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Everybody Hates Breezewood, Pennsylvania

Breezewood,_Pennsylvania

Jonathan Turley is really annoyed by Breezewood, Pennsylvania, that odd little strip of gas stations and restaurants that anyone wanting to get from the Pennsylvania Turnpike to Interstate 70 (or vice versa) must drive through:

Anyone traveling from the Midwest (millions of drivers each week) will usually take the Pennsylvania Turnpike to Interstate 70. While the other turnpikes simply connect to other turnpikes or interstates with ramps, drivers hit a bottleneck at Breezewood where millions of drivers are forced to pass through the unincorporated town and stop at a red light. The result is as you might expect if you put a red light in the middle of one of the nation’s busiest highways — gridlock at peak times. Over ten years ago, Business Week called Breezewood “perhaps the purest example yet devised of the great American tourist trap…the Las Vegas of roadside strips, a blaze of neon in the middle of nowhere, a polyp on the nation’s interstate highway system.” Since then, the problems have only multiplied with the increase in traffic.

I travel through Breezewood often and generally have little trouble. We often stop at the Starbucks on the way to Pittsburgh or Chicago to see relatives. It is the perfect distance for a stop from Washington.

(…)

In the ultimate trip through six states, we spent one-tenth of our time moving through Breezewood. Call me a skeptic, but I wonder if this is really necessary. Breezewood is historically a junction for travelers in the area. While you would not know it from the strip of fast-food joints and tee-shirt shops, the town goes back to colonial times and once housed British troops. However, it would seem easy to create a bypass ramp from the turnpike to 1-70 or an elevated ramp at the intersection to allow traffic to move directly to 1-70 without stopping at the light or the town.

This is of course not unique. There are other planned bottlenecks between highways, but few are at such a critical junction. While the transfer results in millions of dollars in sales for Breezewood, it adds huge delays for travelers going to Washington or other East Coast destinations. Such tourist traps can produce a race to the bottom if other states burden the Interstate System with bottlenecks and loops through towns like Breezewood. While there are an estimated 1000 people working in the city, millions are delayed with added costs of fuel and time. Many of us would still stop in Breezewood if we were given a choice but we are not given the choice. It is time to remove the bottleneck with a bypass in Breezewood.

Turley is right, of course. Anyone who travels this route regularly recognizes the disruption that having to pass through Breezewood just to go from one highway to another represents. While I’ve rarely encountered the bottleneck that Turley did when I’ve hit Breezewood on the many occasions I’ve encountered it since traveling with the family as a child, and now into adulthood, it does slow you down for several minutes at least and just seems really darn annoying because it’s so unnecessary. Yes, it’s convenient to be able to stop for a quick cup of coffee or gas (or to take that often necessary rest break), but that’s a small benefit compared to the disruption and utter stupidity of there not being an easy bypass from the Turnpike to I-70 like there is for practically every other major highway intersection in the country.

Many people have wondered why this was even allowed to happen. The most popular theory I’ve heard is that it was the doing of  some powerful member of the Pennsylvania State Legislature who set this whole thing up to benefit the community he represented. The actual story, though, is far less interesting and yet another example of how dumb bureaucracy can be:

I-70 uses a surface road (part of US 30) with at-grade intersections to connect the freeway heading south to Hancock, Maryland with the ramp to I-76, which through this section is thePennsylvania Turnpike toll road. According to the Federal Highway Administration, a division of the United States Department of Transportation, the peculiar arrangement at Breezewood resulted because at the time I-70’s toll-free segment was built, the state did not qualify for federal funds under the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 to build a direct interchange, unless it agreed to cease collecting tolls on the Turnpike once the construction bonds were retired;[9] a direct interchange would have meant that a westbound driver on I-70 could not choose between the toll route and a free alternative, but would be forced to enter the Turnpike. However, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission was not willing to build the interchange with its own funds, due to the expected decrease in revenue once Interstate 80 was completed through the state.[9] Accordingly, the state chose to build the unusual Breezewood arrangement in lieu of a direct interchange, thus qualifying for federal funds because this arrangement gave drivers the option of continuing on the untolled US 30.[9]

When the Turnpike was later realigned through the area, resulting in what is now the Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike, the connection from the Turnpike to Breezewood was realigned, shortening the US 30 concurrency slightly.

So basically, Breezewood came to be because nobody was willing to pay for the bypass. The Federal Government, because it would only do so if Pennsylvania eliminated tolls on the Turnpike (which is largely self-funding at this point) and Pennsylvania because it didn’t want to eliminate the tolls, especially not in the 1960s when Interstate 80 was expected to cut down significantly on East-West toll traffic on the Turnpike. As a result, the monstrosity that is Breezewood came into existence.

