Amann slams DOT report about I-95 Exit 33 project

Says report was leaked to project supporters

File Photo: Jim Amann, at the microphone, during a press conference last year in Milford.

File Photo: Jim Amann, at the microphone, during a press conference last year in Milford.

Calling the release of a Connecticut Department of Transportation (DOT) report on the redesign of I-95’s Exit 33 “underhanded” and a “despicable act of old school political cronyism,” former Conn. Speaker of the House James Amann, who represents the Devon/Stratford Merchants and Citizens Association, slammed the report as biased, questioned the methods used by the DOT in producing and releasing the report and called for a new report by an independent third party.

Amann said in a press release issued late last week that the DOT report, requested by Milford Mayor Benjamin Blake in response to concerns expressed by some Milford residents, should have been given first to Mayor Blake before being released to the public. Instead, according to Amann, a DOT employee sent a copy of the report prior to its official release to Stratford Mayor John Harkins, a vocal proponent of the project.

State officials are standing by the report, saying there may have been a miscommunication that led to it being given to Mayor Blake after it went to others, but that doesn’t compromise the validity of the report. Harkins has called Amann’s criticism of the way the report was released “absolute nonsense.”

The report, favorable to the redesign project, was discussed during a 12:30 p.m. press conference last Tuesday by Mayor Harkins, touting the benefits of the project. Amann said he learned of the release of the report at about noon when he was confronted by a local television reporter who had a copy of it, asking Amann if he had seen it. As late as just prior to Harkins’ 12:30 p.m. press conference, according to Amann, neither he, Mayor Blake, nor members of the Devon/Stratford Merchants and Citizens Association had been told about its release.

Amann said Blake didn’t get the report until 3 p.m. and was told by the DOT earlier in the day that it wasn’t available yet.

“This is just the kind of old school political games we’ve been trying to get rid of in Connecticut,” said Amann. “I am appalled and disgusted that a DOT staffer would leak this report to a mayor of a Connecticut city. The deception and underhandedness with which this report was leaked by the DOT to Mayor Harkins, a known proponent of the project – and the person who stands to gain most from the project’s completion – rather than being properly issued to Mayor Blake, the person who had requested the report, completely discredits this report.”

The DOT report states that adding two ramps at Exit 33 would not negatively impact businesses in Devon, which Amann contends would happen. The project calls for adding a northbound entrance and a southbound exit ramp at Exit 33 in Stratford, to make it a full interchange on I-95.

“In general, for all types of businesses in Devon, their business exposure to traffic on Bridgeport Avenue would not experience perceptible changes after the construction of the Interchange 33 project,” the DOT report states. “The potential impact on business patrons’ route choice and travel habit caused by the change of accessibility at Interchange 33 would be very limited. A significant diversion of business patrons away from Devon is not anticipated.”

Amann said he is calling for a thorough investigation into how the report “was leaked” and under whose orders and will request a new report be commissioned by an “unbiased, independent and qualified third party.”

Judd Everhart, DOT communications director, said it was a simple miscommunication between staff that resulted in Harkins getting the report before Blake got it.

“We did give the report to Mayor Harkins and [State Rep. Kim] Rose at their request, but there was a miscommunication here about who would get it to Mayor Blake of Milford and apparently he got it well after Harkins did,” Everhart said. “But there was nothing ‘underhanded’ about how it was handled – it was a simple miscommunication between staff here.”

Harkins has touted the Exit 33 changes as a key to revitalizing business in his community. The Stratford mayor has said the expanded I-95 Interchange 33 project would lead to increased commerce and business expansion along Stratford’s Route 1 corridor.

This week Harkins repeated his support of the project, saying it’s a matter of safety, commerce and convenience.

“We were cheated out of that full interchange years ago because of the tolls,” Harkins said, adding that a full interchange had been planned on I-95 years ago but the state didn’t want a way for people to exit before the toll booth.

“Our side has suffered for a long time,” he said.

People trying to drive to Stratford stores like Home Depot “don’t know how to get there” because there is no highway exit, Harkins added.

Kim Rose, state representative of the 118th district, which covers Devon, has also spoken in favor of the project. She said she conducted an informal survey of her Milford constituents and 80% of the respondents said they favor the Exit 33 changes in hopes of alleviating traffic congestion in Devon.

Rose said she didn’t know why Mayor Blake got his report later than others, but she doesn’t think problems with distribution have any impact on its credibility. “The report is what it is,” Rose said.

Harkins echoed that, saying he expected Amann to balk at the report but he was surprised the former speaker made an issue about who got it first.

Rose added that Amann simply is not happy with the report because it does not support his idea that the exit changes would negatively impact Devon businesses.

 

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  • Tim Johnson

    Leaked or not, study or no study, this section of stratford could use the exit.

  • George Mulligan

    The distance to CURRAN VW from exit 32 and 33 are almost identical.

    I would agree to changes needed for 32 and 30 (Surf and Lordship Blvd)

    Neighbors along Ferry Boulevard mostly are against it.

    However, Tim your opinion is welcomed,

    • Tim Johnson

      I have no idea at all what you’re trying to say. But going southbound on 95 its a major hassle to reach the docks. Likewise, when I’m at the docks and I want’ to go onto 95 northbound, its a major hassle. We need that fixed.

