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Planning Agency Considers Hartford Site For Bus Transit Center


May 27, 2009

HARTFORD - A parking lot just north of Union Station could become Hartford's new bus transit center, a study by a regional planning agency suggests.

The center could handle buses from the planned New Britain busway, and also would replace the stretch of Main Street outside the Old State House as the chief transfer point for CT Transit bus riders, according to a preliminary study by the Capitol Region Council of Governments.

"These are all just concepts right now there are no decisions, and we'd need to do more planning and locate funding," Sandy Fry, principal transportation planner at the Capitol Region Council of Governments, said Wednesday.

As part of the same project, the council is recommending large-scale improvements to bus transit in the Day Hill Road corridor in Windsor as a way to encourage development of a second busway, this one running along the Griffin freight rail line.

In a public presentation at the Hartford library on Tuesday night, Fry said planners have been looking for ways to prepare for the busway, generate transit-centered development around Union Station, and improve the flow of buses through downtown. Building a bus station near Union Station could achieve all three goals, Fry said.

The council's preliminary cost estimate is $25 million to build a bus station with 14 to 19 bays and an enclosed waiting area. The structure also would have two or more floors of parking to accommodate riders, as well as passengers on the new Springfield-Hartford- New Haven commuter rail service that the state transportation department is planning.

Fry said that after examining several parcels near Union Station, council staff concluded that a privately owned tract on the far side of Church Street would work best. The property is leased for parking to The Hartford, but that lease ends soon, Fry said. The council's recommendation is to seek federal aid to acquire and develop the parcel. Local and busway buses would pull into the center, and passengers could transfer between routes there rather than on Main Street, where crowds of riders hurrying between buses delay traffic and can be hazardous.

Council staff will discuss the proposal with Hartford officials, and then may present it to the state transportation department, Fry said. In addition, the council suggests building a much smaller bus hub at the Exit 38 park-and-ride lot on I-91. That would become a key destination for Enfield, Granby and Manchester buses bringing commuters to jobs in the rapidly growing Day Hill Road corridor. Fry said the council would look to major nearby employers to help fund a small series of shuttle buses to deliver employees to the door of their workplace. She projected the construction cost would be $5 million.

Reaction at Tuesday's meeting was mixed, with at least two speakers suggesting a new transit center would help refresh Hartford's economy. But another speaker criticized the idea, saying the state is already spending too much and doesn't need costly bus stations.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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