Category Archives: Transportation

CT’s Regionalization: Cost-Savings and Service Sharing

Originally published at Global Site Plans


Unlike most of the United States, Connecticut has no system of county governance. While a regional, “county” government once existed (ceasing in 1960), it didn’t hold much power and had very few functions. Under the laws of the state constitution, 169 towns hold powers similar to that of a city and manage their own administration. To meet the cost-sharing, regional needs of local governments, Connecticut passed a law in 1947 “allowing two or more contiguous towns with planning commissions to form a regional planning authority.” The statute called for these regional planning authorities to be:

“Based on studies of physical, social, economic and governmental conditions and trends and shall be designed to promote with the greatest efficiency and economy the coordinated development of the region within its jurisdiction and the general welfare and prosperity of its people.”

In 1948 the first new regional planning authority, covering New Haven and a few of its suburbs began operation. Planning authorities would gain more importance in Connecticut in 1954 when new federal grants for projects in cities and regional areas became available, but required that administration be done by official regional agencies. Within twelve years of creation, New Haven’s Regional Planning Authority of the South Central Region served all of the towns in its region, fifteen in total. However, there were holdouts to regional planning authorities and a reluctance to mandate all towns to participate in one.

After the state outlined boundaries for fifteen different planning regions in 1957 in an attempt to make them “logical and economical,” there was often contention and negotiation about which planning region a town was allowed to belong to.  Before that legislation, town contiguity in a planning region could theoretically stretch across Connecticut. To encourage participation, incentives were offered, and in some cases, sanctions imposed. Very often, the state would mandate specific activities be regionalized, or perform the project planning itself, overriding the input of the non-participating towns.


Two state-wide groups supplement the regional planning agencies and provide cities and towns with management and technical assistance, research, and lobbying efforts. The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM), founded in 1966; and Connecticut Council of Small Towns (COST), founded in 1975, are governed by boards of elected officials of the member municipalities. CCM currently represents roughly 90% of Connecticut towns, and is a powerful lobby at the capitol. COST, represented by first selectmen, mayors and managers, has also been successful, writing and lobbying the legislation which established the state’s Small Town Economic Assistance Program.

Over time, three types of regional planning organizations have evolved under Connecticut General Statutes: the regional planning agency, the regional council of elected officials, and the newer regional councils of government (COGS), which provide cities and towns a wider ranges of services than the earlier regional planning agencies.  The state has recently consolidated the fifteen regional planning agencies into nine, as part of recommendations negotiated with CCM, COST, and the COGS. As of January 1, 2015, the municipalities within these nine regions must adopt local ordinances to join a single Regional Council of Governments in each of these nine regions.

How is regionalized planning approached where you live? What is the role of government?

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Killingly Commons, 50 Years Ago

Aerial survey of the Killingly Commons area, 1965
Current: Google Maps (Dayville, CT)


Intersection of Route 101 and unfinished 395, Dayville, CT

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The Unfinished Quinebaug River Trail

Originally published at Global Site PlansQuinebaug River Trail through trees in the fall, Danielson, Connecticut

The Quinebaug River Trail* in the Danielson borough of Killingly, Connecticut is a well-maintained, 9ft. wide asphalt bike path that mostly parallels the Quinebaug River. It extends southward for approximately five miles, all the way to the Plainfield town line. From a certain standpoint, the path is a complete and a total success. While town planners might see their obligation to the trail as done, there is plenty to improve. This article’s criticism is in the spirit of addressing the longterm needs of this local prize.

The Quinebaug River Trail’s most commonly used parking lot, located on a curve, on a stretch of Route 12, near Route 6 and the Interstate off-ramp, is dangerous to enter and exit. Signs clearly remind you of a VERY DANGEROUS intersection, and it takes a good amount of time to be able to safely leave. Other lots exist, but this is the only one that puts you right on the trail without having to cross one of the busy roads mentioned above. Safer pedestrian crossings are necessary for those locations. Killingly may even want to reconsider this parking lot’s role as a trailhead/hub.

While this parking location is attached to youth baseball fields, they are dilapidated and adjacent to a waste water treatment plant. You must drive the entire length of the plant in order to reach the trail. Once at the parking lot, you face a chain-link fence and barbed wire, which surrounds an abandoned industrial operation next-door. It would be a coup for the trail if that land were to become available and remediated. My hope is that with completion of new ballfields just a mile away, that Killingly has something better in mind for this spot—at the very least, a safer entrance.

Route 12 Quinebaug River Trailhead, Danielson, Connecticut

Currently the southern trail abruptly ends, blocked off and diverting into a private (or semi-private?) cul-de-sac in the town of Plainfield. From Google Maps, a footpath is clearly seen continuing along the Quinebaug, but no trail construction is apparent. It would seem that any further trail construction is in the hands of the town of Plainfield. I intend to follow up on this matter with the town. On all of their maps, the East Coast Greenway Association shows a connection to both of these areas as ‘under development’. No timetable or project information is available.

If the trail were to be extended, two miles south of the cul-de-sac trailhead is the village of Wauregan, and another two miles downriver is the larger village, Moosup (both are villages of Plainfield).  Someday, the Quinebaug River Trail could provide a safe and convenient bicycle route connecting these places to Danielson. If trail spurs are within budget, Quinebaug Lake is ¼ mile away, and Old Furnace State Park lies just beyond that. Hopefully those connectivity considerations are not an oversight.

Do bike paths connect to destinations where you live? Would you bike more if they did? What recent bike improvements have been made where you live? Share your city’s stories in the comments below.

