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Sierra Club Of Connecticut Joins Opposition To New Britain Busway Proposal

By DON STACOM

April 23, 2010

HARTFORD

With the New Britain busway proposal perhaps just a month away from landing a $220 million federal grant, a prominent environmental group on Thursday joined opponents who want to scuttle the plan.

"This busway isn't simply a waste of resources, it would be a transportation tragedy," Molly McKay, a representative of the Sierra Club of Connecticut, said Thursday. "It is a continuation of the environmental and economic injustice inflicted by the highway lobby on this country for a century."

McKay acknowledged that her group was late diving into the busway debate, but said that the Sierra Club is convinced that restoring passenger train service along the busway corridor makes more sense environmentally and financially. Building the $569 million busway would pave over a railbed that otherwise could be a key link for future Hartford-to- Waterbury-to- Manhattan passenger rail service.

McKay spoke at a press conference with legislative and business leaders who are lobbying to scrap the busway plan. In the audience were advocates who are campaigning just as hard to get it built.

"The busway is the best option for central Connecticut. We're not going to throw away a sure thing," state Rep. Tim O'Brien, D-New Britain, said later.

"There's a lot of misinformation out there," added Juliet Manalan, a spokeswoman for the Connecticut Fund for the Environment, a supporter of the project.

The controversy has split politicians and advocacy groups in remarkable ways, uniting adversaries while dividing cliques that usually stand together. Business and environmental groups line up on both sides, and partisan lines seem not to count.

New Britain's chamber of commerce, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign and Gov. M. Jodi Rell all endorse the busway. Meanwhile, Bristol's chamber of commerce, the Rail*Trains*Ecology*Cycling advocacy group and state Rep. William Hamzy, a former GOP state chairman, all oppose it.

Republican Mayor Timothy Stewart of New Britain and his city's Democratic legislators are bitter political enemies. Nevertheless, Stewart, O'Brien and Rep. John Geragosian are working for the busway, while Sen. Donald DeFronzo, the senior member of New Britain's delegation, is among its most influential opponents.

The state Department of Transportation says the $569 million busway to Hartford would reduce traffic on I-84 and spur development along the route.

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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