Now, of course, the possibility of building a bypass has become even less likely. All of the businesses in the area oppose it because of  the rather obvious fact that a bypass will seriously impact their business and, of course the President Pro Tempore of the Pennsylvania State Senate, strongly opposes a bypass. So, Professor Turley, you, I, and millions of other people are going to have to deal with Breezewood for a long, long time to come.

One thing this teaches us, of course, is why it’s so hard for major infrastructure projects to be completed in the United States. Rationally, there’s no reason why the bypass from I-70 to the Pennsylvania Turnpike shouldn’t be built. Politically and financially, there are a ton of reasons why it probably won’t be anytime in the foreseeable future. Additionally, lord knows how long a project like that would take to be completed even if it was approved given all the environmental studies and such that must be completed before work even starts. The Hoover Dam took five years to build. The Golden Gate Bridge took six. The Sears Tower, now the Willis Tower, took three years to complete. By contrast, it’s taken 11 years for One World Trade Center to take form on the site of the former World Trade Center. It’s simply not as easy  to build major projects as it used to be.

Note: The original post indicated that the President Pro Tempore of the State Senate represented Breezewood. This was incorrect and the post has been edited to reflect the same

Photo via Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons License. Original Photo by Ben Schumin on May 2, 2006.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. anjin-san says:

    infrastructure projects aren’t as easy to complete as some think.

    Who said they were easy?

    And since when do we let the fact that something might be hard stop us? I know “America can’t get it done” is something of a mantra on the right, but come on…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 4

  2. Jeremy says:

    I’ve never heard of this place. And now, I kinda want to visit it just for the novelty.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  3. Jeremy,

    I’ve long thought that Pennsylvania could generate significant revenue if they put a casino or two in that general area. Captive audience and all

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  4. al-Ameda says:

    If the Golden Gate Bridge went down tomorrow, I seriously doubt that we could get the damned thing rebuilt. I can just hear the opposition right now – “a new bridge would block my views from the Marin Headlands” or “my views from Pacific Heights, the Marina, or Sea Cliff.”

    A few years ago it took nearly a decade to complete a 9 mile rapid transit extension from the Day City BART station to San Francisco International Airport.

    We really cannot get anything done these days.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 3

  5. Craigo says:

    I find it interesting that a post on public bureaucracy would end with a project that was delayed five years because 1) a private developer demanded multiple revisions to the plan, and 2) his private insurance company tried to duck the bill for 9/11. That’s a bit of a mixed message.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  6. C. Clavin says:

    “…The Hoover Dam took five ears to build. The Golden Gate Bridge took six. The Sears Tower, now the Willis Tower, took three years to complete. By contrast, it’s taken 11 years for One World Trade Center to take form on the site of the former World Trade Center. It’s simply not as easy to build major projects as it used to be…”

    One of these is quite obviously not like the others…
    In the case of the Hoover Dam you are comparing pure construction to the entire process of building One WTC…the actual process of the Hoover Dam can be charted back over far more than a decade decade before construction began. It took something like 17 years for the Golden Gate to go from conception to construction.
    But no matter – Breezewood is a pretty interesting case study. Just last week I was talking with some colleagues about how Hartford was ruined by running Interstate 91 between it and the CT River (I swear I’ll write a book about it someday). I’m sure tens-of-thousands of towns across the US have been destroyed by Highways by-passing them. When my family used to drive to Florida from Vermont I-95 was incomplete and we would stop in all these little southern towns along the way. Now…not so much.
    It would be nice if Breezewood had maintained some local charachter…but we Americans like the familiar…and that means the same chain food we ate at the last stop. Even NYC has become like every other mall in America…with the same stores and restaurants. But I ramble…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  7. perhaps the purest example yet devised of the great American tourist trap…

    As a fan of South of the Border, I object to this characterization.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  8. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @C. Clavin:

    One of these is quite obviously not like the others…

    Thanx for pointing out the obvious to the myopic, Clavin.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  9. @Stormy Dragon:

    Yea but I can drive I-95 right past South Of The Border. I have to choose to take the exit. In Breezewood, you have no choice

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  10. @al-Ameda:

    Another example. I moved to Northern Virginia more than 20 years ago and there was much talk about extending the Metro system out to Dulles Airport.

