Blackwell said the department found a software vendor to create a "virtual waiting room" to help handle the Internet traffic from applicants and launched the website in December 2014 instead.
"Had we not done that, our website would have gone down, too," she said during an interview on Monday. "There was a huge surge."
Blackwell added: "Fortunately, we got to study the experience of those states that were ahead of us."
Estimates issued prior to the launch of the Drive Only program indicated that there were about 54,000 undocumented immigrants in Connecticut. But within the first eight months, the state's DMV saw 50,000 people try to make appointments to get the new licenses.
"Either they've all made their appointments, or there's more than 54,000," Blackwell said.
In a typical year, she said that the state does a total of about 600,000 license transactions, including renewals, duplicates, and out-of-state transfers, meaning that the new applicants increased the overall volume of customers for the licensing division by about 8 percent.
"This was kind of new to us to have an entire class of people become eligible for a benefit and to have it happen right away," Blackwell said.
To help handle the additional volume, the DMV added 18 staff positions. Most of these employees are agents who administer written knowledge tests and road tests.
Despite the beefed up staff, people complained that they were experiencing delays getting road tests scheduled.
Then a minor controversy erupted in July. An email was sent out from the DMV's Driver Education Unit, to local driving schools, asking them to not tell customers that the Drive Only program was the reason people were experiencing long waits for road tests.
Connecticut DMV Commissioner Andres Ayala Jr. later said that the email was incorrect and that the program had, in fact, contributed to the lengthy waits.
"It wasn't optimal," said Blackwell when asked about the situation.
The road-testing schedule became jammed once summer arrived, she explained, a time when teenagers typically come in to get licenses. "It's a struggle to have this many new customers, and to keep our existing customers satisfied with our level of service," she added.
Key Areas for States to Consider
The new Pew report identifies four areas where policymakers will likely have to confront important questions if they decide to implement licensing programs for unauthorized immigrants.
One of these areas is the scope of the program. For instance, how many people will be eligible? How many will apply? And how often will they need to renew their licenses?
Others areas include: eligibility standards, which center on who can apply for a license and what type of documentation they'll need to provide; issuing procedures, such as where people can apply for the licenses and whether they'll have to make appointments; and, finally, what types of education and outreach efforts the state will undertake.