This week, we take a look into the future of Connecticut’s capital city. And not a science fiction look, 100 years out, but something a bit more manageable. It’s a plan to re-route highways that have cut off parts of the city from each other, and from the river that gives Connecticut its name. It’s a plan to knit together smaller projects with big, national efforts, like an expansion of high-speed rail in the Northeast, with a hope of attracting more people to the region, and making life better for those who live here.

The project is called Hartford 400 – named for the city’s upcoming 400th birthday in 2035, a date that marks the European settlement of the region, which has a much longer history of Native American settlement.

A new plan for realigning Hartford’s highways includes removing the current I91-I84 interchange and replacing it with two others, at the northern and southern ends of the city, along with creating a new River Road along the Connecticut River.

The plan builds on community work that’s been trying to solve the problem of what to do with the failing, I-84 raised highway; ideas of how to fix the failing river walls that keep the Connecticut from flooding the city, while reclaiming access to its banks; tunnel concepts floated by U.S. Rep. John B. Larson; and questions about how to capitalize on the $2 trillion infrastructure plan put out by the Biden administration. 

The cost? It’s big: $17 billion over 15 years. But my guest, Doug Suisman, says this confluence of events gives the city, and the state, a chance to do something that might never happen again: remake Hartford with a new vision.

A new plan for realigning Hartford’s highways includes removing the current I91-I84 interchange and replacing it with two others, at the northern and southern ends of the city, along with creating a new River Road along the Connecticut River.

Suisman is an architect and urban designer, based in Los Angeles. But he’s a native of Hartford, and he led the city’s iQuilt project, a precursor to Hartford 400.

In the first of two conversations, we talk about the big ideas – and what it will mean for the roadways which have caused such dislocation and congestion for decades.

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John is CT Mirror's Director of Events. A well-known and highly-regarded radio personality and moderator, he divides his time between CT Mirror — where he heads up our events program and serves as a multi-platform consultant — and the NPR / PRI program Science Friday. Previously, John was executive editor of the New England News Collaborative and the host of NEXT, a weekly program about New England. He also appeared weekly on The Wheelhouse, WNPR’s news roundtable program. His 25 years in public media also include serving as vice president of news for Connecticut Public Broadcasting Network, host of WNPR’s Where We Live, and regular fill-in host for the PRI program Science Friday in New York. He was twice recognized by PRNDI as America’s best public radio call-in show.