DOT Describes $37 Million Route 44 Project

Representatives of the state Department of Transportation traveled to Norfolk Thursday to answer the public’s questions about a major reconstruction of Route 44 just west of the village center. 

The project, which is expected to consume five construction seasons, will widen the road and its shoulders, improve drainage and reconfigure the steep hillside above.

The project has been under consideration by the DOT ever since a 2010 washout of part of the wall shut off the main traffic artery for a full day. Several years ago, a precast block wall was installed in front of the historic stone wall to prevent further rockslides. The old wall has a noticeable three-foot bulge caused by more than a century of water movement and repeated freeze/thaw cycles.

According to DOT project engineer Amy Hare, Section 1 of the redesign stretches for 1,034 feet. Route 44 in that section is narrow and curvy, with shoulders that vary in width from three to four feet with no snow shelf. The new design provides for traffic lanes of 12 feet and shoulders of five feet, with an additional six-foot buffer zone between the shoulder and the front face of the new retaining wall.

Above this section of road lies Center Cemetery, one of the most historic burial grounds in Norfolk. The DOT’s plan calls for its protection, with no heavy equipment operating within its borders except on paved surfaces or heavy construction mats. Stones will be protected by fencing. Construction activity will stop during funerals.

The town will decide the appearance of the new retaining walls, which will be decorative cement with a stone appearance.

The first phase of the project is already underway. Water, sewer and power lines are being relocated and traffic on the heavily used road is being regulated by flaggers. Hare said that when reconstruction begins, probably next year, one-lane traffic will be controlled during the April-to-Thanksgiving construction season by portable traffic lights. Emergency vehicles will be equipped with signals that will trip the lights to let them move through virtually unimpeded.

It is expected that there will be two-way traffic during the winter months.

The DOT will attempt to divert commercial traffic onto a 45-minute detour that will take it from Canaan to Goshen, over to Torrington and back up Route 272 to Route 44. Hare agreed that the detour “is not good” and said the state cannot make truckers use it.

Old Colony Road will not be used as a detour and, indeed, will be closed during the later stages of the project. 

Extensive soil analysis has been done and it is not anticipated that blasting will be needed, Hare said. “Aquarion Water Company has been encountering rock, but they have been excavating it,” she observed. 

Originally estimated at $24,000,000, project cost has now risen to $37,000,000. Eighty percent of that will be funded by the federal government and 20 percent by the state. It will not cost the town anything except five years of stops and starts.

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