Connecticut’s congressional delegation is hoping to leverage federal dollars for infrastructure to reinvent the city of Hartford and reconnect the city and its neighborhoods with the river.
Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin wants to use any available federal dollars to reimagine the city.
“To seize this moment to reconnect Hartford to its river to reunite neighborhoods that have been divided, to eliminate one of the worst chokepoints of any highway in the country,” he said.
Local and federal officials were in Hartford Monday morning to talk about racial inequities in North Hartford caused by Interstate 84 cutting the neighborhood from the rest of the city, as well as the Hartford 400 project and the American Jobs Plan.
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U.S. Rep. John Larson, who represents Hartford, and has lobbied for dismantling the current highways that cut through the capital city.
"For a long time, you have heard Congressman Larson champion a vision for reconnecting the city of Hartford to the river on which it was built and at the same reconnect our neighborhoods that were severed when the highway I-84 was built right smack through the center of our city, reinforcing the red lines that had been in place for many years before," Bronin said.
Bronin said officials need to seize the opportunity to act upon a vision to reunite and create opportunity.
Bronin called I-84 a "deep wound" that severs the North End of Hartford from the rest of the city.
"You think about what would be possible if we could knit those neighborhoods back together you see that this is a transformative investment," Bronin said, adding this is the time to rally behind an infrastructure plan.
Jackie Mandyck, executive director of the iQuilt partnership, has been leading the effort with Hartford 400, and said it’s about more than Hartford.
“It really is about creating a vision for the capital city and not only the capital city, but the capitol region,” she said.
Mandyck said it’s amazing how much land can be gained through this vision, which moves the interchange between Interstate 84 and Interstate 1 to two separate locations north and south of downtown and puts both highways underground for significant portions of their path through the city.
She said the ideal would be to bring I-91 down to grade and put a cap over it.
“You would have a small tunnel for 84 that would come back up to the north and then go over a new bridge over into East Hartford,” Mandyck said.
She said there would also be a small tunnel on the south side of the city.
“This is to get back to the river and also to try and dismantle some of the interchange that we have that has taken up so much of our valuable land,” Mandyck said.
The plan, she said, would give people 13 access points to the river.
Larson said the new plan Hartford 400 is developing is realistic.
“This is a significant national project, so we feel very confident in both its funding and the long-term vision we are presenting,” he said.
The project, officials said, will take years.
"This is not going to happen overnight. This is going to take five to 10 to 15 years for us to totally complete all of this,” Larson said.