The long wait for a fully built Oak Street connector may finally be over.

It has been 47 years since the state Department of Transportation first proposed the project, then an ambitious 16-lane expressway, to connect Interstate 95 to the Maltby Lakes area of West Haven. The currently proposed project, which survived a series of funding setbacks and bureaucratic nightmares over the years, is a much scaled-down five-lane, two-way expansion of North Frontage Road.

The actual construction of the revised project is slated to begin in the spring of 2002.

The current project primarily aims to eliminate the traffic bottlenecks which occur where the Richard C. Lee Connector meets North Frontage and South Frontage roads near the Yale-New Haven Hospital complex.

The plan calls for the existing Lee Connector to move underground from the Air Rights Garage to the intersection of Park and Howe streets. The connector would then move back aboveground at Orchard Street and continue into the two-way expansion of North Frontage Road.

“It will help local streets like Legion Avenue to revert back into local streets more than anything,” said Henry Fernandez, New Haven’s economic development administrator.

While the project may help clear up the city’s current traffic congestion, there is an added benefit to Yale’s medical center community.

There is currently a large void between North Frontage and South Frontage roads, one legacy of many failed attempts at completing the project. This void creates a physical barrier for those who travel to the medical center from downtown by car.

“They’re basically reweaving the fabric of the city with this project,” said Cynthia Farrar, the director of urban academic initiatives in Yale’s Office of New Haven and State Affairs. “We hope that the project will help to ensure that folks going to the medical center have access to downtown.”

The project also allows the local roads in the Hill and Dwight neighborhoods to handle local traffic only rather than the current influx of all eastbound city traffic.

“It has been a long time coming,” Fernandez said. “Now it’s really been a matter of how the surrounding neighborhoods can benefit.”