck ramps seen on some highways.
Shrubbery will be planted to slow vehicles that drive off the road. The
sand barrels will be removed, but the state will keep the reflective
State Rep. Antonietta "Toni" Boucher, D-Wilton, said the illuminated signs
have prevented accidents.
"I'm cautious and hoping that they will continue to illuminate it so
people will understand that is not a cut-through road," said Boucher, who
represents part of Norwalk..
Mayor Alex Knopp said he was relieved that the DOT is moving forward with
plans to replace the rock wall. The end of the Route 7 connector is poorly
designed because the highway was never intended to end at Grist Mill Road,
"It is long overdue because right now it is a very hazardous situation
where a limited-access, high-speed highway terminates on a rock wall that
was never intended to be permanent," Knopp said. "We think that this
reduction in the rock cliff will be a great help in improving safety."
Super 7 may be just down the road
By Mark Ginocchio, Staff Writer April 25, 2005
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As the state Department of Transportation announced last week that it
will build the Merritt Parkway-Route 7 interchange in Norwalk, some
lawmakers and transportation advocates wondered whether it's an indication
that the controversial Super 7 highway will happen, too.
One part of the DOT's design for the interchange project was especially
scrutinized: the parkway ramp that connects with Route 7 north. Critics
say the ramp is a mile-long "road to nowhere" because of opposition to
construction of a Super 7 highway to Danbury.
Most agree Super 7 will not be built in their lifetimes but want to know
whether the DOT is keeping its options open.
"My sense has been (the DOT) kept this design just in case in the future
the debate for a Super 7 starts all over again," said Laurie Heiss,
executive director of the Merritt Parkway Conservancy, a nonprofit
preservation group that opposed the interchange project. "Just because
that project is off the books now doesn't mean it can't come back in 10
DOT officials have said the interchange connection to Route 7 north has
nothing to do with the Super 7. Its purpose is to link the parkway to
Route 7 in all directions. Super 7, which would run a highway from Norwalk
to Danbury and connect with Interstate 84, is not in the state's plans,
they have said.
At a recent public meeting, critics of the interchange project reminded
the DOT that, when it designed the connectors 10 years ago, Super 7 was in
its plans. If that is no longer true, Phase 2 of the $98 million
interchange project -- which includes the Route 7 north connection --
should be redesigned, said state Rep. Toni Boucher, R-Wilton.
"I think in some people's heart of hearts, they're hoping for" Super 7,
said Boucher, who in February proposed a bill that would sell the highway
right of way and use the money for Metro-North Railroad's Danbury line.
"But it's not going to happen. There is an overwhelming opposition to it
and it's a death knell for any politician who supports it in that
Others said it's misleading to compare today's interchange project with
the Super 7 plans from 10 years ago.
"I think people were just using the Super 7 argument as part of their
arsenal against the interchange itself," said Robert Wilson, executive
direction of the South Western Regional Planning Association. "It stirs up
concerns that this may be a precursor to Super 7 and it throws other
people into the mix."
Westport First Selectwoman Diane Farrell said the interchange and Super 7
are "two separate issues."
Although the South Western Region Metropolitan Planning Organization and
the Business Council of Fairfield County endorse a north-south highway
connection between Norwalk and Danbury, Farrell said she doubts the Super
7 debate will be revitalized.
"I don't think the political will ever will be there," Farrell said. "It's
an unpopular issue. The idea that (DOT) will breach its agreement is the
stuff of urban legend."
Even those who oppose the interchange connection to Route 7 north believe
the Super 7 has no future.
The DOT "had the authority and the money to do the project they had
designed," said state Sen. William Nickerson, R-Greenwich. "The permits
were in place and the money was there, so (DOT) was ready to push the
button. But the Super 7 is not going to be built because of the number of
legal and financial obstacles. I'm not basing this on speculation, I'm
basing it on fact."
One Super 7 advocacy group, however, sees hope.
"It keeps the avenue open," said Barbara Quincy, a Wilton resident and
member of the nonprofit Committee for the Extension of Route 7. "I don't
anticipate they're going to build the Super 7 any time soon . . . but DOT
is not going to let that land go."
The DOT made a telling announcement last week, Quincy said.
