The New Britain-Hartford busway
is the most innovative transit project in the state and a key
to a brighter future for this metropolitan area. It's the cornerstone
of the plan to build a true rapid transit system in Greater Hartford,
which reduce congestion and create more livable communities
So innovative is the busway
that the Federal Transit Administration views it as a national
demonstration project. A busway is like a surface subway in
that it has its own road, called a "dedicated
guideway," stations and frequent and extended service (buses
every 5 to 15 minutes from early morning to late night). Busways
have been in use for years in Canada, Europe, South America and
some U.S. cities, notably Pittsburgh. Our busway will run along
active and inactive railroad lines in four municipalities: New
Britain, Newington, West Hartford and Hartford.
Half of the busway's construction
costs, some $175 million, could come from FTA. Recently, however,
the FTA has raised concerns, with the result being that the
project slipped off its "recommended" list.
This is a loud call to action for everyone involved in this project.
While FTA's downgrading is reversible, we must respond quickly
and with a sense of urgency.
The Capitol Region Council of Governments was an early and strong
advocate for the New Britain-Hartford busway. In our discussions
with FTA since the announcement, the agency unequivocally stated
that this is a strong transit project. We can regain recommended
status by answering FTA's questions on costs, financing and schedule.
There is much work to be done, and the Connecticut Department
of Transportation, the project's sponsor, along with everyone
else involved must commit the necessary resources to accomplish
this by August. This will take a cooperative effort by the DOT,
CRCOG, Central Connecticut Regional Planning Association, the
four affected municipalities and our congressional delegation.
We can take heart from the
fact that other regions have recovered from unfavorable ratings.
Portland, Oregon's Interstate MAX light rail project and Cleveland's
Euclid Avenue busway project were both given "not recommended" ratings
by FTA in previous years. Both regions succeeded in correcting
their problems and FTA is now funding the construction of both
projects. We can do the same.
For the Hartford region, this essential transportation investment
is not only the first leg of our regional transit system, but
also proof of our commitment to more balanced transportation.
Furthermore, it supports local, regional and state goals to integrate
land use and transportation. CRCOG has spent nearly two years
working with the busway municipalities to prepare transit-supportive
land-use plans that use the busway as a catalyst for economic
development. Finally, the busway will effectively address congestion
on I-84 west of Hartford and at a fraction of the cost of widening
Rather than viewing this as a setback, we should view it as
an opportunity. It is time to rally around the project, improve
it and look for opportunities to accelerate the schedule.
We thank Gov. M. Jodi Rell for her recent statement of support
for this project, and her commitment to take the steps necessary
to restore its recommended status. The governor has demonstrated
leadership in addressing the transportation crisis facing the
state, and we welcome her willingness to support critical projects
in central Connecticut. Like the governor, we recognize that
our transportation system is essential to economic vitality and
that we need to take action now to prevent even greater problems
CRCOG has promised the public that it will help deliver this
rapid transit system to the region and we stand by that pledge.
Stephen T. Cassano is the mayor of Manchester and chairman of
the Capitol Region Council of Governments' policy board.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at