    • George Mulligan

      Mr. Johnson,
      We disagree about I-95 # 33.
      From Curran VW traffic from I – 95 can go North or West.
      Is Exit # 33 closer to East Main Street and where it meets Main Street at the country club? It depends on the configuration of Exit # 33.
      * Are East Main street and Main street wide enough and set up to handle
      huge increases of traffic? I don’t believe so.
      – Except Ashcroft and Frog Pond East Main street is mostly residential with a few smaller businesses mostly near the Rail Road viaduct area, except for the local market.
      Mr. Johnson, if you lived on East Main street would you desire higher traffic speeding along your road, which 1 child was killed a couple years ago?
      If you lived on East Main street how would you like taking your life in your hands every time you tried to back out of your driveway?
      Mr. Johnson, if you lived on either side of East Main or Main streets where your street is comparatively safe, but would see increased traffic from those
      who wanted to get around traffic jams on East Main or Main?

      Maybe 6 – 8 years ago Maria Ferraro ran for Town Council specifically because there were so many traffic accidents in front of or near her Main Street home.
      Further, there are areas above and below Paradise Green which are almost a Traffic kill zone. The Star or Post sent out online notifications. I followed up with several people who live in the area. These accidents aren’t simple BENT FENDERS! They’re MANGLED VEHICLES and CRUSHED PEOPLE

      I agree better entrance and exit to / from Stratford for I-95 is needed.
      * The Lordship Boulevard and Surf Avenue entrance and exit have the best foundation building needed infrastructure to Lordship, Central Stratford, and
      Eastern Bridgeport.
      * Surf Avenue Flooding has simple and relatively inexpensive remedies and the politicians and bureaucrats lie and cause problems

      Exit # 32 on both sides needs widening, lengthening along I-95 and redesign at the base of the exit. The North & South entrances seem to be OK for traffic?

      I recognize Stratford needs good economic development, larger TAX BASE. and lower TAXES.

      Here’s the BIG NEWS.
      The money going towards PENSIONS in FY2016 is more than the entire amount of TAXES COLLECTED from Stratford Businesses.
      The increased Revenues from Apartments, AVCO, RAYMARK, Contract Plating, and Development Center are ALL going to pay PENSIONERS, 2013 Bond, and future Bond, after 1998 Bond is paid.
      That’s what my published FOI are about

  • Nomoreconstruction

    The ramps are not needed! Waste of tax payer money! Waste of time and we have had much more of our fair share of construction in that area! It is time to move on!

  • Roger Simms

    Looks to me like another screw up by Harkins. If in fact he got a sneak preview of the report why would he hold a press conference so that everyone knows he got the report earlier than the Mayor who requested it. I’m in favor of adding the entrance/exit
    but this kind of BS is only going to delay the project or kill it.

  • Kevin Mathews

    Getting off 32 SB is a joke with that sharp bend at the bottom of the exit and having to wait to get out with the traffic flying around West Broad onto Linden Avenue. Also going by Town Hall or SHS is a night mare if you are heading north up Nichols Avenue. Having 33 exit near the weigh station and not behind Marshall’s would get you quicker to Main & Barnum and Nichols and points north. The Devon crybabies need to get over it. Driving through Devon Center is a joke, takes 15 minutes to get from the bridge to 34. It is geared for you to hit every red light. Why? Sounds like a ploy to get you to stop.

    • George Mulligan

      Mr. Mathews, there’s no need for name calling (cry babies) for people who have honest disagreements.

      I agreed that exit 32 on both side needs lengthening, widening and better egress, which is a function of poor DOT design and traffic management.

      We agree there exist traffic problems going North.
      * You feel exit # 33 is the answer
      * I believe exit # 30 is the answer – Surf and Lordship Boulevard

      Check your odometer to confirm
      * distances from # 33 and # 32 to Curran VW are close to equidistant.
      * distances from # 33 and # 32 to Mill River country club are relative close to equidistant

      You must conceed that the trip up East Main has far higher percentage of homes to businesses than Main Street.
      East Main is narrower than Main street although neither are 4 lanes.

      Trips through Devon depend on the time of the day.

      If you projected the increased traffic per # 33, I think you would conceed we have traffic gridlock pending?
      Thank you for your feedback

      • Kevin Mathews

        Mr. Mulligan, I respectfully disagree with most of your comments. If I live near Town Hall why would I want to get off 30 and drive up Surf Avenue (and have to worry about flooding), then up Stratford Avenue to Beardsley Street, then sit in that stupid loop at West Broad to go home? It is also ridiculous of you, the mayor & DOT to have exit 33 terminate at Marshalls and then force truck traffic up Veterans Blvd. The terminating point should be at East Main & the Cutoff. There you can go north on 110, west on 130 and east & west on 1. Lets start doing things the RIGHT way in this town instead of the wrong ways like selling the sewer plant, raising taxes, not paving the roads and giving raises to employees of the BoE along with bussing kids from Lincoln Street to Flood when they can see Wooster from their bedrooms. Thank you.

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