Today State Representative Whit Betts offered an amendment in the Connecticut House of Representative that would transfer state funds meant for the controversial New Britain to Hartford busway to instead go toward fixing rundown roads and bridges in the state.
The proposed 9.4 mile busway is estimated to cost a total of $567 million dollars, or about $1,000 an inch. The shared cost to each taxpayer inConnecticutis estimated to be $382.48 dollars if the project is built. Meanwhile, there are 1,800 bridges in Connecticut that are either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.
“The public is frustrated because they feel as though their voice has been ignored throughout this process,” Betts said. “The busway is a waste of taxpayer money for a project that provides little benefit to the general public. Fixing our deficient roads and bridges should be a much higher priority- it goes directly to the safety of our residents.”
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)
Proponents of the busway argue that the project should continue as it will create thousands of jobs for Connecticut construction workers and will relieve congestion on I-84. However, the largest contract worth $130 million was awarded to a Massachusetts company for the right to build a 5.8 mile stretch. Ridership is also expected to be relatively light, particularly considering many of the riders ride the existing bus route.
“This thing has fallen apart and they haven’t even started constructions yet,” Betts said. “When the best remaining argument is ‘the project has already been approved’ it doesn’t bode well for the public. We are supposed to be good stewards of taxpayer money and, unfortunately, I think government has failed the vast majority of those it purports to help.”
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 a Massachusetts firm 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 benefit Massachusetts and not Connecticut.”
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.”
The amendment failed in the house by a vote of 64 to 82. The groundbreaking for the busway has been scheduled for May 22nd.