Connecticut scraps plan for breakdown lanes

| 9/23/2004

A proposal to ease congestion on Interstate 95 in Connecticut by allowing drivers to use the breakdown lanes for travel has been axed.

While a report to the state’s Transportation Strategy Board shows the idea would reduce gridlock during commuting hours, the analysis also found that it could increase traffic accidents by as much as 15 percent.

Last year, then-Gov. John Rowland suggested the state consider a six-month pilot project that would open the lanes during morning and evening rush hours on I-95 between Stamford and Westport.

Rowland said the state could prevent accidents by stationing a trooper along the stretch of highway between exits 8 and 18 to help remove disabled vehicles. The Connecticut Department of Transportation compiled the analysis at his request.

Edgar Hurle, director of transportation planning at ConnDOT, told The Associated Press the agency had public meetings to gauge support for opening up the breakdown lanes. Of the several hundred people who attended the meetings, only two or three favored the idea, he said.

The highway agency determined that congestion would be eased if the lanes were used during rush hour. But Hurle said drivers’ visibility would be impaired and that overpasses would pose problems.

Truckers could have trouble exiting and entering the highway with traffic in breakdown lanes, he said. Also, emergency vehicles might have difficulty getting through traffic with no place for motorists to pull over.

Hurle told the news agency he tried driving in the breakdown lane as an experiment and didn’t enjoy the experience.

“I scared the bejesus out of myself that day,” he said.

As an alternative, ConnDOT is recommending the state build auxiliary or “speed change” lanes between exits similar to the southbound stretch of I-95 between exits 9 and 7 in Stamford.