In spite of all the wonderful achievements by Riverfront Recapture, Hartford's riverfront is still somewhat detached from the city. The obvious problem is negotiating I- 91, which runs along the Connecticut River.
Because of the placement of the highway, areas such as Coltsville that are close to the river are set apart, hard to get to. It's also true of sites on the East Hartford shore, such as the new Goodwin College campus. In addition, to cross the river, you need to get on an expressway — not always the warmest transition between neighborhoods.
The Coltsville Historic District was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2008. It suffers from being situated in an isolated corner, southeast of downtown. Accessibility is awkward and the perception of safety is not very good.
The new Coltsville Gateway, a proposed opening in the dike to gain access to the river, may help the area. But what if Coltsville became a new gateway to downtown Hartford?
A strategically placed bridge could link the Rentschler Field development and Great River Park in East Hartford to downtown Hartford between two emerging areas, Coltsville and the Front Street district.
The East Hartford side of the bridge would connect to East River Drive, between the boat launch and the amphitheater. On the Hartford side, it would connect to Van Dyke and Charter Oak avenues, where Riverfront Recapture plans to dismantle and rebuild a section of the dike wall.
The bridge would open up several transportation options and allow a new way into downtown from Route 2 and Silver Lane. Several east-of-the-river bus routes could use the new crossing. A single bus line could easily pass Rentschler Field, the riverfront, Coltsville and Front Street. This bridge also could bring the Rentschler bike trail into the Hartford Riverfront trail.
A bridge that carried a city street and not an interstate highway would be a boost for the riverfront. It would intersect the network of parks, tying them into the neighborhoods on both sides of the river, and would open up new options for all modes of transportation. Perhaps this bridge could be what the Bulkeley Bridge should have been.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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