"This decision was critical," she said.
One of the biggest proponents of the interchange, Norwalk Mayor Alex Knopp,
did not return calls last week.
Public gets chance to tell DOT how it feels about Route 7 interchange
By Mark Ginocchio, Staff Writer April 6, 2005
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NORWALK -- The public got its chance to question the Merritt
Parkway-Route 7 interchange last night, and most said they want the state
Department of Transportation to rethink its construction plans.
Concerns about the project's size, cost and effects on traffic were
repeated for more than four hours by a majority of the 75 people who
signed up to speak at a spirited public information meeting last night at
Norwalk City Hall.
Though almost all speakers said the interchange, which would connect Route
7 and the Merritt to and from the east, is conceptually a good thing, only
about a dozen elected officials and business leaders from Norwalk said the
DOT's current plans would benefit the region.
"I know it is possible to revise things that don't make sense," said Peter
Malkin, co-chairman of the Merritt Parkway Conservancy, a nonprofit group
that wants to preserve the road's historic character. "And there will be
no penalty to the city of Norwalk if this plan is revised."
Phase one of DOT's two-stage $98 million project would reconstruct and
widen the parkway interchange at Main Avenue and the Glover Avenue Bridge,
starting this spring and lasting until 2007. Phase two would begin shortly
afterward and connect Route 7 to the parkway and take an additional four
During construction, one Merritt lane would be shut down around peak hours
in the morning and evening.
The project has been in design for more than 10 years.
The DOT was ready to award the contract last month, until heavy opposition
from the conservancy and legislators persuaded Gov. M. Jodi Rell to call
for last night's meeting.
It was the first public meeting since a hearing in 1998.
Some speakers said a lot has changed since 1998, most notably, the DOT's
plans to extend the Super 7 highway to Danbury. Some said that change
makes the proposed westbound Merritt to Route 7 north connection
inexplicable, because the highway would continue for only another
half-mile before it stops.
"The world has changed significantly in seven years," said state Sen.
William Nickerson, R-Greenwich. "This interchange was originally being
built with the Super 7 in mind. While I favor the rebuilding of this
interchange . . . there would be a northbound ramp that goes, not quite to
a road to nowhere, but close to it."
In their opening remarks, DOT officials said despite the interchange
proposal, Super 7 is still not in the state's long-term plans.
Speakers who asked the DOT to consider an alternative design plan or
traffic control strategy were constantly interrupted by cheers and
applause from conservancy members and supporters who wore "Change the
Interchange" buttons on their lapels.
Norwalk Mayor Alex Knopp, a strong supporter of the project, got his own
round of applause after saying opponents were about 10 years too late.
"This is like a rocket mission that has been planned for 10 years and some
people come in during countdown and say we should redesign the rocket,"
Knopp said. "The options to redesign do not exist. It would kill it."
State Rep. Lawrence Cafero, R-Norwalk, called DOT's plans "well thought
out. The time has come and it's time for lift off. Our roads are being
affected and we need to proceed immediately."
The local roads near the interchange are hazardous for motorists and the
project needs to proceed to improve that, Norwalk police Chief Harry
Rilling said. Since Jan. 1, 2000, there have been 2,082 accidents near the
interchange, he added.
Before the meeting, DOT officials said they would take all comments into
consideration, but not all who spoke last night were so optimistic.
"I don't think anything said tonight is going to make a difference and a
contract is going to be signed no matter what," said Stamford Mayor Dannel
Malloy, who also called for an end of hostilities between opponents. "With
that said, we all support some form of a connection but proper
coordination must take place."
legislators had requested hearing
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By Mark Ginocchio, Staff Writer
March 16, 2005
After pressure from opponents and state legislators, Gov. M. Jodi Rell has
told the state Department of Transportation not to award a contract for
the Route 7-Merritt Parkway interchange project until after a public
meeting next month.
"I have asked the DOT to schedule this important meeting because this
project will affect the lives of thousands of people," Rell said in a
statement yesterday. The project has faced opposition from the Merritt
Parkway Conservancy, which has said the project is too expensive,
disruptive and may damage the parkway's historic character.
Conservancy members asked for a public hearing to be held before a
contract was signed, but DOT officials said a meeting would further delay
a process that has already lasted a decade.
