New highway exits urged to ease Buckland traffic
By Matthew Engelhardt
A regional group that's looking at traffic problems in the retail-heavy Buckland area of Manchester and South Windsor is strongly considering recommending new exits be built off interstates 84 and 291.
Officials believe it could take more than a decade for the exits to become a reality, and are seeking other ways to relieve traffic congestion in the meantime.
The $870,000 study began in 2006 as a collaborative effort of the state Department of Transportation, Capital Region Council of Governments, and the Federal Highway Administration.
Manchester, South Windsor, and East Hartford representatives are working cooperatively on the study to address the area's short- and long-term transportation needs.
The study estimates that by the year 2030, Buckland traffic will increase 25 percent, which could hurt motorists, businesses, and infrastructure in the development-rich area.
The study is moving closer to a conceptual plan that would offer recommendations.
Officials believe they are within a few months of completing the plan.
In December, study representatives, including DOT planner James C. Morrin and CRCOG transportation director Thomas J. Maziarz, presented new ideas to the South Windsor Town Council.
A similar presentation will be made on Tuesday at a meeting of the Manchester Board of Directors.
The South Windsor presentation focused on long-term solutions to transportation problems, claiming that short-term fixes were no longer viable.
"The problem is larger than any one town at this point," Maziarz said in a later interview.
Presenters explained the difficulty of traveling through Buckland - especially during the holiday shopping season and on afternoons where shopping traffic mixes with the evening rush hour.
A popular solution could be an additional exit off I-84 eastbound between the current exits 62 and 63 — the primary access points into the Buckland areas of Manchester and South Windsor.
Maziarz explained that the plan would most likely include improvements on Red Stone Road in Manchester, which runs off Buckland Road into the cinema complex south of I-84.
Mazaiarz said the road could be extended over I-84 to bring drivers directly into the Buckland Hills mall area.
South Windsor Town Manager Matthew B. Galligan said the fly-over could provide an access to approximately 60 percent of the traffic entering Buckland.
As a result, other access points would be less congested for local residents making their commutes home.
"I feel like they're moving in the right direction on this," Galligan said when asked about the study's progress.
Galligan credited Sen. Gary D. LeBeau, D-East Hartford, and Sen. Mary Ann Handley, D-Manchester, for their work in obtaining grants and aid for the study.
Morrin said links are also being considered from I-291 into Buckland and extending operational lanes between exits 62 and 63 on I-84 eastbound.
"We have a lot of options right now," Morrin said.
However, the long-term solutions could be a long way from funding and implementation.
"A big project like a new interchange is likely a 10-year fix," Maziarz said, adding that some improvements are feasible with four or five years.
Morrin said one possibility is widening access from exit 63 on I-84 onto Oakland Street and Route 30, Tolland Turnpike, in Manchester, including adding left-turn only lanes.
Both the short- and long-term options will be included in the conceptual plan, Morrin said.
The study isn't limited to highway access. It is also taking into consideration flow on local roads and pedestrian and bicycle transportation, among several other facets.
Manchester's economic development and neighborhood services director, Mark Pellegrini, a member of the study's advisory committee, said the Buckland area has potential for more development as long as transportation options aren't limited to automobile traffic.
Pellegrini said possibilities exist to link entertainment, business, retail, and residential options that hopefully would reduce dependency on motor vehicles.
Pellegrini said the study is also researching transit improvements between Manchester and Hartford.
Residents are encouraged to take part in the study by attending meetings and visiting the Web site at
©Journal Inquirer 2008