March 2, 2006
By KATIE MELONE, Courant Staff Writer
WEST HARTFORD -- Town officials and
residents raised concerns Wednesday night about the design of two
local stops along the proposed New Britain-Hartford busway.
The concerns came up as transportation
officials emphasized that the line would ease traffic congestion
in the region and that the plan, while "fairly well-defined,"
is not final.
"I think there is a development
piece missing, that just looking at the architecture and construction
piece is not going to solve," resident Patricia Williams said
at a busway open house held in Elmwood by state Department of Transportation
officials. "I support mass transit, but it can't have a lot
of collateral damage to everything around it."
At one point, after a few attendees
commended and echoed Williams' comments, DOT transit administrator
Michael Sanders told the 40 or so in the audience, "We're not
here to drive businesses away, we're here to do something for businesses
and the community."
The 9.4-mile, two-way rapid bus line
would start in downtown New Britain, run through Newington and West
Hartford and end near Union Station in Hartford.
In West Hartford, the plan calls for
the state to take businesses by eminent domain to build a station
in Elmwood at the intersection of New Britain and New Park avenues,
and a second station less than a mile north at the northeast corner
of New Park and Flatbush avenues.
The second station, behind the Shell
station and Dunkin' Donuts on New Park Avenue, would require the
DOT to spend about $45 million to elevate Flatbush Avenue roughly
between New Park Avenue and Newfield Avenue. Raising the road would
allow the busway and existing Amtrak train to run under Flatbush
without crossing car traffic.
Business owners and town officials
are especially concerned about the effect that the reconstruction
of these intersections would have on existing businesses, a few
of which would operate in the shadow of retaining walls and with
fewer entrances and exits.
"As we look at it now, it doesn't
seem to work for us," said Maureen McClay, a Democrat on the
town council who lives in Elmwood.
But DOT officials say that the intersection
at Flatbush and New Park has always been a dangerous one, with trains
and cars at odds, and that the proposed busway gives them the opportunity
to improve it. They also reminded residents that a rebuilding of
the intersection was on the horizon anyway, given proposals to increase
traffic along the Amtrak rail line.
"We may not like what it looks
like, but I don't think in the long run we can change that it has
to be done," Sanders said.
Stephen Sacks, a resident who owns
a business in the Parkville section of Hartford that is slated to
be taken by eminent domain for the project, asked how the towns
would make up the tax revenue lost by the taking of businesses.
About a dozen are slated to be taken.
Mark Rolfe, manager of construction
operations, told Sacks that transportation officials expect that
towns would make up the tax revenue through the increase in value
of business properties near the new stations as a result of their
proximity to the busway.
Officials in Newington, the other suburb
along the route, have also raised questions about the effect the
$336 million line would have on economic development and existing
business, and whether it is a sound overall proposal.
DOT officials say the bus line, featuring
12 stops, would cut down dramatically on commuter times because
it would be dedicated exclusively to buses and run mostly unimpeded
along an abandoned rail line.
Buses of different types - neighborhood
circulators and long-distance commuter buses from as far away as
Waterbury - also would be able to use the line. The officials say
ridership would come largely from the towns west of the route.
The project would also reduce
the area's dependence on cars, project supporters say, and provide
the disabled and those without cars with better access to jobs,
shopping and medical care.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at