Plans for the interchange were made 10 years ago and public hearings were
held in 1998 and 1999, but construction stalled because of funding
problems, DOT officials have said.
Rell's request should only slightly alter DOT's current plans because the
meeting will be held about a week after DOT was expected to sign the
contract, DOT spokesman Christopher Cooper said.
"We'll just have to adjust our timing by about a week," he said.
DOT officials have said they plan to award the contract to O&G Industries
Unlike a public hearing, where the DOT has to review public testimony
before making a policy decision, a public information meeting, like the
one Rell requested, is for educating attendees about upcoming construction
and lane closures, Cooper said.
The meeting will be from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, April 5, at Norwalk City
Hall. Representatives from the DOT and the project consulting firm will
provide information and answer questions regarding the proposal that will
fully connect Route 7 to the Merritt Parkway in Norwalk.
The current Route 7-Merritt Parkway interchange provides connections
between Route 7 and the Merritt to and from the west with no connections
to and from the east.
Phase one of the $75 million two-phase project will reconstruct the
parkway interchange at Main Avenue and Glover Avenue Bridge and would
start in the spring and last until 2007. Phase two would start soon after
and take another three to four years.
A lane on the Merritt would be blocked off for construction around peak
travel hours, and the conservancy has said it would cause serious traffic
An assortment of state legislators and municipal leaders, including state
Sen. William Nickerson, R-Greenwich, state Sen. Andrew McDonald,
D-Stamford, and state Rep. James Shapiro, D-Stamford, also requested
another public meeting.
At a meeting at the Capitol yesterday, conservancy members said they were
concerned about the differences between a hearing and a information
meeting, but were assured by members of Rell's staff and state legislators
that the April 5 meeting will be an appropriate setting for public input.
"We want to thank the governor for this upcoming opportunity where people
can voice their concerns," said Dee Winokur, conservancy co-chairwoman.
"We encourage all people who value the Merritt Parkway to attend."
Norwalk Mayor Alex Knopp, who organized a news conference last week with
regional legislators and business leaders to voice their support for the
interchange project, said the meeting should clear up any confusion
"I'm glad we'll have this opportunity to describe the long history of this
project," he said. "There has been a misrepresentation of facts by some
opponents of the project's impact."
At recent meetings of the South Western Region Metropolitan Planning
Organization and the Merritt Parkway Advisory Committee, conservancy
members gave a "one-sided" account of construction problems, and the
public meeting should give both sides of the issue an equitable voice,
Legislators who agreed that a meeting should be held before any contract
was signed also applauded Rell's announcement.
"This is a monumental project worthy of the fullest disclosure," McDonald
said. "I'm grateful the governor overruled the DOT. She rightfully
recognized what they wanted to do would be an ill-conceived tact."
Not having a public hearing since 1999 wouldn't have been appropriate,
"In the six years that has elapsed, there has been a changeover of public
officials and the thing has gone stale in the public's mind," he said.
-- Staff Writer Tobin A. Coleman contributed to this story.
Editorial, Advocate: Preserve Options for Route 7 Highway top of page
The Issue: It would be a mistake for the state to sell property
that could allow a long-sought project.
A fast, limited-access highway link from Norwalk to Danbury - a better
Route 7 - is an idea that's been kicked around for so long it's been left
for dead. Now a Wilton state representative wants to put a stake through
its heart. This is not a wise impulse.
State Rep. Antoinetta Boucher serves House District 143, which covers
mainly Wilton but also a portion of Norwalk, two communities directly
affected by Route 7. In visionary plans put together some 40 years ago,
the old state road was to be converted to a "super" highway that would run
north from Interstate 95 to Danbury and link with Interstate 84.
was a logical plan that promised, to improve regional transportation,
serve employees and businesses along the route and end reliance on the
existing Route 7, which is more or less a country road. The project
stalled in the face of opposition in affected towns.
"Super 7" never got beyond Grist Mill Road in Norwalk. However, the state
Department of Transportation long ago acquired additional land for the
project. Now, Rep. Boucher is touting a bill to sell that land and use the
money to improve the Norwalk to-Danbury Metro-North rail spur as well as
the old Route 7.
