Malloy claims billions in economic gains from I-84 work

By Reece Alvarez

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I-84, Fairfield County’s other major east-west interstate artery, is due for a multibillion-dollar remake. A recent analysis of replacing the I-84 viaduct in Hartford has shown significant economic gains to be had.

“This 50-year old structure is overdue for replacement — it costs millions each year in maintenance costs to keep it in a state of good repair,” Gov. Dannel Malloy said in a statement announcing the findings. “We have a clear opportunity to do the smart, proactive step and build for the long-term. Let’s seize it.”

According to the governor’s office, replacing the 2.5-mile stretch of elevated highway would cost $3.4 billion, but would produce a net gain of $5.8 billion in economic benefits. A project analysis revealed that if the structure continues to deteriorate it could require closure by 2026.

Built in the 1960s, the viaduct  was designed to have a 50-year service life and serve 55,000 vehicles per day. Today, it serves 170,000 vehicles per day, making it the busiest section of highway in Connecticut, Malloy said.

According to the study, the outdated structure is in an advanced state of deterioration. The Connecticut Department of Transportation reported it spent approximately $60 million between 2002 and 2012 to rehabilitate the corridor, with an additional $60 million programmed for repairs in the next three to five years.

“We know that for decades Connecticut underinvested, and we know that our failure to do so curbed our ability to attract businesses and grow our economy,” Malloy said. “Today, we’re saying that the cost of inaction far outweighs the cost of action — that making a down payment on a project that we must replace will generate billions in economic activity and grow thousands of jobs.  To move our state forward, we must make our infrastructure best-in-class.”

Projecting to 2050, the analysis found that on a long-term basis, the viaduct will result in more than $10.2 billion in long-term cumulative business sales and output — $6.1 billion in additional gross state product and $4.2 billion in additional wage income.

The project is expected to support 3,000 to 7,000 construction jobs during the construction phase. No time frame was offered. For every year following the opening of the new facility, the improved transportation efficiency and lower travel and shipping costs will support the creation of 2,500 to 3,500 jobs over the life of the new facility, the governor’s office said. Overall, there will be a return of $2.68 for every dollar spent to build a replacement, according to the analysis.

“The time for action is now,” said James Redeker, DOT commissioner. “The people of Hartford and the surrounding area, employers and visitors are counting on those of us in a position to make these decisions to move this project forward.  The cost of not doing so in terms of jobs and related economic activity is unacceptable.”

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