Western Connecticut Council of Governments

Metropolitan Transportation Plan

Current Plan

The 2023-2050 Metropolitan Transportation Plan: Housatonic Valley and Southwestern Region and the CTDOT Ozone and PM2.5 Air Quality Conformity Determination were endorsed by HVMPO and SWRMPO at the March 16, 2023 meetings.

2023-2050 Metropolitan Transportation Plan: Housatonic Valley and South Western Region

CTDOT Ozone and PM2.5 Air Quality Conformity Determination

Executive Summary
Chapter 1: Introduction

The Metropolitan Transportation Plan (MTP) is one of the core planning documents for the Housatonic Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization (HVMPO) and the South Western Region Metropolitan Planning Organization (SWRMPO) and must be updated every four years per federal requirements. The MTP serves as a guide for developing a transportation system that is not only accessible, safe, and reliable, but also contributes to the economy and to a high quality of life for residents. The MTP reflects the region’s current conditions, identifies future transportation needs, and recommends projects to meet those needs. Six core goals steer the plan: Preserve the Existing System; Improve System Performance; System Management & Operational Efficiencies; Improve Safety; Implement Complete Streets; and Improve Quality of Life & Create Resilient Systems.

The MTP includes a demographic analysis to understand current trends in the region and plan for a transportation system to meet the needs of the future. The 2020 Decennial Census revealed that the region has 620,549 residents and the SWRMPO is growing faster than decades past, but HVMPO is also growing but at a slower rate. As expected, the major population concentrations are in urban areas and downtowns, as well as clustered around transportation infrastructure – particularly around I-95 and the New Haven Line in the South Western Region.

In addition to population, the MTP also explores travel patterns in the region. On average 68 percent of workers drove by themselves to work in 2020; 8 percent carpooled; 10 percent took public transportation; 3 percent walked; 1 percent biked; and 10 percent worked from home. The three principal cities had comparatively much smaller shares of their working residents who use public transportation. Since 2010, there has been a decline in the percent of people who drive alone to work and an increase in the percent people who work from home; this is likely a reflection of changing work environment as a result of the pandemic. The three major work destinations in the region are the principal cities (Danbury, Norwalk, and Stamford), though there is a concentration of jobs along I-95, I-91 in Connecticut, and into New York City, Hudson Valley, and Long Island.

Chapter 2: Transit Systems

Tens of thousands of local residents rely on the public transit services comprised of intercity rail and bus, commuter rail and local buses. The Metro-North New Haven Line runs from New Haven to New York City. The Danbury and New Canaan Branch Lines provide service to communities north of the New Haven Line. The region’s local bus service radiates in a hub and spoke pattern from the cities of Danbury (HARTransit), Norwalk (Norwalk Transit), and Stamford (CTtransit-Stamford Division) – and also provides service along the US-1 and US-7 corridors.  The Plan recommends the region’s rail have substantial state of good repair investments, electrify the Danbury Branch Line, and reinstate passenger service to New Milford.  It recommends several bus service improvements, including co-locating train and bus service hubs in the three principal cities; increase frequency and service hours; 21st century upgrades to amenities such as bus shelters and real-time transit displays; implementing bus rapid transit on US-1; and improve paratransit and dial-a-ride services.

Chapter 3: Highways and Roads

There is approximately 3,193 miles of roads and highways in the Region; 41 miles of interstate, 88 miles of other US designated routes, 426 miles of state designated routes, and 2,638 miles or 83 percent are local roads.

Congestion and safety concerns have long been priorities for improvements on highways and roads in the Region. The Plan recommends continued investment in I-95, I-84, and CT- 15/Merritt Parkway to maintain a state of good repair. Beyond system preservation, the Plan includes projects for reducing congestion and improving safety on the main highways such as a diverging diamond interchange for Exit 16 on I-95 in Norwalk to reduce the number of conflict points and improve performance; strategic congestion relief for I-84; and improve the connection and safety of the US-7/CT-15 interchange which lacks full connections on US-7 North to the Merritt Parkway and on Merritt Parkway South to US-7 South.

Chapter 4: Freight Network

Western Connecticut functions as a gateway for freight movements in and out of New England as well as Canada.  It is also a generator and consumer of freight, as it is one of Connecticut’s more densely populated regions. Some of the nation’s most productive population centers in the greater Boston and New York City areas lie just beyond the region’s borders to the north and south with forty-four percent of all freight movements in Connecticut being through trips.

Most of the freight movements in the region rely on the highway and rail system also used for personal travel, highlighting the continued need for investment in maintaining the current system and implementing measures to improve congestion.  Additionally, the Plan recommends several bridge reconstructions to provide for greater access for larger freight vehicles and better signage, height detectors, flashing lights and enforcement of overweight or height vehicles on the region’s roadways, most notably for the Merritt Parkway.

Chapter 5: Airport Access by Surface Transportation

There are no major commercial airports within the region.  Residents, workers, and visitors rely on the surface transportation system for access to several nearby facilities in Connecticut (BDL and HVN), New York (JFK, LGA, SWF and HPN), and New Jersey (EWR).  Connections to these airports can be made via the local highway system and transit, but more commonly by limousine, taxi and rideshare services. WestCOG continues to maintain relationships with regions in the greater metropolitan area to advocate for better and reduced transfers on public transportation to the airport, decreasing travel time on all of the train lines in and out of the region, and increasing the reliability of the highways in and out of the region.