*This post discusses the “Southern Trail.”

Credits: Images by Dan Malo. Data linked to sources.

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893556_10151344027328176_504800530_oA “surface subway” Bus rapid transit (BRT) bus. Utilizing elevated platforms, of course. Axial straight-shot routes, and these big boys supplemented by feeder buslines or streetcars.

*As much as I love the TransMilenio, the aesthetic of the ‘tracks’ needs improvement.

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Huey P. Long: A Unique Presence

A man of the people, Huey P. Long, Governor of Louisiana would travel the state, and eventually the entire country.  He spoke with an energy and populism that was supported by policy designed to help the working class. He had a unique charismatic presence that made him an effective orator.

Senator Huey P. Long of Louisiana, warms up for a radio speech from his Washington, DC office on March 7, 1935.

Senator Huey P. Long of Louisiana, warms up for a radio speech from his Washington, DC office on March 7, 1935.

He would gesticulate wildly, with emotion to emphasize his points.  He was poetic, and his speeches flowed well, telling a story.   He would literally yell at a large audience, carrying his voice before the regularity of teleprompters, sound amplification, and sound bite television coverage.  His spontaneity and energy would build many supporters.  His effectiveness in selling the need for roads in rural Louisiana–which at the time the need was hotly debated–still, today, makes him the patron saint of road building in the state.

His “antics” would eventually, to put it mildly, earn him less praise.  His speeches, though effective, would be labeled as buffoonery in the national media.  Because of his popularity as a speaker, he would endure many partisan smears and attacks on his character.  Eventually, Governor Long went to Washington, bringing his popularity with him.  He had large support, and was a strong contender for the presidency.  His speeches continued to make him popular, and there was fear that, if elected President, he would bring about a wave of social policies at the national level.

Combined with corruption allegations and charges of running a dictatorship back home in Louisiana, Huey Long would never get the chance. He was assassinated at age 42, with his last words being “God, don’t let me die. I have so much left to do.”

a great article: Huey Long: A Man of the People

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Stop-Lights Create Road Danger

The number one cause of car accidents is traffic.



But what IS traffic? Traffic is stacking within the system. Instead of being dispersed through the road network, vehicles are clumped together by automated (and oftentimes inefficient) intersections. Automated traffic controls produce a dangerous driving environment.

The band-aid: improved intersections and interchanges. The solution: multi-modal innovation.

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Eastern Connecticut’s Scenic Byway

Originally published at Global Site Plans

Route 169; Canterbury, Connecticut.  Fall trees line paved road.

The Route 169 National Scenic Byway is located in Eastern Connecticut in the Quinebaug River Valley, and features farms, orchards, and historic inns & homes along its entire length. The right-of-way has been in use since the 1600’s and the colonial houses, old churches, pastures, and stone walls lining the road take you back in time. The rural nature of the route also makes it one of the best New England Fall foliage drives and there is local concern for “Protecting the character of Route 169.”

Starting in the town of Lisbon, Connecticut, the route travels north-south for thirty-two miles through five towns, ending at the Massachusetts border.

The scenic byway begins without a sign, by taking Exit 83A off of 395 Eastbound. The westbound side of the interstate does not service Route 169. The exit deposits you anonymously at 169, however the beat up signs and highway exit litter do not point out the direction of the scenic route. Take a left.  The first sign announcing it is a third of a mile north of the exit. The region could do well to advertise the presence of this scenic route from the interstate.

First Northbound Sign in Lisbon, Connecticut.  Blue sign reads "Scenic Road Next 32 MI." Fall trees line the road.

Route 169 intersects major east-west Routes 14, 6, and 44. The intersections are typically flashing four-way stops, usually the only automated traffic control in any of the towns. The intersection of Route 6 is the sole exception. Near these intersections, signs designate a “Wine Trail;” In the northern towns of Pomfret and Woodstock, cafes and restaurants can be found adjacent to 169.

It’s a road where you can take your time and catch the view while you drive. Occasionally, you’ll pass a classic car show, or an ice cream stand. Unfortunately, there are very few safe spots to pull over. You may encounter a local tail-gaiter in a hurry to get somewhere, or, during the harvest season, you could be stuck behind a tractor. Fortunately, there are clearly marked passing zones.

Route 169 & Route 6 Intersection; Brooklyn, Connecticut

As I have grown up, I’ve seen orchard and farm space disappear, and warehouses and McMansions spring up along Route 169, many of which have a “for sale” sign in front. Perhaps there isn’t a demand for these “out of character” types of land uses along this route.

A nuisance neighbor who decides on a four car garage can rile up a neighborhood every so often, and along the route, there is an occasional junk yard. A rusted bus or two can also be spotted, but they provide character. Garish raised-ranches on what was obviously once a cornfield can make jarring counterpoints to the beauty of the route, but the semi-frequent abandoned and falling barn blends in, without disruption, a pleasant aesthetic fit.

The biggest disruption to the route’s character has to be public road signs and roadside trash upkeep. It seems that only one out of ten signs stands upright, wherein they give the appearance of being litter. Could the signs be mounted to telephone poles? It would certainly make the drive safer and more scenic by removing roadside obstacles. While the towns along Route 169 have ordinances relating to commercial signs, state road safety signs are beyond the town’s purview.

Being a state road, the Connecticut Department of Transportation or the state legislature should revisit rural road sign policies to assist the local preservation effort.

How does state or federal policy impact the character of where you live?

Credits: Images by Dan Malo.  Data linked to sources.

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