Truck ban on Avon Mountain

Other than tunneling through the mountain, I have no idea how they’ll ever make the road truly safe. But does it make sense to ban heavy, through trucks for a few months? It seems like such a gimmick.



Filed under Route 44, traffic, Transportation

29 responses to “Truck ban on Avon Mountain

  1. As a stand-alone question, the answer to a truck ban should be “no”. Obviously, all roads are safer without trucks on them, but that doesn’t seem like a practical response.

    Do we have any engineers out there?

    We all recognize the dangers of Route 44 over the Mountain. I think we can handle the speeders, and violaters by arresting and fining them to death through the use of more truck stops, and law enforcement personnel, etc.

    But in the cases where a truck loses control, could a run-away truck ramp be engineered?

    Could a truck inspection program be put in place on Route 44 as a deterent?

  2. Hey Now

    I drive over Avon Mountain everyday and run-away truck ramps would be helpful. However, the placement of the ramps is going to be difficult and the NIMBY crowd will be out in full force.

    One way to fix the problem–at great expense–is to significantly reduce the grade from 10% to 3-4% (this would involve blasting and major road reconstruction). It is really the steepness of the grade that is the problem and that a lot of truckers don’t use low gear.

    The Avon Mountain truck traffic really gets at the overall problem of transportation in Farmington Valley. There is really no easy way to get from Hartford to Farmington, Avon or Simsbury. It is very easy to go north and south (I-91, Rt 8, Rt9) in Connecticut but very difficult to go east and west (I-84).

    With out inciting a riot–there needs to be a limited access roadway connecting Hartford the nothwest corner of the state. Again, no one is going to want a highway in their back yard but we need to wake up to the fact that without a good interconnected highway system Connecticut will become a high priced cul-de-sac.

  3. Gary Reger

    Is there any reason truck traffic cannot be required to use I-84 and Route 10, and banned from other over0the-mountain routes (44, 185)?

  4. Chalenois

    With two lanes in both directions, it seems that RT44 is much better equipped to handle heavy traffic than Rt 10 or 185 or any of the other “back” ways over the ridge.
    The decision to ban truck traffic from 44 seems like a knee jerk remedy at best.

  5. Hey Now

    It does seem knee jerk but if you drive Rt 44 daily you will see how many jerks drive that road recklessly.

  6. Route 10 would have to be widened. It’s already a bottleneck, and routing all trucks that way might be great for West Hartford commuters but it would make a mess on the other side of Simsbury/Avon.

    What is the grade of the route that goes from Bloomfield and ends up over by the Old Chart House Resturant?

  7. Gary Reger

    That route King is 185. My wife commutes that route and says it is far, far less safe for trucks than 44.

  8. turtle

    Aside from the spectacular accidents, is Route 44 as much of a death trap as it seems? And would it be feasible to install light rail from Avon to Hartford, as eafinct suggested elsewhere?

  9. Elmwoodian

    I was watching a documentary on the “big dig” about a year ago–fascinating stuff–and there was much talk about the cost and the overruns. Was it $2, 3 billion? Maybe more, I can’t remember now. Anyway, the thought struck my like a thunderbolt: for the price tag of Iraq thus far, we could afford a big dig in every major city, with money to spare for more “minor” projects like our little conundrum on Avon Mountain.

    I don’t want to start a discussion on the merits of going to war in Iraq (really, I don’t–let’s not get onto that discussion). But, it does raise the question of how money seems to be available in veritable unending streams when the powers that be deem it “necessary” to open the spigot–which almost always means some military effort–but when it comes to protecting ourselves and our infrastructure at home, it is so rarely deemed “necessary” unless it is to clean up some catastrophe (cases in point: Katrina and the Minnesota bridge) when our infrastructure collapses. What does that say about our priorities?

  10. Elmwoodian

    Seriously though: If it’s that important a roadway, why not a tunnel?

  11. turtle

    money seems to be available in veritable unending streams

    It’s all borrowed.

  12. Elmwoodian

    Certainly, that’s a given for most government spending these days. If it helps, I will repurpose the question: what does it say about us that we allow our leaders to endlessly tap our credit for such things, but then cry spendthrift at any suggestion of incurring even a fraction of those costs at home?

  13. turtle

    Elmwoodian: the spamcatcher ate my apology. Short version: I thought your question was rhetorical.

  14. eafinct

    I work daily with truckers, and their consensus is:
    1) There are two sections on Rt 44 where it would be easy to install runaway truck ramps, if you could get past the objections of the jillionaires who don’t want such a ramp crossing their driveway. 2) Even with good brakes and everything in working order, Rt 44 is still a hazard because of the grade and the amount of passenger traffic. 3) Rt 185 is even worse going downhill from Bloomfield to Simsbury, plus it is far more windy and has no shoulders, and is full of bicyclists in addition to commuters. 4) Rt. 10 is the best alternative but is already congested.