    Here we are 20-odd years later and construction has just begun on the project and it nearly died on the table when one of the counties involved nearly balked on putting money into the project.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  11. MarkedMan says:

    “…The Hoover Dam took five ears to build. The Golden Gate Bridge took six. The Sears Tower, now the Willis Tower, took three years to complete. By contrast, it’s taken 11 years for One World Trade Center to take form on the site of the former World Trade Center. It’s simply not as easy to build major projects as it used to be…”

    None<em of these is like One World Trade Center…
    OWTC has gone up after a completely unanticipated need arose, in the middle of one of the most densely built parts of one of the densest cities on earth. It has gone up on the site of a catastrophe that required years to clean up. The ownership, responsibilities and obligations of the various stakeholders were hotly contested in court. And despite this, it took about the same amount of time to plan, design and build as the original World Trade Center. Actually, that's not true, as planning for the original started in 1949. But in any case, by 1961 initial plans were complete. Construction on the first tower was complete in 1970.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  12. al-Ameda says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Here we are 20-odd years later and construction has just begun on the project and it nearly died on the table when one of the counties involved nearly balked on putting money into the project.

    Doug, you have my condolences.

    Sometimes, so much time passes that the plan gets called into question, new EIRs are called for and the process starts anew. This is the San Francisco Bay Area, so I know the drill here, but … really … it can be so aggravating.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  13. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Hell, when you factor in the politicos and the EIR’s and then the NIMBY folks and the enviro whack jobs, not to mention the local entitlement agencies, getting a major public works project done is like trying to sandpaper a bobcat’s arse inside of a phone booth. Not only is it real tough to do but even if you’re successful you will take scars.

    But ultimately the issue with major public works projects is one of cost and not so much of red tape. Whatever you think it’ll cost it’ll actually be a lot more. Maybe even double. During the keg party of a boom cycle people don’t seem to pay any mind. When the cycle turns, however, the hangovers are nasty and they linger.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 7

  14. John Burgess says:

    I’d do everything I could to avoid Breezywood back in the 70s, when I was doing a lot of east-west driving. Even if it took me onto county roads in MD or PA, anything was preferable to having to deal with that monstrosity.

    Now, my only road woe is having to decide whether to cut 90 miles off my N-S trips between FL and the Mid-Atlantic by going through the speedtrap-laden US 301 between Waldo and Lawtey or stay on the Interstates laden with RVs.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  15. Herb says:

    So basically, Breezewood came to be because nobody was willing to pay for the bypass.

    So in other words, it’s a perfect example of “You didn’t build that,” in this case….literally.

    You didn’t build that, and yet I bet every single chain coffee shop, restaurant, and gas station thinks they owe their success to hard work and superior service….

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 1

  16. steve says:

    The joys of local government.

    Steve

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  17. @Doug Mataconis:

    Yea but I can drive I-95 right past South Of The Border.

    Which is why South of the Border is the better tourist trap–it actually has to lure people in.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  18. John Curran says:

    On I-70 west, take I-68 West at Hancock, MD. Connect to I-79 N at Morgantown & on to Pittsburg or back to I-70 W at Washington, PA. No tolls, no plazas, no Breezewood.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  19. stonetools says:

    So basically, Breezewood came to be because nobody was willing to pay for the bypass.

    So Doug the libertarian is calling for the government -ANY government-to build a bypass because it makes sense. Why not just wait for the free market to work its magic?

    The two major problems with infrastructure is :

    1. It takes a lot longer to get the various approvals , including environmental statements that were not required in previous projects.

    2. Those infrastructure projects just don’t employ as many folks as they did in the olden days. Its one reason employment didn’t fall as fast as a result of the 2009 stimulus.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  20. Moosebreath says:

    There is no shortage of situations like this in Pennsylvania. I-81 does not directly connect to the PA Turnpike (you need to take US 11 for about a mile outside Carlisle). I-80 does not directly connect to the Northeast Extension of the PA Turnpike (you need to take a state route for about 2 miles). And I-95 does not directly connect to the PA Turnpike (although that is in the middle of being corrected, but for 50+ years, you either needed to take PA 413 and US 13 for about 5 miles, or US 1 for about 5 miles). All arising from the same silly decisions made by the State in the 1950’s.

    Further, I-95 diappears for about 20 miles north of Trenton NJ, so until the I-95 connector to the PA Turnpike is built, there is no way to go from Philadelphia to New York without using at least 4 roads and not being on a highway for at least some of the time.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  21. PGlenn says:

    @stonetools: I can’t speak for Doug, but most libertarians – except for maybe the anarcho-capitalist variety – believe that it’s quite appropriate for government to build public roads, bridges, and infrastructure – and that governments are relatively good at doing so.

