Four months into a project to widen Interstate 84, the Department of Transportation is already hearing concerns. They held a public listening session in Waterbury on Saturday. The goal was to find out what they could do to make the construction less of a headache for drivers. People brought many different concerns, from safety to economic impact.
"This is a big project. They’re biting off a lot,” said Nick Coscia, a longtime Waterbury resident. “I’m deeply concerned about the workers, I’m deeply concerned about the public. I’m concerned about the community."
In April, the DOT started on a five-year project to add a third lane in both directions of the interstate through Waterbury. Eight bridges will be constructed and safety measures, like new lighting and message boards will be added. Many said they support the project because it’s badly needed to relieve congestion. According to the DOT, 125,000 people travel on I-84 though Waterbury each day.
“There’s just too many cars on the road. It wasn’t like this 20-30 years ago. Now, it’s just expanded with cars and cars and cars,” said Valentine Stachowki, of Canton.
“I’ve noticed the problem for quite some time,” said Peter Valez, who owns the Brooklyn Bakery in Waterbury. “I don’t try to avoid it. Actually I do.”
Valez said he hasn’t noticed a negative impact to his business so far, due to the construction. Project engineer Chris Zowkoski said the biggest impact will be felt when the on-ramp from Hamilton Avenue to I-84 eastbound is closed for nine months in 2016.
Even those who support the project said they want the state to address some of the problems the construction has created. The mayor of Prospect said drivers are cutting through his town to avoid the construction all together. Opting to get on the interstate in Cheshire.
“It clogs our town. From around 2 o’clock to 6:15 the town’s almost at a standstill,” said Prospect Mayor Robert Chatfield.
A spokesperson for the project said they’re open to suggestions that make the project less intrusive.
Zokowski predicts construction will be done in August of 2019, 10 months ahead of schedule. He said crews are working 21 hours a day five to six days a week to finish up early.
There won't be much of a reprieve though. The DOT said reconstruction of the "mix master," where Route 8 merges with I-84 in Waterbury, will start as the widening project is wrapping up.