We're not willing to dismiss Rep. Boucher's plan as mere politics -
even though it appears clearly designed to suit the Wilton portion of her
district. Many town residents -though by no means all - have historically
opposed a "Super 7." Rep. Boucher is correct in asserting that "to think
more outside the box" is valuable in meeting our serious transportation
problems. It's just that radical thinking isn't superior simply because
deep flaw in this plan, we believe, is that it forever shuts down, even
the possibility of improving a potentially important piece of the solution
in the Route 7 corridor. Meeting long-term transportation needs is about
both roads and rails. While the branch rail line should be improved, there
is no firm guarantee that sacrificing Super 7 would accomplish that. And
the rail line won't carry freight in any case; trucks still must do that.
There is a separate but equally important problem with the Boucher
proposal. Time has proved that it's virtually never a good idea for the
state to sell land or rights of way. Once bought, the land always has the
potential for good public use. Once sold, it will never be reacquired,
except at a greatly inflated price. When the state built the Merritt
Parkway 70 years ago, more land than needed was acquired. It may yet come
in handy; in the meantime it's a green buffer. No one is proposing to sell
Even strong and consistent advocates of a better Route 7 have resigned
themselves to the fact that a major project is not going to happen soon.
But good ideas have a way of finding their moment eventually.
Interestingly, in all the time it has languished, the vision of a better
Rout 7 has never become a bad idea. It still has promise, and should not
be summarily taken off the table.
top of page
Advocate, Letters to the Editor, 1/20/05
Lawmaker has wrong position on new highway
To the editor:
Concerning the proposal
of state Rep. Boucher on "Super 7" (Advocate news story, Jan. 16), this is
another unfortunate example of a very misguided state elected official..
Since Ms. Boucher's time
in office, she has had no sensitivity to the real needs of the community.
I remember when we citizens of Wilton living in the Belden Hill~Seir Hill
area met with her to get the town to help with bringing potable city water
to our homes. She was completely negative until we put many hours and
years into getting town approval- finally. What a difference in the
quality of life of our area!
We also had a very active
group in Wilton, meeting quite often, to see that "Super 7" goes through.
Again she used her negative tactics to deny the completion of this road
from Norwalk to Danbury.
Because of party loyalty
and the fact that there are more registered Republican voters in Wilton
than Democrats (although this "Super 7" ~issue is bipartisan) Ms. Boucher
keeps getting re-elected.
Perhaps finally more
sensitive voices will be heard and get elected, and get "Super 7"
completed. Going from Norwalk to Danbury on single lane roads as now is a
nightmare, and widening would be even more so.
Y. Stibravy, Norwalk, via e-mail
Editorial, Norwalk Hour, 1/20/5
Selling off land for new Route 7 makes no sense
A proposal by state Rep. Toni Boucher, R-143, that would allow the
state Department of Transportation to sell off land that was to be the
path of a new Route 7 is at best naive and at worst disingenuous.
Her solution, in addition
to selling off the right-of-way, is to expand the existing Route 7 and to
improve service on Metro-North's Danbury branch rail line.
We heartily endorse the
proposal to improve the rail line; we have advocated that on any number of
occasions. Added trains, better stations and the creation of a stop in the
Wall Street area have been some of our ideas. .
Re-electrification of the
line would be one way to improve service. We never could fathom why the
railroad took down the wires that .once provided power to the trains. For
years the poles have remained as mute testimony to a misguided idea.
As for expanding the old
Route 7, we have seen some of that taking place with marginal success. It
does little good to suddenly expand the number of lanes and just as
suddenly switch back to two lanes.
If indeed the old highway
is expanded further, it won't do much to improve traffic flow; in fact, it
might generate more. Add to that, selling off the right-of-way will only
encourage more development – and – you guessed it – more traffic.
We think it is
disingenuous of Rep. Boucher to claim that at a later date, if DOT policy
changed, the right-of-way land that has been sold off could be
repurchased. Obviously buyers of the land wouldn't intend to leave it
fallow; it will be developed and, of course, it will be more difficult and
costly to buy it back.