    If the bureaucrats and politicians make a muddle of it at times, anyway, then it is also quite appropriate to criticize their inefficiencies.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 3

  22. Ernieyeball says:

    @al-Ameda: About a year ago my annual drive to SoCal detoured north so I could return to The City for the first time in 20+ years and see the progress of the Bay Bridge. The baybridigeinfo.org webpage states 2013 as a completion date for the project.
    I’d really like to drive the new spans when they open. Is there a more specific time when it might be finished?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  23. Herb says:

    @PGlenn:

    “most libertarians believe that it’s quite appropriate for government to build public roads, bridges, and infrastructure – and that governments are relatively good at doing so.”

    Change that “most ” to “some” and I’d agree with you.

    From what I’ve seen, most libertarians bristle at government involvement in nearly anything. They start talking about coercion and the usual nonsense. And hey…maybe I’m being unfair. But you ask a libertarian about nearly anything, that’s the schtick you’ll get. “What do you think about net neutrality?” “If Comcast wants to throttle Netflix….” “What do you think about CFL lightbulbs?” “Nanny state plot to steal my freedom.”

    If they weren’t so deadly serious, it would almost be a joke.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  24. @Moosebreath:

    I-95 already connects to the PA turnpike. The problem is that I-95 is in two uncconected pieces in NJ, not that it doesn’t connect to the PA turnpike.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  25. stonetools says:

    @Herb:

    In the end, most libertarians like everyone else want government to fund the projects THEY like and not fund the projects they dislike. Libertarians, for example, seem universally in favor of the space program-which isn’t really infrastructure. How do they explain that?

    As for these road projects, there are a whole complex of interests that need to be resolved before such projects go forward- and the interests of some out of state drivers are probably not the highest priority.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  26. Peter says:

    A few years ago it took nearly a decade to complete a 9 mile rapid transit extension from the Day City BART station to San Francisco International Airport.

    That’s lightning fast! It took New York seven years to connect the 63rd Street subway tunnel to the Queens Boulevard mainline … seven years to dig 1,500 FEET of tunnel.

    And then of course there’s the Second Avenue Subway catastrophe. It was planned in the 1920’s, an older but perfectly serviceable el on Second Avenue was torn down in the late 1930’s* in anticipation of its completion, another older but serviceable el one block over on Third Avenue came down in 1955, the city sold two bond issues which paid for construction of the Second Avenue Subway, only to squander the money for other things. It should come as no surprise that the Second Avenue Subway never got built. An inadequate half-length subway has been under construction for years, with completion still many years away.

    * = rumor has it that the steel from the demolished el was sold to Japan, which used it to make weapons that it wielded against America in WWII

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  27. 11B40 says:

    Greetings:

    A couple dozen wind turbines would spiffy the place right up and make everyone happy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  28. Moosebreath says:

    Stormy,

    “I-95 already connects to the PA turnpike.”

    No, it doesn’t. It’s under construction and according to Wikipedia, won’t be finished until 2017 or 2018.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  29. @Moosebreath:

    Yeah, I-276 (The PA turnpike) doesn’t connect to I-95 there,but even if it did, that part of I-95 doesn’t go to New York. It just makes a big circle around Trenton and then dumps you onto I-295S. To get to New York, you have to take I-276 to the end, where it dumps you onto the I-95 part of the New Jersey Turnpike.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  30. @Stormy Dragon:

    Like this:

    http://goo.gl/maps/LWeaO

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  31. Just Me says:

    I think we have only taken the turnpike once when crossing PA. It was/is rather expensive and not any quicker for us to get there.

    We usually take 80 across into Ohio or drive south into Maryland and take 70 and 68 across.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  32. grumpy realist says:

    Similarly, trying to get around Chicago from the south means you have to do this silly little switchback onto I-80 East before you loop around and go west. Bugs me to no end. I guess I’m just grateful that it’s an interstate, rather than something like Breezywood.

    (If you guys want an interstate that really needs to be rebuilt, try the Southern Tier in NY state. I guess it’s just not got enough traffic to mandate it.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  33. superdestroyer says:

    The same traffic pattern exist north of Pittsburgh. If one wants to go from the Turnpike to I-79, one has to drive at street level for a couple of blocks. I suspect that the traffic pattern exist for the same reason that Breezewood exists.

    In looking at Google Map, the same traffic pattern exist when going from the Turnpike to 28 east of Pittsburgh.

    I have always hated the highways in Pennsylvania and do not understand why the state has some of the worst roads in the U.S.,

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  34. @superdestroyer:

    About the only rational Turnpike to major interstate connection that I can think of is the Monroeville interchange (Turnpike to 376) — but pretty much any Turnpike interchange dumps onto a state road for at least a quarter mile (Carlisle I think is the worst in my opinion).

