Regional Transit Gov. Dannel P. Malloy gives region a new ride to work
Hartford Courant Editorial
April 04, 2011
Rush-hour traffic in Greater Hartford is a purgatorial drag, congested and chaotic, stressful on a good day, intolerable when weather or an accident impedes traffic. The region desperately needs some different ways to get around.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy took a major step in this direction Monday when he gave the go-ahead for the Hartford-New Britain busway. The commitment from Mr. Malloy is a key step in the release of the last major piece of federal funding for the busway, about $275 million from the Federal Transit Administration's New Starts program. Federal funds will pay 80 percent of the project's $570 million cost.
The busway will be a 9.4-mile bus-only roadway between Hartford and New Britain, with stops in Newington and West Hartford. It is projected to carry 16,300 riders per weekday.
The busway had no serious opposition until last year, when the Greater Bristol Chamber of Commerce mounted a campaign to kill it and replace it with a commuter rail project through New Britain. Mr. Malloy thought the Bristol folks made a good point, but saw that the projects weren't mutually excusive. Along with approving the busway, Mr. Malloy committed to investing $1 million in a preliminary study of rail service from Waterbury and Bristol to New Britain, probably connecting to the main north-south line at Berlin instead of using the long-abandoned line to Newington, which is where the busway is planned.
He also didn't want to waste a lot of work and expenditure. To abandon the project when it is three years from completion would not only leave federal funds on the table, something the state has done all too often, but it would risk losing federal funds in the future. Federal officials told Mr. Malloy in a March 20 letter that if the state withdrew the busway project and replaced it with a rail project, the state would have to start the process all over, with no guarantee of any money at the end.
The busway will create jobs and comes at a time when contractors are offering attractive prices. But the real reason to do it is that it's a good project. We cannot keep jamming more cars onto the roads. The busway will ease highway traffic, which means less pollution, less oil from world trouble spots and less lost time.
If the bus rapid-transit system is extended north and east of Hartford on the HOV lanes, and commuter rail returns to the Hartford-New Haven-Springfield line, the mid-state region will have a transit system that will bring order to the wasteful rush-hour chaos and help the regional economy. Mr. Malloy made the right call.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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