The Downtown Highway That Could Drive Hartford's Comeback

But in an illustration of how a mid-sized legacy city can work smart and still face existential challenges, Hartford finds another monumental task in its way: a crumbling piece of 20th-century infrastructure, a stretch of the Interstate 84 viaduct adjacent to downtown that is well past its expiration date. Completed in 1965, the elevated thoroughfare was part of the national urban-renewal campaign to ram freeways through downtowns, and it did extraordinary damage to Hartford’s urban fabric. The ideas for what to do with it now range from a plain-vanilla rebuild to a tunnel system more elaborate than Boston’s Big Dig.

Yet another proposal would take the need to rebuild I-84 and combine it with the ultimate in big plans: a re-routing of Amtrak’s Acela through New Haven, Hartford, Springfield, and Worcester. Linking those post-industrial cities to New York and Boston via the Northeast Corridor’s popular high-speed rail service would open up economic development opportunities all along the way. Vehicular and rail traffic could be combined in a multi-level tunnel through Hartford, similar to Boston’s never-built North-South Rail Link, which was proposed to be bundled with the Big Dig.

That solution is found in the Rebooting New England initiative, a University of Pennsylvania studio led by Robert Yaro, president emeritus of the Regional Plan Association.

Read more in CityLab