New Tactic In Busway Battle: Make It A Campaign Issue
Sen. Joe Markley: This Project Is Gov. Malloy's Folly
By DON STACOM
April 18, 2012
HARTFORD —— In what could be their final shot at derailing the New-Britain-to-Hartford busway, opponents will try to force state legislators to take a public vote either for it or against it.
Any "stop the busway" measure would be a long shot in the General Assembly, they acknowledged, but would require legislators to sign their names to a $569 million project that critics are calling a boondoggle.
"We'll force legislators to vote on the record," said Sen. Joe Markley, R-Southington. "Then we'll remind voters come November how they voted."
A coalition of pro-busway business leaders, unions and transportation advocates contend that the project is too far along to be stopped.
Gov.Dannel P. Malloyhas given it his political backing, and legislative leaders have refused to raise any bills or even discussions about it.
But Markley and Rep. Whit Betts, R-Bristol, insisted at a press conference Wednesday that there's time to block it.
They'll propose redirecting all busway funding to highway and bridge repairs. They can't offer the measure as a new bill, but intend to offer it as an amendment to other legislation. Markley and Betts predicted that at least some Democrats would join Republicans in voting to kill the busway.
"The governor has been pushing his luck on this. There's a certain amount of chafing underneath his rather unyielding drive," Markley said. "This project is Gov. Malloy's folly. When he runs for re-election, let him run on it."
House Republican Leader Larry Cafero and Senate Republican Leader John McKinney put out written statements against the busway, but neither showed up for the press conference. So far, Republican leaders in the legislature and in Congress have been unwilling to ramp up the busway fight.
Connecticut has bought millions of dollars of land, secured huge federal grants and signed more than $200 million worth of construction contracts to build the 9.4-mile, bus-only highway between Hartford and New Britain. The transportation department plans to break ground this spring and begin service in 2014.
The plan has become controversial in recent years, with opponents saying it's a waste of money. Malloy and U.S. Rep. John Larson contend it will be an immediate source of construction jobs and a long-term economic development engine.
About 50 construction workers and union members showed up at the press conference and loudly booed Markley and Betts. They said Connecticut needs the $569 million project to combat high unemployment in the building trades.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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