The Day – Waterford lobbying state for freer motorway access
Waterford is looking to the Connecticut Legislature for help developing the former airport property.
First coach Rob Brule testified in support of a bill that would allow easy access to Interstate 95 for people using the adjacent Waterford Parkway South, which is home to a Coca-Cola dispensing facility as well as 188 acres of vacant industrial property known as the former Waterford Airport. The bill would allow an easement to allow commercial and emergency vehicles access to I-95. This right-of-way would be created near a state weigh station on the north side of the highway.
Brule explained the issue under consideration in his written testimony before the committee.
“The need for freeway access is already evident. Trucks traveling to the region’s Coca-Cola distribution facility currently take a circuitous route that could be significantly reduced with road improvements and freeway access permitted by this legislation,” Brule wrote. “(Bill) 5309 also supports the future development of the 188-acre former Waterford Airport property. Direct freeway access would allow for a range of uses in this location such as warehouses, laboratories, manufacturing or high tech industries to provide employment, service our region’s growing capacity at the Electric Shipyard Boat and support emerging wind power generation investment in New London. The potential of the property is immense.
Waterford hosted an airport from 1945 to 1987. Its three runways were destroyed decades ago. Now the property is mostly a wooded area with overgrown vegetation and trash. It has been the subject of a number of unsuccessful development ideas since 1987.
The process for this bill to be raised took a month of effort on the part of the city. Last July, the Board of Selectmen approved a decision to hire attorney Jay Levin for $24,000 for six months to represent the city of Hartford, advocating for better access to public property Waterford Parkway South, which parallels to I-95 north, and Waterford Parkway North, parallel to I-95 south.
Brule, state Sen. Paul Formica, R-East Lyme, and state Rep. Kathleen McCarty, R-Waterford, said the roads face a traffic bottleneck where they meet to Cross Road, which runs perpendicular to I-95 and the boardwalk and passes over the freeway. Brule mentioned that greater monitoring of the parkways would allow the city to assess the traffic infrastructure at Cross Road, supporting the construction of all available properties as well as the escape route from the Millstone Power Station nuclear plant. .
The parkway roads along with Cross Road and Route 85 form what Brule calls the city’s “industrial triangle”. He said there are significant vacant commercial and industrial lands, particularly along the parkway, but the problem is freeway access.
“Future development of this parcel into a commercial zone will certainly be facilitated by the construction of an access road,” McCarty wrote in his testimony. “In addition, construction of the access road will redirect commercial traffic directly to the I-95 freeway access, adding to safety and improving traffic operations in the area.”
In December 2020, concrete products manufacturer Fabcon Precast became the latest in a long line of entities that have sought unsuccessfully to develop the property since 1987. Covering 188 acres, the airport property has a value of about $4.3 million, according to the Office of the Municipal Tax Assessor. .
“We’ve had a lot of interest in this property, but the process always comes down to issues of transportation and access to the property,” Brule told the committee during Tuesday’s hearing.
The State Department of Transportation submitted written testimony opposing Waterford’s request.
“Transfer of any easement that would provide access to the I-95 right-of-way, which is the site of the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) weigh station, would require approval by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA),” wrote department commissioner Joseph Giulietti in the testimony. “Failure to obtain FHWA access approval would jeopardize federal CT DOT funding for our transportation capital program.”
Giulietti said the DOT should also conduct an impact study. “Access to this easement would require extensive work by CTDOT and FHWA to ensure it is the best use of the land and therefore the Department opposes the bill. as written,” he wrote.
Formica noted at the committee meeting that the new easement would allow use of the weigh station. The ministry’s plans for the weigh station area are unclear. The ministry did not return a request for comment.