Hartford- State Representative Bill Simanski today put his support behind a proposal to transfer funds from the controversialNew Britainto Hartford Busway to instead be used for badly needed bridge and road repair. The busway, at best, will benefit a small number of riders whereas diverting busway funds to maintaining and rebuilding our highways and bridges will benefit allConnecticutresidents and address safety concerns identified by the State’s Transportation Commissioner.
The proposed busway is estimated to cost a total of $567 million dollars. The shared cost to each taxpayer inConnecticutis estimated to be $382.48 dollars if the project is built. Meanwhile, there are 1,800 bridges inConnecticutthat are either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.
“The biggest positive of the busway, in my opinion, is the construction jobs that it will create to build it,” said Simanski. “We should create those jobs but use their skilled labor for things we need like repairing our crumbling transportation infrastructure.”
State Senator Joe Markley and State Representative Whit Betts, two staunch opponents of the busway, say they have identified a number of amendments that will be called in the House and Senate that will seek the funds transfer to stop the busway.
Simanski said he will support any amendment to support the funds transfer because the priority now should be the safety of the motorists that use Connecticut roads and bridges every day. “We don’t have the luxury of spending all of this money on a project with questionable benefit to the people of Connecticut when so many of our roads and bridges have glaring deficiencies.”
The State’s Transportation Commissioner has echoed concerns: Department of Transportation Commissioner James Redeker told the New Haven Register, “Bridge maintenance … is my nightmare,” and said that the state’s statistics on bridge maintenance are starting to look like they did before the Mianus River Bridge collapse. (From the January 20, 2012 New Haven Register)
Mike Nicastro, President and CEO of Central Connecticut Chamber of Commerce offered evidence that busways do not spur economic development around bus stations as proponents have claimed. He also pointed out that the largest contract was awarded to aMassachusettsfirm sending jobs out of state.
“Recent data from independent analysts make it very clear that Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) simply has not shown any efficacy in generating increases in land values and, in fact, has a negative impact,” Nicastro said. “As to jobs, while Middlesex Corp who has been awarded $130 million of the initial contract may hire someConnecticutworkers it remains that the leadership and most of the project will benefitMassachusettsand notConnecticut.”
Recently, a number of New Britain homeowners living along the proposed 9.4 mile busway path, including Nicole James of Cottage Place, New Britain spoke out against the project saying, “The bus line will run behind our homes, taking away some of our backyards.”
Homeowners were not told of any compensation from the state for the taking of their property, and the promise of six foot noise barriers has now dwindled to a chain link fence.
“The day it comes, I’m out,” Sedrick Nelson of Cottage Place,New Britain said. “The ‘for sale’ signs go up, I’ll take a loss, but I’m not going to live like that.”
Legislative session ends on May 9th.