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Town Council Creates Board to Oversee Busway Project

Community Oversight and Advisory Board will be responsible for keeping the Town Council informed about the Busway construction project on a regular basis.

The West Hartford Town Council unanimously approved a resolution at Tuesday night’s meeting that will create a Community Oversight and Advisory Board of the Hartford-New Britain Busway project. This resolution was a measure that had strong bipartisan support.

“Everybody on the Council put their name on this,” said Mayor Scott Slifka, who said that the actual members of the Board would likely not be appointed until after the Nov. 8 election.

The resolution was originally authored by Minority Leader Denise Hall. "I was concerned about the impact the proposed Busway construction would have on our businesses and residents ... Ideally, we could stop the Busway project, and we will continue to oppose it, but we need to be prepared should those efforts prove unsuccessful. The Oversight and Advisory Board will provide the means to ensure the State hears and responds to issues as they arise," Hall said in a news release.

The creation of the Board will ensure that the Council officially receives information on a scheduled basis. “We have an informal advisory council already, but this just codifies it,” said Slifka. Rob Rowlson, Director of Community Services, has been meeting regularly with all affected parties since the project’s inception.

Anyone passing through the New Park Avenue and Flatbush Road area recently knows that construction has become a way of life, disrupting traffic and business activity. The construction is part of the much-debated , a $600 million project that is supported by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

The Busway will have a stop in Elmwood, and a large component of the project is a $60 million bridge that will carry the bus traffic over Flatbush Avenue. at the intersection of Flatbush and New Park will take place during the nighttime hours, beginning on October 12, and is scheduled to continue through October 21.

The Busway, which is expected to be completed in 2014, is lacking the support of many of West Hartford’s elected officials as well as town management. State Rep. Joseph Verrengia (D-20th District) has previously voiced his concerns that the it will do little to alleviate traffic problems on Interstate 84.

“Both sides don’t believe it will have much value, but we haven’t gotten in the way of the region,” said Town Manager Ron Van Winkle, referring to West Hartford Town Council’s decision not to stand in the way of the project, despite concerns that it is an expensive project that may not result in many benefits to the community. The Busway is supported by the Connecticut Regional Council of Governments.

“It’s a huge construction project, and we’ve got to be concerned about the impact that this is having on businesses and the community. Residents are concerned about detours that divert traffic down their streets,” said Van Winkle.

Van Winkle hopes that the Busway will not preclude the eventual construction of a high speed rail line from Springfield to New Haven, something which many others also believe will have a positive impact on regional traffic. “Somewhere out there in the future – way out there in the future – is a rail station in West Hartford if the Federal funding is not taken away,” Van Winkle said.

Slifka had written a letter to Gov. Malloy on April 4, when the governor announced his intention to aggressively support the Busway project, voicing concerns on behalf of the West Harford community. A copy of that letter was attached to the resolution, and the Advisory Board will officially keep the Council updated on project developments, as well as the stated concerns, on at least a quarterly basis.

Slifka said he had hoped that the Busway project would be revisited, but “everything points to it going forward as planned. We are making the most of a bad situation, which is what we’ve been doing for a while,” he said.

Keith Griffin October 12, 2011 at 04:19 PM
I think the bridge is intended to go over the busway and the train tracks to improve traffic and prevent delays caused by train traffic. It is separate from the busway or was presented that way by Mr Rowlson during a meeting at Charter Oak.
Rick Liftig October 13, 2011 at 01:33 AM
Keith - you are correct - they are entirely separate projects; the bus and train will pass underneath the bridge. Should high speed rail ever come (?????), it will be essential to eliminate as many 'at grade' crossings as possible. Otherwise there will be tragedy. The biggest issue is that it (the bridge) just doesn't fit well. But we will have a 60 million dollar bridge at the end of the day, whether we do or don't have a busway and whether we do or don't have high speed rail. CRCOG and the State DOT have a pretty odd view as to what constitutes an essential transportation project these days. I always loved the quote attributed to Everett Dirksen, "A billion here and a billion there. .. and pretty soon you're talking about real of money"
Ronni Newton October 13, 2011 at 03:33 AM
Thanks for clarifying this, Keith and Rick. I did not realize that the bridge was separate from the Busway project. It's all one big construction mess right now!
Karen Burnaska October 14, 2011 at 04:02 PM
The New Britain/Hartford Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project, initiated over 14 years ago with the support of former Governors Rowland and Rell and now Governor Malloy, is a 9.4 mile corridor with 11 stations and is designed to be part of a growing transit network in Connecticut. A wholly modern transit network, the Busway will create 4,000 construction jobs over a three-year period, will help alleviate congestion on I-84 and provide a faster and more efficient trip through major employment centers across multiple towns for more than 16,000 riders per day. The service will be a regional link to West Hartford, Farmington, Bristol and Waterbury, and the backbone for Central Connecticut’s future development. The Busway will complement the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield rail line. Over $80 million in economic development is already committed to the Busway corridor. The New Britain-Hartford BRT project is the right project for the region. It is the best rapid transit system for a medium density region and most cost-effective solution to help reduce congestion on I-84 west of Hartford. The project has strong bi-partisan support and broad community support: business, labor, developers, transportation planners, environmental organizations, human services and neighborhood groups. The project will be funded 80% with federal money. Karen Burnaska, Coordinator, Transit for Connecticut Mary Tomolonius, Executive Director, Connecticut Association for Community Transportation
d harrington October 21, 2011 at 02:39 PM
For those of you involved in this bus way project should be ashamed of yourself. Over 600 hundred million dollars and counting, for 9 1/2 miles of pavement! And what's this about jobs all of a sudden. Quit it for gods sake! SIX.....HUNDRED.....MILLION.... DOLLARS! This is criminal at the very least. And the fact that you could even consider such a thing and put your names and reputations behind this is so disturbing. To put it as kindly as possible, its an insult. Its criminal, and you should be ashamed of yourself's. Its very very alarming that anyone would want to be affiliated with this.
Tom Murray November 30, 2011 at 09:29 PM
This project is typical of the CDOT's narrow minded, backwards way of thinking. It is far from what is stated here. Another over-priced, unneeded pocket greasing for lobbyists and all their political buddies, this time with the title of busway. Any support has been from those who don't know what alternatives exist (zero other projects have been brought forward) so it's viewed as the only viable option. Those ridership statisitcs are based on what? Who actually commutes from New Britain to Hartford or vice versa? One of our biggest employers is in Bristol. Brillant. This will not alleviate any traffic at all. If you want to really look forward, use the existing rail infrastructure which is scable and expadible. Commuter rail (HSR aside) fed by regional/local bus routes would be the best fit and would be far more dollar wise than this disaster. Welcome to Connecticut: we can never change.

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