Chapter 6: Active Transportation

Active transportation includes all modes that require the user to move their body to get to their destination including biking, walking, and rolling. The Plan advocates for roadway projects that give people a safe and accessible alternative to driving alone that also promotes increased physical activity. Complete streets projects recommended in the Plan include incorporating more bicycle lanes and sidewalks and creating more accessible streets with ADA ramps, crosswalks, and count-down signals. The Plan also calls for implementing the recommendations in the Draft Regional Bicycle Plan (Appendix C). These include completing the remaining portions of the East Coast Greenway, Norwalk River Valley Trail, Still River Greenway, New Milford River Trail, Mill River Greenway, Pequonnock River Valley Trail, and Ridgefield Rail Trail to Georgetown and Branchville. 

Chapter 7: Alternative Transportation & Emerging Technologies

The Plan’s demographic analysis has highlighted a shift in the way people in the region travel, some of these changes were likely exacerbated by the pandemic. The number of workers working from home increased five-fold from about 2% in the 1980s to over 10% in 2020 and has become the fastest growing method of commuting. The Plan also discusses other modes of transportation, such as the services provided by Lyft, Uber, or scooters. Benefits of shared-use vehicles include improvement in air quality and congestion, especially in urban centers. Lower-carbon travel modes are not only a more sustainable transportation option, but they also tend to generate economic activity in downtown centers.

Chapter 8: Resilient Transportation Systems

Transportation systems must be adaptive to the changing climate and evolve to meet the future needs of the region. Planning should be forward-thinking to assess vulnerability, identify infrastructure and assets that may be impacted by extreme weather events and mitigate those impacts to the greatest extent feasible. The Plan provides an overview on regional efforts related to emergency management, resiliency, and hazard mitigation. In recent years, there has been a strong emphasis on transitioning from conventionally-fueled vehicles to alternative fuel technologies like electric vehicles. To support this change, investment is needed in charging and transit infrastructure across the state.

Chapter 9: Performance-Based Planning and Programming

Per federal requirements, the metropolitan planning process shall provide for the establishment and use of a performance-based approach to transportation decision-making to support national transportation goals. Over the past several years, HVMPO and SWRMPO have reviewed performance measures and targets established by CTDOT and the region’s transit operators on the following measures: Highway Safety, Pavement & Bridge Condition, System Performance, Freight Movement, On-Road Mobile Source Emissions, Transit Asset Management, and Transit Safety. The Plan summarizes these performance management areas to help inform where investments are needed in the transportation system.

Chapter 10: Public Participation

Public outreach for the MTP included a mix of engagement activities. WestCOG first solicited comments and feedback on how the transportation system is currently being used and what improvements the public would like to see. Flyers, in English and Spanish, were created to provide information on the MTP and how to submit comments. WestCOG facilitated stakeholder workshop discussions with members of the MPO, the Technical Advisory Group (TAG), and municipal planners to introduce the MTP and gather feedback on specific municipal needs and regional opportunities. Two virtual public outreach sessions and two pop-up outreach events were held in Stamford and Danbury to meet with members of the public and discuss transportation needs. WestCOG staff participated in seven Business Sector Focus Group meetings conducted during the development of the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) to better gather feedback on the relationship between transportation and economic development. Comments received during these events were recorded by staff to help identify existing challenges and opportunities for improvement. In general, comments were focused on traffic congestion, desire for improved passenger rail and bus transit service, general pandemic impacts on the transportation system, safety, and the need for more pedestrian and bicycle facilities.  The draft plan was released for public comment and WestCOG hosted three public information meetings on the draft MTP before the public hearing on March 16, 2023.

Chapter 11: Strategies and Investments

Future projects and investments in the transportation system are strongly guided by the data analysis findings and needs raised by members of the public and other key stakeholders. Per federal requirements, the MTP must be fiscally constrained. This means that the level of funding over the next 25 years must be sufficient to implement the plan and its projects. CTDOT provides estimates to the MPOs regarding funding from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) for highway and transit projects.

For highway projects of major statewide significance, system preservation and system performance, SWRMPO is estimated to receive $6,967,489,604 and HVMPO is estimated to receive $3,307,741,476 over the next 25 years.

For rail transit projects, approximately $3,378,000,000 is available for SWRMPO and approximately $8,000,000 is available for HVMPO. The MTP also includes projects that are considered multi-regional including an estimated $94,000,000 for rail transit projects on the New Haven Main Line, an estimated $1,869,000,000 for New Have Line Systemwide projects, and approximately $12,000,000 for projects on the Danbury Line.

For bus transit projects, CTtransit Stamford is estimated to receive $156,910,532, Norwalk Transit District is estimated to receive $117,598,750, and HARTransit is estimated to receive $3,610,000. Approximately $56,734,000 is available for various transit projects across the state.

Chapter 12: Equity Assessment and Air Quality Conformity

Environmental Justice is incorporated into the transportation planning process by identifying and addressing disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of its programs, policies, and activities on minority and low-income population. The MTP includes an equity assessment identifying the location of EJ communities in HVMPO and SWRMPO and evaluates topics like safety, access to a vehicle, travel modes, and travel time to work to better understand where investments are needed to improve the transportation system.

Projects included in the MTP are evaluated for conformity with State and Federal air quality standards to ensure they do not contribute to poor air quality. Air quality conformity modeling was conducted by CTDOT. The emissions analyses were completed in February 2023 and are included in the Air Quality Conformity Determination Reports.

Public Information Meeting Presentation Recording – February 23, 2023

Previous Plans