    Hey Now is right — the problem is one of overall lack of cargo and passenger transportation options for the Farmington Valley. It is probably time to resurrect discussion of the ring highway around Hartford, and also lowering the grade on Rt 44. I hate both these options but they must be discussed, as well as others yet to be proposed.

    Much of this problem is due to the deterioration of the rail system for cargo, as well as for passengers. Rail cargo has begun to come back, but the infrastructure has degraded or been eliminated over the last 60 years. And I would love to drag people to Munich, Germany, to show them how a light rail system for commuters and shoppers coexists beautifully with towns set amid a pristine countryside. It could be a model for Connecticut.

  15. I agree with the light rail concept. A lot of folks commute over the mountain to go to companies like The Hartford. Corporations can use their corporate billions to help out by donating shuttles to and from the station. I’m sure they would subsidize the use of the service as they do the bus service.

    Light rail or “T” service is long overdue period. We are best to suffer today and put it in place, because generations from now (not many) will see congession like never before, and they will wonder why we didn’t have the foresight to build a T system.

  16. TWC

    King, you sound like you’re going “green” on us.

    But whether it’s for the environment, safety, aesthetics or economy, I agree the European model of comprehensive passenger rail travel is long overdue in this country.

  17. turtle

    Not only do I agree with the King, but I think his new English soccer blog is sort of endearing.

    Not only that, but I woke up this morning to find that I had turned into a huge insect.

  18. Chalenois

    Turtle: In your insect incarnation, are you finding that you also now speak German?

    Back to Rt 44…

    I love the idea of the light rail between the Valley & Hartford, but in the meantime why don’t we have more meaningful enforcement of the traffic laws on 44? Hey Now mentions all the jerks driving on 44, but the technology exists for camera systems that measure a car’s speed, take a photo and send a ticket to the owner of the vehicle…they do this all over Germany. If we can’t justify 24 hour police presence on Avon Mtn why not install this type of system?
    Granted this will not solve the runaway truck issue, but it would go a long way to “calming” the traffic and be relatively inexpensive.

  19. eafinct

    The issues around monitoring speeding drivers has been well-addressed and under heated discussion for a long time. We need to keep up the discussion and the heat about freight issues.

    New England produces very little manufactured goods anymore. Everything must be brought in, and nowadays usually by truck. We need to have rail take over the long hauls, with distribution sites off the rail lines for local and regional truck deliveries. Too much to hope that regional spur lines will ever come back?

    But a too-heavy truck loaded with shingles for all that construction in the Farmington Valley is always going to be a hazard. More frequent weigh stations, and better enforcement of weight restrictions (as well as ongoing DOT vehicle checks for safety) must be built and funded. I don’t know what the current penalty structure is, but it ought to be national, and it ought to be increased. And ban those double trailer truckloads forever.

    If you want to be entertained in a horrifying way, sign up for the Connecticut DOT’s e-mail alert of traffic accidents in Hartford County.

    I get them all day long at work, and it’s a constant stream of highwayss being shut down due to tractor trailer accidents.

  20. eafinct

    Further to the King’s and TWC’s points above, the U.S. HAD the best light rail and heavy rail systems in the world until the 1950’s and 1960’s when they were dismantled or left to decay due to heavy lobbying by the truck and auto industry in favor of the interstate highway system which would utilize their line of freight trucks and gasoline-powered buses. This is well documented, but you can also ask any old-timer in the region. It used to be possible to go from downtown Hartford to Lake Compounce by rail, and the new bus service from New Britain to Hartford mostly follows the path of the old trolley line that was dismantled after WWII. It is said that you used to be able to go from the East Coast to the Mississippi just by taking the inter-urban lines and trolleys. I wouldn’t be surprised if there used to be one right down the middle of Rt 44 — does anyone know?

    Local author Steve Goddard has written a well-reviewed book on all this: “GETTING THERE: The Epic Struggle Between Road and Rail in the American Century “.

  21. eafinct

    Hey, check this out, guys —
    a photo of the Adams Hotel at Albany Ave. (Rt 44) and BlueHills in Hartford about 1900 — with trolley wires and trolley pole:


    And here’s another one of trolley track work in West Hartford on South Main in 1896:

  22. turtle

    eafinct, what’s your sense of the political will to bring light rail to central Connecticut? I may be way off base here, but I’m skeptical there’d be much support from the exclusive suburbs for facilitating public transportation to and from Hartford. Isn’t inaccessibility from Hartford part of the attraction of these towns?

    You probably read that article in the Current about Charlotte, NC’s experiment with light rail (I linked to it before, but OK spamcatcher, you win). Long story short: visionary mayor decides to introduce light rail to boomtown, project runs millions of dollar over budget, taxpayers revolt. It’s not an auspicious tale for the future of light rail in the greater not-a-boomtown Hartford area. But I would like to be convinced otherwise.

