As a painterly blue sky spread over New Haven on Derby Day morning, construction crews headed toward I-95, readying themselves for another productive day on the Q Bridge Project, currently on deadline for next year.
Usually, a sort of rhythm strikes them by mid-morning: cranes humming as they cut the skyline, debris collecting in a large heap by the highway, marked progress revealing itself by the end of the day.
But this past Saturday, something was different, and it had nothing to do with the mint juleps, racing bets, or floppy hat parties toward which people were already speeding by 9 a.m. Starting a little after 10, crews were joined by some unexpected visitors, a series of new and unfamiliar voices clamoring over the city’s industrial un-lullaby with questions about the concrete monstrosity before them.
The occasion, hosted by the Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT), was the 6th annual I-95 New Haven Harbor Crossing (NHHC) Corridor Improvement Program’s open house, an effort toward greater CTDOT transparency and public understanding of NHCC Corridor Improvement Program projects, like the $600 million Q Bridge Project and the interstate-to-interstate connections it will facilitate. Based at the NHCC’s offices at 424 Chapel St., the event comprised a series of activities focused on disseminating information to attendees.
There were popular construction site field tours of the new Southbound Pearl Harbor Memorial (Q) Bridge, on which Elm Citizens of all ages, protected from the sun beneath the brims of their hard hats, could ask questions about the project ...
... like: how many layers of specialized concrete would be used? (One, with latex to smooth things out for cars.) How many people were involved? (Hundreds.) Do you have to weld oxy-coated rebar? (No.) How environmentally sound is a project like this? (Not, but the department remained mum on that.)
A number of work stations that sought to simplify and humanize the project, which unabashedly celebrates expanded highway infrastructure over the mass public transit that the state so desperately needs.
One was Stephanie Upson’s, displaying multi-dimensional digital renderings of I-95, the Q Bridge Project, and traffic shift animations. Together, they “add up to one big thing — that’s keeping people safe,” Upson (pictured) said while presenting the renderings, which the CTDOT will show to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) later this year.
Another was Parking Enforcement Supervisor Ray Willis’s, which sought to teach New Haveners better — and safer — rules of the road starting with National Bike Month in May. Handing out literature on certified instructor courses and safe biking in car-heavy areas, Willis (pictured) discussed the possibility of getting more bike information into the school system, and pushing parking officers to use bikes more often during the spring and summer months.
Others provided a welcome break from jargon and crunched numbers. Secluded in a room away from the commotion, a kids’ corner gave several small Elm Citizens a chance to design their own infrastructural projects with a building material that will probably be able to withstand traffic disturbances, marine degradation, and serious road rage: dots.
Local painter Mike Angelis brought a different angle to the project, displaying a few of his landscapes at the top of a staircase.
“When I walk outside of my door, or when I’m walking or driving around, this is what I see. This is my environment ... it makes sense that the work is here. It’s a little bit different than putting the work up in an art gallery space, where people are trying to understand the work through an artistic lens ... here it has more of a sort of immediate basis and understanding,” he said of the event.
“We’re all trying to get somewhere,” a visitor added, laughing as he passed Angelis’ table and headed down the stairs.