    A lot of it is that the state built the Turnpike (and 376) before the Federal Highway act, so all the new roads had different rules attached to those dollars.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  35. Rob in CT says:

    I get frustrated with infrastructure projects too, but…

    The Hoover Dam? Look up how many workers died building it. Now we actually give a damn about the workers. For now, anyway.

    We actually try and evaluate the environmental impact of projects now. I think it’s entirely valid to point out when this is clumsy, or abused in some way, but the concept is sound.

    Just last week I was talking with some colleagues about how Hartford was ruined by running Interstate 91 between it and the CT River (I swear I’ll write a book about it someday).

    Heh. My main complaint is I-84 west of and through Hartford. It’s horribly designed. Getting through Waterbury or Hartford can be frustrating as hell. On/off-ramps on the left and the right, getting as wide as 5 (6?) lanes in spots and then cramming back down to 2 over a very short distance… it’s really bad. Obviously, that’s from the perspective of a driver, not someone living in Hartford.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  36. Bill says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    When I-95 was under construction in the Carolinas, the Detour took you directly through South of the Border. That was how I made my one and only visit there in either 1970 or 1971 when my family was traveling from NY to FL. By 1974 when we came south again, I-95 was finished at SOTB.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  37. Moosebreath says:

    @grumpy realist:

    You mean like this one, under construction, but delayed until 2018?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  38. Moosebreath says:

    @David Anderson:

    I think the I-83 interchange outside Harrisburg is also reasonable. It was also built far more recently than most of the others.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  39. zeke says:

    @John Curran: And far more interesting scenery too.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  40. wr says:

    @stonetools: “In the end, most libertarians like everyone else want government to fund the projects THEY like and not fund the projects they dislike. ”

    The difference is that for libertarians, the projects they like are FREEDOM and the ones they don’t like are TYRANNY.

    It’s a complex political philosophy, comparable only to the thoughts and actions of the average two year-old: “Mine, mine, mine!”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  41. Just Me says:

    My main complaint is I-84 west of and through Hartford. It’s horribly designed. Getting through Waterbury or Hartford can be frustrating as hell. On/off-ramps on the left and the right, getting as wide as 5 (6?) lanes in spots and then cramming back down to 2 over a very short distance… it’s really bad. Obviously, that’s from the perspective of a driver, not someone living in Hartford.

    I often wonder who planned the interstate system through Hartford. I do not live in the area, but find driving through it frustrating-especially if it is anywhere close to peak traffic hours.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  42. John D'Geek says:

    Growing up in PA, I didn’t find this unusual. The only “direct to highway exit/entrance” for the Turnpike I’m aware of is I-276 (the north-east extension to the Turn Pike) to the “Blue Route”, which is really nothing more than a Philly bypass.

    You get used to it after a while. 😀

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  43. Jeff says:

    Haven’t read the previous comments above, but if it hasn’t been said already: just take 68 next time, ya bunch of whiners!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  44. Jeff,

    If one is heading to Pittsburgh or the Cleveland area and beyond, that’s kind of out of the way.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  45. Rob in CT says:

    @Just Me:

    I’d rather like to find out, dig them up, and set fire to the remains.

    Just kidding. Sort of.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  46. Moosebreath says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    But if you are heading to Pittsburgh or Cleveland, you don’t exit the PA Turnpike to go onto I-70 anyway. You stay on the PA Turnpike, and don’t have any lights.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  47. Jeff says:

    Doug, being from the Pittsburgh area, I know that all too well. Still, it would be best if people not from Western PA or Northeast OH found an alternate route. That area is congested enough as it is on holiday weekends, and from experience I know that next to no one takes Route 68. It’s a forgotten highway. If you’re from Columbus or points west, you have no business going through Breezewood, anyhow! 68’s you’re road home from now on, people.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  48. Peter says:

    Just last week I was talking with some colleagues about how Hartford was ruined by running Interstate 91 between it and the CT River

    Hartford’s real problem is its very small size in geographic terms. Like most Northeastern cities it follows the pattern in which the poorer residential areas, occupied mostly by renters, are closer to the city center while the nicer areas, with mainly owner-occupants, are further out. Due to Hartford’s very constrained borders, however, the stable, single-family neighborhoods are mostly in suburban towns. They’d be within city limits if Hartford weren’t so small. With only a few exceptions the only residential areas within city limits are the ghettos.

    I’ll also point out that this situation is especially difficult for Hartford because Connecticut law gives great power to municipalities. If governance were more regional it wouldn’t matter so much that most of the employed homeowners live in the suburbs rather than in the city itself, but that’s not the case in the Nutmeg State.

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