    On the other hand, maybe anxiety about global warming would make the reactivation of “regional spur lines” a popular initiative. How would this come about?

  23. eafinct

    I am personally very pessimistic about the possibility of light rail coming to Hartford County. Look at the light rail project to Bradley, which has languished for 20 years despite all the advantages and convenience it would bring. It’s just so stupid. Ask anyone in any town in this country if they would give up their light rail or commuter lines, and the answer would be a resounding NO. It adds to much to quality of life. But people will pick up on one badly managed project like the one you cite, and overlook the twenty other success stories. I don’t mean to pick on you for bringing it up, but it’s amazing how many people know about that one but not Portland or BART or Metro in Washington.

    The truth is, you’re right — folks in Connecticut just hate cities. Period. Then they sprawl out into their endless subdivisions and you end up with monstrosities like the development out Route 44, where the residents brainwash themselves into believing that they are living in “the country” (but don’t want to be far from a Starbucks). One reason I like West Hartford is that we don’t fall into this particular mindtrap. We enjoy and celebrate our bits of urbanity — and, oh yeah, where do the folks from Avon and Canton come to hang out? Back to the land of sidewalks.

  24. Rick Liftig

    eafinct –

    All very good points. And unfortunately, not only has the population moved to the burbs, but so have many of the companies. This further dilutes Hartford’s effect on the region as a destination. One major difference between the Connecticut of 1930 (when we had light rail) and the Connecticut of today is that most of the jobs were in the cities.

    I have attended most of the sessions concerning the New Britain/Hartford busway (which many folks criticize is a project going from nowhere to nowhere) and the hard core ridership of this project always boils down to students and those who cannot afford a car. There are others of course, but these are the main users of mass transportation in the Hartford region.

    Until auto transportation becomes too onerous due to traffic, parking or cost, you will most likely not get a light rail system off the ground. To do so will take massive subsidies. At least this is the argument that I have heard time and again from the state.

    I honestly think it would be a great thing. I would place rapid transit #1 down the median of Rt. 84… one major node in Farmington, one in Hartford and one at Buckland. But it takes big bucks. Our state is already shaky because of all of the bonds that were sold during the Rowland years. We are also not growing in population – so bottom line, don’t hold your breath waiting for change.

    There are a lot of mass transportation projects going on around the country. The website does a good job of digesting the stories. Not all of them are working as planned.

    Several of us in town have debated whether the market drives development or whether development drives the market… you know, if you build it, will they come? With mass transit, you definitely need the market forces in place, otherwise it becomes a big financial sinkhole and its failure is almost pre-ordained.

  25. maximus

    “It does seem knee jerk but if you drive Rt 44 daily you will see how many jerks drive that road recklessly”

    “Light rail or “T” service is long overdue period. We are best to suffer today and put it in place, because generations from now (not many) will see congession like never before, and they will wonder why we didn’t have the foresight to build a T system”

    A)unbelieveable amounts of jerks.
    B)yes lets tax gas a couple dollars a gallon to pay for it!!!

  26. it does seem they ARE going to be building a runaway truck ramp. that will help (a bit). however, i did drive over that mountain for well over XX years (yeah, into the double digits). there are far too many passenger car id-jits out there too.

    route 10 would NEVER work because you’d have to connect or cross route 4. who ever approved the exit and entrance ramps onto 84, in farmington, should be drawn and quartered (figuratively of course). we all knew farmington would NEVER allow the widening of ‘historic’ route 4.

  27. FormerCT

    Just a quick comment on this (probably long dead) discussion:

    I grew up on the west coast, and lived in the Hartford area for a few years. Now back west.

    I literally did not think of Rt. 44 in that area as “steep”. I suppose a trucker could go out of control on it. But there are steeper main streets in the downtown cores of Seattle and San Fransisco.

    44 is flat compared to a mountain pass that bothers to have runaway truck ramps in most of the west.

    Like the light rail ideas.

  28. Unknown

    So let me tell you. There have been numerous truck accidents on the highways killing people everyday and I don’t see the companys owners getting arrested for them. Why are the state of Ct making an example out of Mr Wilcox. All of the evidence was not presented in the case and there was crucifiction by the media before any trial even started. People should get facts before publishing hateful things. This was all a terrible tradgedy and the state is responsible for having a dangerous roadway. The public will know the truth soon. And it is just a shame that this tradgedy had to ruin so many lives.

  29. Jamie

    I think that the placement of the ramp is all wrong. If there is; in fact a runaway truck; it would never make it to the ramp at all. Even with the straightening of route 44; the truck would loose control way before it got near the ramp. I think they waisted their money building that ramp. I think they built that ramp to shut the mouths of the valley residents.

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