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Newington Residents Question Busway's Noise, Value


January 17, 2013

NEWINGTON Residents expressed concerns this week about noise, traffic and parking at a public forum on the ongoing construction of CtFasktrak.

A section of the 9.4-mile road, also known as the busway, is being built through Newington. The stretch includes stations at Cedar Street and Fenn Road and Newington Junction off Willard Avenue.

The dedicated road for buses, to cost taxpayers $567 million, will go from New Britain to Hartford. State officials say that the thoroughfare will relieve congestion on Interstate-84 and serve as a hub for other bus lines throughout the region.

Diane Clark said she was worried about noise from the finished busway and asked about sound barriers. She noted that some proposed sound barriers are just 14 feet high, lower than many homes' second floors.

"That 14 feet won't mean anything to them," she said.

Department of Transportation Project Manager Brian T. Cunningham assured residents that DOT carefully chose areas for sound barriers based on expected decibel levels.

"Our analysis shows it won't be a problem," he said.

"You're saying it's foolproof?" asked resident Sue Tine.

"If there was an issue, we would have been aware and done analysis to see if we need to do more," Cunningham responded.

Robert Seiler, Sr. questioned officials about the addition of a fourth light on Fenn Road between Ella T. Grasso Boulevard and Cedar Street to allow access to the Busway's Cedar Street station. Traffic in the area is already snarled and the additional light could cause a "traffic nightmare," he said.

"Just having a cop turn on his lights, that causes a traffic jam," Seiler said. "Four lights there is going to be a tragedy."

Cunningham acknowledged that the area would remain heavily congested after the busway is completed.

Officials told residents that the Busway's Cedar Street station would have 45 parking spaces and the Newington Junction stop 27 spaces. That prompted some residents to question whether there was enough parking.

But Michael Sanders, a DOT transit and ridesharing administrator, said the state does not expect large numbers to drive to Newington's busway stations. Modeling shows users more likely to walk, bike or be dropped off, Sanders said.

If there is a larger-than-expected demand at Cedar Street, DOT can secure additional parking at the nearby Stop & Shop or the town-owned National Welding site, Sanders said. Extra parking at Newington Junction would be more difficult, he said.

"If we're so successful that we have overwhelming demand for parking, we've got options," Sanders said.

Designers held back on parking where studies showed it was unnecessary because it's expensive and requires taking more land, Sanders said.

Sanders said that many more riders are expected to park in New Britain, prompting DOT to build bigger lots there.

Tine, who lives on Francis Avenue near the Newington Junction station, said that a state survey of her neighborhood several years ago revealed few plan to ride the busway.

"I don't think there are two people who said they were going to use it, so why would you put millions of dollars into a station when no one is going to use?" Tine said.

DOT projects that 422 people a day will use Newington Junction and 452 per day Cedar Street, Sanders said.

Buses are expected to start running on the road in February 2015, Sanders said.

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.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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