Congressman John Larson, D-First District, was in Hartford on Wednesday night to discuss his plan to tunnel city traffic from Interstate 84 and Interstate 91. The price tag is a “guesstimated” $10 billion, he said, but believes it could be worth every penny.
“If we are going to spend the money, let’s spend the money to solve a problem,” Larson said. “In this case, we believe we are able to solve three.”
Larson said taking some of the traffic 70 feet below the surface will help bring together the northside and southside of Hartford.
He said it would also repair a levy system he believes is in desperate need of a fix and repurpose the Charter Oak Bridge, the Bulkeley Bridge and Founders Bridge.
Those three bridges would serve as local boulevards and help carry economic development directly into Hartford, according to Larson, who insists it will also help the area gain green space and reclaim the river.
“I see this as both short- and long-term jobs, economic development for the state and most importantly quality of life,” Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty, D-Fifth District, said.
The cost associated with that quality is raising concerns.
Larson said the state, which is dealing with budget issues, would likely be required to pick up 20 percent of the bill.
Sen. John Fonfara said tolls could be the answer, taking some of the burden off Connecticut residents and sharing it with those who use the state without ever spending money in it.
“You think about the number of people that drive through our state with no intention of ever stopping in it,” Fonfara said.
Many people who attended the meeting Wednesday at the Hartford Public Library said a bold vision might be the best vision.
“I have a couple of questions, but number one, I love the concept,” one resident said.
Others argued about how feasible a project of this size really is.
Larson acknowledged there is much more research to be done and said he is not an engineer, but is excited that the concept will be a part of the current I-84, I-91 interchange study.
Larson also said the Trump administration could play a positive role in such a project.
“If there is an area we feel we can work together it clearly is in the area of infrastructure,” Larson said.