The highway is the unfinished legacy of the urban renewal era, when the Oak Street neighborhood was demolished to make way for Route 34.
The Route 34 corridor was conceived in the 1940s by the State of Connecticut and the City of New Haven as a link to and from the Lower Naugatuck Valley. Acquisition of land for construction of the roadway to Ella Grasso Boulevard (Route 10) began in the 1950’s in the urban renewal era. A total of 880 families were displaced and 350 buildings were demolished to clear the way for this segment of Route 34. Originally known as the “Oak Street Connector” and later renamed the Richard C. Lee connector, the roadway created a visual and physical barrier, dividing the downtown from city neighborhoods, Union Station, and Yale School of Medicine and Yale-New Haven Hospital. Work stopped on the roadway in the 1970’s and it was never completed.
A new direction was taken in the mid-1990s, when the City and the State aided the development of the area to the west of the Air Rights Garage. Since that time, Pfizer’s Clinical Research Unit opened in 2004 and 2 Howe Street opened in 2009. Development has continued with the opening of the Smilow Cancer Center in 2010.
In 2007, the City received federal High Priority Project Transportation funds to design and begin conversion of the eastern section of Route 34 between Union Avenue and Park Street from a depressed limited access highway into a pair of pedestrian-scale city streets.
Over 881 households were relocated and 350 businesses were cleared in order to build the highway.
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