She paints a grim picture
of some elevated superhighway knifing through the town. We recall,
however, that when the project was still under discussion, there was
movement to keep it to allow profile, looking not unlike the Merritt ~
Expanding the existing
Route 7 will no doubt require the taking of some property by eminent
domain, a procedure that would be lengthy and expensive. . .
The rationale for
extending the new highway beyond its Grist Mill terminus is tied to the
economics of the area. It is no secret that housing costs in the Danbury
area are lower than the Norwalk-Stamford area, where the higher paying
jobs are located.
The legislator complains
that we can't wait 20 years for construction of the new highway, and we'd
agree with that. We have already waited nearly four decades for the
highway, once praised by the communities along its path. It was parochial
opposition of some residents - and lawmakers like Rep. Boucher - that
stalled this project.
We don't expect immediate
resumption of construction of the new highway, but we see no logical
reason for selling off the right-of way while we wait in hopes that it
will some day be resumed.
top of page
Proposal would abandon
plans for 'Super 7'
By Mark Ginocchio, Staff Writer January 16, 2005
State Rep. Antoinetta
"Toni" Boucher, R-Wilton, has introduced legislation to abandon
long-stalled plans for a "super" Route 7 and use the sale of the proposed
highway land to improve Metro-North's Danbury branch and widen the
If the bill is
successful, it would prove there are ways to fund the state's
transportation needs without affecting the taxpayer, she said. It would
also finally put to rest a highway plan that has been on the table since
"It's no longer part of
the state's short-term or long-term plans," Boucher said of the "Super 7"
proposal. "Meanwhile, the Danbury train line has not been properly
utilized . . . We want to take that land back, that's not being used for
The state began
purchasing about $33 million worth of land in 1961 for a superhighway that
would stretch from Norwalk to Danbury and connect with Interstate 84. The
new road would replace the current Route 7.
But state officials
instantly met resistance from municipalities and environmental groups and
the process has been stuck in limbo since then.
Boucher said the numerous
environmental studies confirmed construction of "Super 7" would harm the
region's open space.
Her proposal would
preserve some open space, but would also present a new way to fund
transportation needs rather than resort to higher gas taxes or highway
tolls as some advocates have suggested.
"There needs to be more
plans like this," she said. "It's a creative way to improve what we need.
We need to think more outside the box."
While Boucher said she
expects very little opposition from the surrounding municipalities, there
are still some people who believe there is a future for "Super 7."
"The city of Norwalk
strongly opposes this unwise legislation," said Norwalk Mayor Alex Knopp.
"She is only using politics to foreclose the future possibility of a new
Route 7. If that land was sold, it would make it impossible to get the
necessary north-south improvements."
Barbara Quincy, a Wilton
resident and a member of the nonprofit Committee for the Extension of
Route 7, said "I'm not against trains, but we need to continue to fund our
roads . . . the state has held on to the property so they could someday
build that road."
State Department of
Transportation officials said the land in question is still designated to
be part of the proposed highway.
"We will be reviewing the
bill," said DOT spokesman Chris Cooper. "But that's really all we can
comment on right now."
There also is strong
support for Boucher's proposal from the surrounding municipalities.
"We obviously need to
address the transportation problems," said Rudy Marconi, first selectman
in Ridgefield. The bill, "warrants consideration."
executive director of the Wilton Chamber of Commerce, said the "Super 7"
"issue certainly seems to be dead. From a business perspective . . . we
need to get people to their jobs quicker. The 'Super 7' had its issues."
The only other concern
with Boucher's bill would be how it would impact open space. While she
emphasized preserving some of it, environmental groups said they hope
selling the land won't affect their future plans for the property.
"I don't know of anyone
who would just want to see it all get sold away," said Lillian Willis,
vice president of the Norwalk River Watershed Association.
Willis has worked with
Boucher before and remains optimistic the bill would strike a balance
between open space and commercial real estate.
voiced similar concerns, but said they applaud Boucher's attempt to think
creatively about funding.
"It's worthy of serious
consideration," said Robert Wilson, executive director of the South
Western Regional Planning Association. "Any serious consideration of the
future of the 'Super 7' has been nil. We're hopeful we can address this
issue when we meet with our elected officials."
Copyright © 2005,
Southern Connecticut Newspapers, Inc.
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Norwalk - Wilton, CT