Problematic section of I-84, “Tolland Triangle”, discussed with Rep. Joe Courtney

A section of Interstate 84, primarily the one that runs through Tolland, was discussed at an informal meeting with U.S. Representative Joe Courtney on Feb. 15 that included several local city and business leaders.

The meeting was hosted by the Tolland County Chamber of Commerce and Eric Santini of Santini Homes. Also in attendance were Senator Dan Champagne (also Mayor of Vernon), State Representative Tammy Nuccio, Tolland Acting City Manager Lisa Hancock and Tolland County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Melissa Smith.

Representatives of the CT DOT were also invited, but were not present. Instead, DOT sent a summary of the data, including a 2018 study of the area, which some locals call the “Tolland Triangle.”

A serious accident took place on December 22, during which the driver was taken via LifeStar. Another crash on Dec. 2 last year near Exit 67 in Vernon claimed the life of an 11-year-old Vernon Center Middle School student.

Santini said it seemed like accidents happened almost every day during the holiday season last fall, between exits 67 and 69 on I-84, and that made him want to do something about it. . Santini said he believes the DOT has made efforts to better control traffic in that area, but it hasn’t done enough.

“There are problems and they have improved the situation with warning signs and guardrails,” Santini said. “They recognize the problems, but they say, ‘Well, we have other similar problems. [elsewhere] like that.’ I’ve driven all over the state and have never seen a roller coaster like this.

The topography of the area can be a big part of the problem. The freeway has a long climb to the east, then turns right and then left, in an S-curve, as one heads towards exit 68. Between exits 68 and 69 the road is straighter , but more hilly. Wind has been suggested as partially to blame, as has black ice and poor visibility at night as parts of this section are not lit.

“They need lights,” Champagne said. “It’s too dark in this section, and you start to get a little foggy and people lose track of the road.”

“There are some areas that freeze quickly,” Hancock said, “between 67 and 68. You have high winds.”

“It’s the nature of where we are,” Tolland Fire Chief John Littel said, adding that his local department responds to accidents on the freeway, which is a trunk road. “It’s a wind tunnel between 69, all the way to 67. You have a different elevation there and huge drop offs.”

“Every time there’s an accident there, we call city resources to get there,” Nuccio said. “It’s a big pressure on the city and the volunteers, and it’s spreading, because if there’s another emergency, who do we send there?”

Besides the accidents themselves, the resulting pushbacks cause other problems, especially when heavy traffic consumes the surface carriageways in Tolland and Vernon.

“Once we crash there, it locks Vernon and Tolland up,” Littel said. “There is no easy solution. Once you block a lane on I-84 it’s a disaster – it just backs up and backs up.

According to the DOT report, previous mitigations included Connecticut State Police’s ability to control signals at intersections, such as on-ramps in the area, installation of traffic signs in the turning areas and the replacement of certain railing sections.

Proposed improvements include the installation of more hill symbol warning signs, the installation and/or replacement of pole mounted delineators and the installation of mile markers every 0.2 mile, to help emergency response.

Courtney said that as the state prepares to receive potential federal infrastructure funds, there are a number of planned, designed and shovel-ready projects that will likely be prioritized, including the Gold Star Bridge between New London and Groton.

“The Gold Star Bridge, which is a failing bridge, you can’t drive a heavy truck there, heading north,” Courtney said. “It’s a problem, which needs to be solved as soon as possible. It’s probably number one.

Courtney said he would support an effort to add lighting and more signage, and suggested another meeting to start drafting proposals.

“We can do it together, to show there’s community support,” Courtney said. “We have things to do, and I am happy to report this to the [DOT] commissioner and governor. It is a legitimate need. »

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