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New Britain-Hartford Busway Gets $45 Million Federal Boost

DON STACOM

February 03, 2010

NEW BRITAIN - The federal government on Tuesday committed $45 million toward the New Britain busway, the strongest sign yet that the long-planned and frequently delayed project will actually be built.

The announcement was greeted cheerfully by Gov. M. Jodi Rell and Mayor Timothy Stewart, who are counting on it to help revive downtown New Britain and ease rush-hour congestion on I-84. But it was a severe blow to opponents who have campaigned to scuttle the project.

"The feds are telling the state that the project is a go it's great," Stewart said. "The people who didn't want it have got to get past their parochial view and look at what's good for the whole region."

Rell called the $45 million "great news and a clear indication that the federal government is ready to fully support the busway project."

Connecticut is banking on the federal government to come through with about $450 million of the estimated $569 million cost; state taxpayers will have to cover the rest. The money will build a 9.4-mile buses-only highway from downtown New Britain to Hartford's Union Station.

Connecticut was one of dozens of states to get mass transit money in the federal Department of Transportation's new budget. Rell expects Connecticut to get the rest of the $450 million later this spring.

Bristol and other communities west of New Britain have been lobbying lawmakers to drop the busway plan and instead redevelop the Hartford-to- Waterbury freight tracks into a commuter rail line. Several senior legislators have joined them in expressing doubt that the busway will be cost-effective or popular, with some predicting that ridership will never come close to the state Department of Transportation's projection of 15,000 a day. But Tuesday's announcement might have torpedoed the opposition's case.

"It's going to be difficult to stop this federal project now," said state Sen. Donald DeFronzo, D-New Britain, co-chairman of the transportation committee and a busway critic. "If we were starting fresh right now, I think everyone would prefer rail. But this [$45 million] sends a message that the federal DOT is supporting the busway."

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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