Connecticut Route 8

The Route

Route 8 totals 134 miles, running from Searsburg, Vermont to Bridgeport, Connecticut. Of Route 8's total length, 67 miles are located in Connecticut, and 58 miles of which are expressway. The expressway begins at Interstate 95 in downtown Bridgeport, Connecticut. For the first 4 miles, it is multiplexed with Route 25. Route 25 splits from Route 8 at the Bridgeport/Trumbull town line; Route 25 heads northwest toward Newtown while Route 8 turns northeast toward Shelton. Route 8 continues northeast through Trumbull and Shelton before turning due north in Derby. Route 8 continues on a northward path, winding its way through the Naugatuck Valley to Waterbury. It crosses I-84 on a two-level structure where the northbound lanes were built above the southbound lanes. Beyond Waterbury Route 8 continues north through Thomaston, briefly multiplexing with US Route 6. It continues north through Litchfield and Torrington. The expressway portion ends At US Route 44 in Winsted. Route 8 then turns west and follows Route 44 for about one mile before turning north and heads through Colbrook as a 2-lane road before entering Massachusetts.

History of Route 8

The original Connecticut Route 8 was constructed during the early 1920s, from the present-day intersection of US-1 and CT-110 in Stratford to the Massachusetts State Line. From Winsted north to the Massachusetts border, Route 8 follows its original alignment, except a short rerouting west of the Colebrook River Lake just south of the state line (the original road lies under the lake).

Old Alignments

Below is a summary of pre-expressway alignments of Route 8.

**1920s-1951: Route 113 from US-1 to Route 110; Route 110 from Route 113 to Route 712 (Bridge Street).
**1951-1976: Route 127 from US-1 to Huntington Turnpike; Huntington Turnpike to Bridgeport Avenue; Bridgeport Avenue (Route 714) to Route 110; Route 110 to Route 714 (Bridge Street).
**1920s-1951: Bridge Street (Route 714) to Route 34; Route 34 from Bridge Street to Elizabeth Street; Elizabeth Street from Route 34 to Seymour Avenue; Seymour Avenue from Elizabeth Street to Route 334; Route 334 from Elizabeth Street to Lower Derby Road
**1951-1962: Expressway from Commodore Hull Bridge to Pershing Drive; Pershing Drive to Olson Drive; Olson Drive to Route 334; Route 334 to Lower Derby Road
**1920s-1962: Lower Derby Road to Derby Avenue; Derby Avenue to Route 67; Route 67 to North Main Street
**1920s-1982: North Main Street to Route 42; Route 42 to Main Street; Main Street to Naugatuck State Forest
**The Route 8 Expressway was built over the old Route 8 alignment through Naugatuck State Forest.
**1920s-1963: South Main Street
**1920s-1967: South Main Street to Thomaston Avenue; Thomaston Avenue to Route 6; Route 6 to Route 222; Route 222 to abandoned road
**1920s-1970: Valley Road (expressway built over one part, a second section abandoned)
**Route 118 to Route 800
**Route 800

Following the 1955 floods the Army Corps of Engineers built a dam on the Colebrook River north of Colebrook. Construction on the dam began in May 1965 and was completed in June 1969.1 To accommodate the new reservior the Corps of Engineers relocated 3.5 miles (6 km) of Route 8 between Colebrook and the Massachusetts state line in 1965. The old alignment can still be seen when the reservior level is lowered sufficiently, while the present-day alignment passes through a rock cut to the west of Colebrook River Lake.

Building the Expressway

Construction of the Route 8 Expressway would occur or a period of 35 years. The expressway opened in stages as follows:

* 1951: Exit 13 in Shelton to Exit 16 in Derby
* 1957: Exit 16 in Derby to Exit 19 in Ansonia
* 1962: Exit 19 in Ansonia to Exit 22 in Seymour
* 1963: Exit 26 to Exit 29 in Naugatuck
* 1967: Exit 29 in Waterbury to Exit 37 in Watertown; Exit 41 in Litchfield to Exit 44 in Torrington
* 1968: Exit 45 to Exit 46 in Torrington
* 1970: Exit 37 in Watertown to Exit 41 in Litchfield; Exit 46 in Torrington to US-44 in Winsted
* 1972: I-95 in Bridgeport to Exit 7 in Trumbull
* 1976: Exit 11 in Trumbull to Exit 13 in Shelton
* 1982: Exit 22 in Seymour to Exit 26 in Naugatuck
* 1983: Exit 7 to Exit 11 in Trumbull

Much of the Route 8 Expressway was built on areas devastated by the 1955 flood, particularly in the vicinity of Waterbury. The constrained alignment between a steep hill and the Naugatuck River is why the Route 8/I-84 interchange in Waterbury is double-decked. Construction on the section intersecting the Merritt Parkway was delayed for over 10 years while preservationists fought plans for the Route 8/15 interchange out of fears the interchange would destroy the historic character of the Parkway. A compromise was reached in 1979, and the Route 8/15 interchange opened in 1983 as a partial stack providing access from six of eight possible directions.

Modernizing Route 8

During the late 1980s and 1990s the oldest section of Route 8 from Exit 13 in Shelton to Exit 17 in Derby was reconstructed through a series of projects that replaced bridges. The Commodore Hull Bridge over the Housatonic River was rehabilitated and widened from 1983 to 1990. The bridges that carry Coram Avenue and Division Avenue over Route 8 in Shelton were replaced in 1990. Between 1993 and 1998, the interchange with Route 34 in Derby was reconstructed and reconfigured, which included the addition of an auxillary lane in each direction to Exit 16 and the replacement of a bridge over a railroad spur just south of Exit 16. The Route 8 bridge over the Pershing Drive onramp (Exit 16) to southbound Route 8 was replaced in 1991, as was the bridge that carries Hawkins Street over Route 8 near Exit 17 was replaced in 2001.

Future of Route 8

Interstate Highway Plans Discussed

During the course of its construction and up to the present, there have been on-and-off discussions about upgrading some or all of the Route 8 Expressway to interstate status. Aside from this, other improvements that are planned include:2

  • Consolidating Exits 16 and 17, and extending Pershing Drive south to Route 34 in Derby
  • Making Exit 18 a complete interchange by adding northbound onramp and southbound offramp.
  • Adding a southbound onramp to Exit 14 in Shelton
  • Adding a second southbound onramp at Exit 11 from Bridgeport Avenue (Route 714) in Shelton.
  • Commodore Hull Bridge superstructure rehabilitation between Shelton and Derby
  • Straightening out sharp curves between Exits 19 and 21 in Seymour

Reconstructing the I-84/Route 8 Mixmaster

CONNDOT and the FHWA are preparing an environmental impact statement for reconstructing the double-decked Mixmaster interchange in Waterbury. One of the alternatives considered for the $2.2 billion project entails rerouting Route 8 to the east side of the Naugatuck River through several industrial sites along Freight Street, while other alternatives keep Route 8 on the west side of the river.3 Short-term improvements include relocating several streets in and around Downtown Waterbury, while reconstruction of the I-84/Route 8 interchange will not begin until 2020 at the earliest. Regardless, most alternatives favor side-by-side roadways for both Route 8 and I-84 in lieu of the present double-deck design, which has proven costly and difficult to maintain.

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