NORTH-CENTRAL CT — Thousands of drivers use Route 83 in north-central Connecticut on a daily basis, but many are probably not aware of the historical significance, and definitely the quirkiness, of this winding state road.
Among the busiest thoroughfares in the region, Route 83 has its southernmost point at the junction of the New London Turnpike in Glastonbury. In the ensuing 27.56 mile trek northward (and on occasion, east or west), one will encounter nearly every type of lifestyle and culture imaginable. Farmland, commercial development, golf courses, a castle, an endless supply of fast food restaurants - all on a single roadway.
In Manchester, a segment of Route 83 is known as Main Street, site of the start and finish of the annual Manchester Road Race, the nation's oldest 5-mile road race (though the course actually measures 4.748 miles). It is here that Amby Burfoot won nine times and Amy Rudolph prevailed on five occasions; where the "Irish connection" of Coghlan, Treacy and Doherty dominated in the 1980s; and where Edward Cheserek shattered the course record by covering the grueling, hilly terrain in 21:15.75 on a bitter, zero-degree wind chill morning two years ago. Though the race will be conducted virtually in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, the annual congregation of thousands of spectators and participants on Route 83 will hopefully reclaim its spot in 2021 as one of the most exciting places to be in America on Thanksgiving morning.
At nine different intersections, drivers must make a 90-degree turn in order to stay on Route 83. Among these oddities is the shortest distance one state route overlaps another: 0.02 miles, accomplished at the awkward uneven junction of 83 and Route 190 in the center of Somers. However, that is in no way the strangest intersection one encounters on 83.
Upon leaving Somers and crossing into Massachusetts, drivers headed on the 8-mile continuation of the route toward Springfield will eventually come across a rotary in the center of East Longmeadow which is so notorious, it has been included in the Guinness Book of World Records, Ripley's Believe It Or Not and the subject of its own Facebook page.
Seven streets converge without a traffic light at the rotary, causing Guinness to brand it "the most dangerous in the country," averaging an accident per day. There are stop signs at some junctions within it, but that doesn't seem to help much, especially around 5 p.m. on weekdays.
Colleen Reidy of Enfield, who grew up in Springfield, said of the rotary, "Close your eyes, pray and go!"
About 10 years ago, a Facebook page was created titled "I'm an East Longmeadow Rotary Survivor." In the page description, the creator wrote, "It is East Longmeadow's only claim to fame. Seven streets, no lights, pray before entering."
Among the comments posted by rotary survivors are:
"I had the unpleasant misfortune of discovering this godforsaken mess today on my way home from Springfield to CT. This thing is such a senseless jumble of stop signs, yield signs and traffic islands that it took me a while before I even realized there was a rotary involved. It was a mixture of chaos and gridlock, with cars coming from every direction and half of the drivers just sort of sitting there in stunned silence. The icing on the cake was the big "Dangerous Intersection" sign right smack dab in the middle of the chaos. No duh."
"Try to get out of the gas station during rush hour!"
"I do a little dance every time I make it through alive."
"The ultimate quest of survival."
"I want to know what the record is for going in circles. I had 39 way back when, before the sign change."
Here are some facts and figures about Route 83, as well as some photos taken by Patch editor Chris Dehnel and a video of the dreaded rotary.
Length: 27.56 miles in Connecticut, plus 8.09 miles in Massachusetts
Towns: Glastonbury, Manchester, Vernon, Ellington, Somers (plus East Longmeadow and Springfield in Massachusetts)
Other names: Manchester Rd. (Glastonbury); South Main St., Main St., Old North Main St., Oakland St. (Manchester); Talcottville Rd., Windsor Ave. (Vernon); West Rd., Somers Rd. (Ellington); South Rd., Springfield Rd. (Somers)
Junctions: Glastonbury - Rt. 2, Rt. 94; Manchester - I-384, US-6/US-44, I-84, Rt. 30; Vernon - I-84, Rt. 30, Rt. 74; Ellington - Rt. 286, Rt. 140; Somers - Rt. 190; East Longmeadow - Rt. 186/Rt. 220; Springfield - I-91
Landmarks: Minnechaug Golf Course (Glastonbury); Manchester Country Club, Lutz Children's Museum, Bennet Academy, Mary Cheney Library, St. Bridget's Church, Farr's Sporting Goods (Manchester); Juliano's Pools, Spare Time, Scranton Motors (Vernon); Ellington Agway, Big Y Plaza, Kloter Farms, Aborn Castle, Ellington Airport (Ellington); Pleasant View Farms and Golf Center, Geissler's Plaza, Southfield Corners (Somers)
Patch editor Chris Dehnel contributed to this story.
Don't miss local and statewide news from all across Connecticut. Register for free Patch alerts and daily newsletters.