The river was cut off from downtown Hartford by the I-91 North-South interstate highway built in the post-WWII Suburban Experiment. A busy and productive working class neighborhood full of Jewish, Italian, and Black families called the North End got the same treatment from the East-West I-84. These changes were very sudden, taking only 5–10 years, but combined with the rise of auto-centric outer ring suburbs and a push for White families to leave urban Hartford, they were final. A death knell.
In New York City, Jane Jacobs famously organized resistance to similar urban renewal projects, including her most famous stand to keep Robert Moses from bulldozing an urban interstate highway through Greenwich Village. But there was no Jane Jacobs in Hartford. Sixty years later, the city struggles. From its one-time status as one of America’s most prosperous cities, it is now one of the poorest.
A young man named Jim Krueger, who grew up in West Hartford, always wondered why there was such a convoluted knot of multi-deck roadways, offramps, bridges, and clover leaves serving the relatively small City of Hartford and its population of 125,000. Even with around a million people living in the Greater Hartford area, the scale of the interstates made no sense to Krueger.